UW–Madison’s Ladson-Billings elected as a fellow to The British Academy

The British Academy elected 84 new fellows in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the SHAPE subjects — the social sciences, humanities, and the arts. Among this year’s cohort of new fellows is the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Gloria Ladson-Billings, a professor emerita with the School of Education who formerly held the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education.

Ladson-Billings’ research examines the cultural foundations of teaching and learning that leads to educational improvement for students who are most marginalized in schools. She also investigates critical race theory applications to education.

Ladson-Billings is the author of the critically acclaimed books, “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children,” and “Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms.”

She was the first Black woman to become a tenured professor in UW–Madison’s School of Education in 1995. In 2005-06 she served as president of the American Educational Research Association, and in November 2017 was elected to a four-year term as the president of the National Academy of Education.

Ladson-Billings formally retired in 2018 after being on the UW–Madison faculty for more than 26 years, but she remains highly engaged in important work. 

Founded in 1902, the British Academy is the United Kingdom’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. It is a fellowship of over 1,400 of the leading minds in these subjects from the UK and overseas.

Fifty-two fellows were elected from UK universities, with another 29 “Corresponding Fellows” — including Ladson-Billings — elected from universities in the United States, Australia, India, Russia, Italy, France, Singapore, Poland, China, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Sweden, the Republic of Ireland and Hungary.

Melissa Nobles Becomes MIT’s Next Chancellor


MIT announced that its next chancellor will be Melissa Nobles, an accomplished scholar who has led the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences since 2015.

As chancellor, Nobles will oversee student life and learning, in a broad role that encompasses undergraduate and graduate education and student well-being, as well as strategic planning and fundraising for “all things students.” Nobles is set to become the new chancellor at a time of significant challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic and increased polarization in society, and significant promise, as MIT continues to expand the resources and programs it devotes to student life and the campus community. She officially assumed her new role Aug. 18.

“Human societies face very serious challenges, and the world’s issues seem quite immediate and pressing, sitting here at our doorstep,” says Nobles, who is the Kenin Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) and a professor of political science. “Our responsibility to educate our students in order to face these challenges is more important than ever. It’s an honor to serve as chancellor and to continue building on MIT’s work to create a healthy and respectful learning environment — one that nurtures intellectual curiosity and emotional maturation.”

The provost and chancellor are the Institute’s two most senior academic appointments; both report to the president of MIT. The chancellor oversees matters including admissions, teaching and learning, residential life, student support, and efforts to prevent sexual harassment and misconduct. For the past 16 months, outgoing Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart has also played a central role in MIT’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nobles says she looks forward to bringing to her new role the perspective and experience she has gained as a dean, a teacher, and a community member at MIT.

“As educators, we want to teach the whole student,” Nobles says, refering to opportunities for students to grow inside and outside the classroom. “At MIT, you shouldn’t hide your interests. We say to students, ‘Be your whole self.’”

Wisconsin Governor Signs Bill Untangling Hair Braiders from Unnecessary Regulations

Wisconsin became the 31st state to eliminate barriers for natural hair braiders. Now, hair braiders can hone their craft without an obstructive licensing requirement.

“African-style hair braiding is a natural and ancient craft that provides many talented practitioners pathways to self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship,” said state Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison. 

Last February, Stubbs introduced legislation that would allow people in Wisconsin to braid hair without a barbering or cosmetology license. She said the bill is a racial equity issue, as hair braiding is a craft that has been passed down for generations in the Black community.

After receiving bipartisan support in the Legislature, Gov. Tony Evers signed the bill into law on July 8. 

Stubbs said back in March that the measure will create jobs, stimulate the economy and give entrepreneurs another avenue to support their families.

“This shows a movement at every level of government to remove barriers, to create opportunities wherever possible,” Stubbs said during a July 26 press conference celebrating the new law. “Because of this bill, braiders across the state can feel free to work from home with their skill, to contribute to their communities, to be entrepreneurs and to be extremely successful, by opening the doors to hair braiders across our state, we are promoting the freedom to succeed.”

