Faculty Members Receive Grants for Diversity Programming

Nisha Sajnani, Maria Hodermarska, Heather Woodley, Joe Salvatore, and Kristie Patten Koenig were honored with the School’s Faculty Development and Diversity Innovation Project grant.

The grants were awarded to projects that promote programming related to heightening the awareness of equity, inclusion, and diversity at NYU. 

The award-winning projects are:

Theatre that Incorporates the Narratives of People of Color

Nisha Sajnaniassociate professor and director of the drama therapy program and theatre & health lab, and Maria Hodermarskaclinical assistant professor of drama therapy and producer of the program’s therapeutic theatre series, created a space for students and alumni in drama, music, and art therapy to develop Turbulence, an original play directed by adjunct faculty Britton Williams and written by Britton Williams, Daaimah Mubashshir, and the ensemble. The play highlighted the experience of students and mental health providers of color, training, living, and working in New York City, and was performed at the Provincetown Playhouse April 11-14, 2019. 

“The narratives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are not well represented in counseling preparation programs including training in the arts therapies,” said Sajnani. “Our goal is to offer BIPOC working clinicians and clinicians-in-training the opportunity to see more of their own demographic reflected in their profession and to create supportive mentorship networks.”  

The cast and crew of Turbulence, a play that examined the impact of white supremacy on mental health students and providers of color – presented as part of the Theatre & Health Lab in the NYU Program in Drama Therapy.

Perspectives on Education: Three Dialogues with Bronx Community Organizations and Educators

Heather Woodleyclinical assistant professor of the Department of Teaching will collaborate with members of the NYU community, local youth-focused organizations in the Bronx including The Dreamyard Project, BxArts Factory and the Enrico Fermi Cultural Center, to create a series of three community dialogue events in the Bronx.  Each event will consist of an art-based interactive agenda that will offer an opportunity for NYU students, faculty, field mentors, and local teachers, families and students to learn together, ask questions, and share ideas and perspectives on education.

“We see community voice and dialogue as integral to building equity and inclusion in our own NYU community and in the communities where our emerging teachers work,” Woodley said.

At the BxArts Factory, members of the NYU community collaborated with the Bronx school community on a vision-board making event called “Envisioning Together.”

Understanding Bias Implicit in Race and Gender

Joe Salvatore will work with the Verbatim Performance Lab to create a video clip that will reenact Serena Williams’ arguments with the umpire and tournament referee at the 2018 U.S. Open Finals. Flipping gender and race by casting Williams as a Caucasian woman or a man of color, the project seeks to parse out what biases are implicit in the athlete’s physicality and how they influence her legitimacy with the audience.  Following a viewing of the clip, audiences will engage in a facilitated discussion to share what they had experienced by watching the performances. Curriculum materials will also be created to accompany the clip for use in educational environments.

“Through our investigation, we aim to disrupt assumptions about race and gender and expose biases across the political, cultural, and social spectrum,” Salvatore said.

 Joe Salvatore (front, center) with cast of The Serena Williams Project.

Films about Neurodiversity from Neurodiverse Students

Kristie Patten Koenig, associate professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy, and collaborators will create a series of short films that will offer information on neurodiversity to the University community. The films will be created by a cadre of neurodiverse students with faculty support from the Steinhardt School, NYU’s Moses Center for Students with Disabilities, and the Tisch School of the Arts.

“As the community of students who are on the autism spectrum grows, there is a need to educate the broader NYU community on neurodiversity,” Koenig said.

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Sponsored by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, the award funds faculty members whose work on diversity is innovative and has a finger on the pulse of cultural changes happening in the US and abroad.

“We launched this grant program to show the many ways universities can be creative about innovative programming and outreach regarding diversity and inclusion,” said Stella Flores, associate dean for faculty development and diversity.

 “There is more than one way to show the value of diverse perspectives and talents. Our faculty have teamed up with graduate students and community members to show the creative power of working to promote the value of a diverse society through their research and practice. The outcomes are fantastic and leave us with great hope about diversity and inclusion practices for the next generation of students and scholars.”

At a faculty awards ceremony, Stella Flores, associate dean for faculty development and diversity (center), honored faculty members (from left to right), Kristie Koenig, Nisha Sajnani, Maria Hodermarska, Frank Pignatosi, and Joe Salvatore.