Kristi Girdharry: Exploring Race Through Writing

Kristi Girdharry: Exploring Race Through Writing

Kristi Girdharry, director of the Writing Center at Babson College Kristi Girdharry , lecturer and director of the Babson Writing Center , is interested in stories—the stories we create about the world we live in, the stories we tell ourselves. She came to Babson two years ago and is making an impact on the way students, staff, faculty, and others in the community express themselves through writing and collaborate on projects together.

She holds a doctorate in English from Northeastern University and has published extensively on subjects ranging from crowdsourcing to the Boston Marathon bombings to the way oral histories are created and shared. Her research often examines who participates in story-sharing spaces and what those stories reveal about race, class, and inclusion/exclusion. Recently, she wrote an article, “ Mindfully Shifting to an Explicitly Antiracist Writing Center ,” and, along her with staff, has started to apply that practice to Babson’s Writing Center. The Q&A

What does it mean to be an Antiracist Writing Center?

“In the past few years, there’s been a lot of public discourse on the fact that it’s not enough to be ‘not a racist,’ it’s important to be ‘anti-racism.’ One is a state of being, the other is an active agent in recognizing and working to change policies and procedures that affect larger systems of racism and oppression. But, public discourse can feel a bit out of reach—how am I, as a college student or even a professor, supposed to do this while also trying to survive all of the current stresses of our world? When it came to running the Writing Center, it didn’t feel right to add this as an agenda item along with how to care for oneself during a pandemic, and so on. So, I took a mindfulness approach. I started thinking about how we can academically understand something without knowing what it feels like for another person to understand that very same thing.

“In spring 2021, a small, voluntary group of Writing Center consultants shared stories about how we became aware of race in the first place. The stories, shared anonymously, were sweet and sad and thought-provoking—for some, race was a random thing they became aware of as kids; for others, there was never a moment where race didn’t feel part of their lives. Shifting a culture doesn’t happen overnight, but perhaps developing exercises that have us start from within could make larger impacts as we think outwardly. Perhaps we start reaching out to others in the Babson community to share in these conversations. Rather than seeing diversity, equity, and inclusion as a unit or part of training, my goal is that it’s just what we do in the same ways we talk about how to tutor writers.”

You talk about embracing the “willingness to be disturbed.” What has the reaction been so far—from your staff at the Writing Center and the students? Are they willing to be disturbed?

“I think sometimes when we hear the word ‘disturbed’ we attach a […]

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