The Institute for Justice, an advocacy group that worked with Stubbs to get the bill passed, released a report in 2016 that surveyed 9,731 licensed or registered hair braiders across nine states. Of the 103 complaints filed against them from 2006 to 2012, just four were about health and safety concerns. The rest were about the fact that the hair braiders were unlicensed.

“Shortly after this bill was signed, President Joe Biden directed the Federal Trade Commission to remove unfair occupational licensing requirements, especially requirements that impact hair braiders that travel between states,” she said. “This bill is part of a movement, at all levels of government, to remove barriers and create opportunity.

“I am proud to say that this is the first bill I was the lead author on to become law in the state of Wisconsin. I am even more proud to say that this is just the first of more to come,” she added.

NFL to Play Black National Anthem at All League Games in 2021

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The NFL will play the Black national anthem before all games during the 2021 season, including the Sept. 9 kickoff game and the playoffs, as part of a 10-year, $250 million commitment to fighting racism in America, reports say.

Additionally, the league announced it will feature social justice messaging on fields, signage and helmet decals and public service announcements, according to a report by Front Office Sports.

Rap mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation has been advising the league on its “Inspire Change” initiative.

The moves follow a league-wide test-run last season in which the song “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing” was played before the start of games in Week 1 and at Super Bowl 55 in a performance by Alicia Keys.

The song will be performed ahead of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” according to reports.

The league’s remarkable and sudden groundswell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement was seen as an astonishing about-face from five years ago, when the league blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem as a silent protest against police brutality.

The majority of NFL players are Black.

But many conservative voices and right-wing media outlets are criticizing the anthem change as politically motivated amid a national cultural shift on race following last year’s police killing of George Floyd.

Meet Laura Hiebing: Indigenous Student Services Coordinator

The University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison welcomes Laura Hiebing to the role of the Indigenous Student Services Coordinator in the Academic Coaching and Tutoring Services unit.

Hiebing brings a wealth of knowledge and experience working with Native American Students through tribal, K-12, and college setting, experience teaching undergraduate and graduate students, and studying the Indian Child Welfare Act and Social Work Practice with American Indian Communities.  She has worked in various settings and capacities to provide support services to students and clients of many diverse backgrounds.

She’s a lifelong Madison resident who received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a certificate in American Indian Studies and master’s in Social Work from UW-Madison. With established relationships across campus as well as with the broader Madison and Wisconsin Native American communities, she will provide culturally relevant academic and personal support services to help Native American/American Indian scholars achieve academic excellence. She also will help them to navigate campus and identify campus resources and opportunities within the DDEEA and UW-Madison community.

Among Hiebing’s first outreach activities will be taking a lead role in creating a survey to collect more information on the needs of current Indigenous students on campus, she said.

“I will be working to connect with students personally (virtual or in person) to gather responses as well as through an online survey,” Hiebing said. “It is important to note that Indigenous people are extremely diverse both culturally and in terms of circumstances and factors that can impact their experience on campus.”

From her personal experiences of working with Indigenous students, Hiebing has already identified some existing challenges, such as not feeling that they have a sense of community on campus with peers and with staff/faculty or mentors.

“Our campus does have a number of community spaces and ways for Indigenous students to connect with each other, and I have seen and experienced first-hand how important that is for academic success and overall wellbeing. However, some community spaces may be focused on students in a particular school or area of study, while other students simply do not realize these spaces and networks are available to them.”

2 Chicago Area African American Landmarks Awarded National Grants


The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has awarded $3 million of grants to preserve 40 African American landmarks across the country, including two in the Chicago area.

The church that hosted the funeral of Emmett Till, Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on Chicago’s South Side, will receive $150,000.

The 14-year-old from Chicago was killed by a white mob for allegedly whistling at a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955.

Till was the cousin of Marvel McCain Parker’s husband. She said the grant money will be used for structural repairs.

“We certainly want to preserve the memory and the legacy of Emmett Till,” said McCain Parker, a management consultant for the project.

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The Action Fund was created in the aftermath of Charlottesville and it was an opportunity for the National Trust to demonstrate the power of historic preservation as a tool for equity and racial justice,” said Brent Leggs, the executive director of the fund.

The Robbins Historical Society and Museum in Robbins is receiving $80,000 from the fund. The historical society and museum are restoring the former house of SB Fuller to be their future home. At one time, Fuller owned the largest Black-owned company in the country, which included a cosmetics line and newspapers.

“We have been struggling trying to find ways to raise money to get it open so we can move our museum in there,” said Tryone Haymore, the executive director of the Robbins Historical Society.

Shiva Bidar-Sielaff Named Associate Dean for Diversity and Equity Transformation for the UW School of Medicine and Public Health

Beginning Oct. 11, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, MA, CDM, UW Health Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will expand the scope of her work to also become the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity and Equity Transformation for the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Her appointment establishes a multifunctional Office of Diversity and Equity Transformation for the school that will be integrated with the existing UW Health Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The unit will serve staff, faculty and learners throughout the school and will work closely with Dr. Jason Stephenson and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which will continue to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion programming for health professions learners.

“I am thrilled to be working in partnership with colleagues at the school in this expanded capacity as we advance our vision of healthy people and healthy communities,” said Bidar-Sielaff in a prepared statement. “As we educate the next generation of health sciences professionals and scientists, perform innovative research that has potential to transform lives, and serve patients and populations, we are uniquely positioned to address health equity and the impact of racism on health.”

Bidar-Sielaff brings to her work with diverse communities a gift for language — she is fluent in Farsi, Spanish, French, and English — and a track record of sparking transformational change.  Her community engagement centers on addressing racism and discrimination as barriers to health and health equity.

Born in Iran, she relocated to Spain when she was nine years old. Her experiences as an immigrant were formative, fostering her commitment to speak up tirelessly for equity. Bidar-Sielaff completed her undergraduate degree at Ecole d´Interprètes Internationaux in Mons, Belgium, followed by a Master of Arts in International Policy Studies at Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

In 1997, she joined UW Health to establish the medical interpretation services program, which is now recognized as a national model. She became director of community partnerships for UW Health, and then UW Health Chief Diversity Officer. In 2020 her role was elevated to a vice president position.

Words Matter – Inmate vs Resident

Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett shared a shift in perspective on incarceration last this summer.

“Over the past 97 days as sheriff, while meeting with members of our community, I have gained a new perspective from our staff, deputies and the incarcerated within our Dane County Jail,” Barrett said. “Talking with community members recently released from state, county and federal incarceration has added to that perspective. As we serve, we want to maintain dignity and respect for all who are involved in our criminal justice system. We will no longer refer to our incarcerated community members as “inmates.” Their new title will be “resident(s)” or “those within our care.”

“I view this change in name as a way to humanize those who are within our care. As we take part in this transition, I want us to keep in mind our Sheriff’s Office philosophy and understanding of the importance of titles, such as peace officers instead of law enforcement officers,” added Barrett, who was joined by Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, Dane County SupervisorMaureen McCarville and State Rep. Sheila Stubbs.

Nehemiah (nehemiah.org), a Madison community-based organization that focuses on preparing those reentering our community after incarceration, has a group called “Man-Up. Barrett attended this group and has had amazing conversations with the members, some who have served a few months in jail and others who have served up to 24 years in prison. The group has mentioned the negative connotations and additional barriers they face when they are referred to as inmates. These additional barriers affect how they view and treat themselves internally, as well as the way they are viewed and treated by society as a whole. The group prefers the term “resident” instead of “inmate” and requested that we refer to them by this title moving forward.

In addition, while attending a conference with our nation’s sheriffs, Barrett discovered sheriffs across the country who have already transitioned to using the title resident instead of inmate. They view the title “inmate” as outdated and dehumanizing, similar to the older term “convict.”

“As your sheriff, I believe our philosophies, policies and practices should be proactive and not reactionary like many other areas of our criminal justice system,” said Barrett. “The Dane County Sheriff’s Office is a national leader in appropriate progressive reform, and many follow our lead.”

This change in language will eliminate one of the many barriers our recently released residents face when finding career-based employment, affordable housing, educational programs, state assistance programs, relationships and their self-worth as a human beings. Eliminating one of the barriers they face may lead to a reduction of recidivism, our jail population and crime rates.