Hamline Set to Host Truth and Transformation Conference

Inclusiveness has been a mission for Hamline University since it was founded in 1854.

Now, Hamline University and five additional organizations are working on a statewide journalism conference in March 2019 called Truth and Transformation: Changing Racial Narratives in Media. This initiative will address how to combat problematic narratives and implement more authentic diverse voices.

Jane Turk, a Hamline educational development coordinator in the Center for Teaching and Learning, is one of the people involved in the project. She said the university’s goal is “to bring together people who have been doing really good work on these topics and help them do even better.”

Jane Turk Hamline
Jane Turk, Hamline educational development coordinator in the Center for Teaching and Learning, with Karen Gray at a Truth and Transformation Steering Committee meeting. (Jayme Halbritter)

The Truth and Transformation project was funded by a $332,000 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The project’s primary organizations include Minnesota Public Radio, KMOJ/89.9 Radio, Pillsbury United Communities, ThreeSixty Journalism at St. Thomas, Hamline University and Minnesota Humanities Center.

Turk said Hamline University’s role in the Truth and Transformation conference is providing campus center space and helping organize training. When asked on the importance of changing the narrative in media, Turk said,“Because the future of our country depends on it.”

Prior to her seven years at Hamline, Turk had been working part-time at universities across the nation teaching critical media and cultural studies. Her previous roles at Hamline included high-impact learning practices coordinator and civic engagement and service-learning coordinator. Her current role as educational development coordinator includes facilitating workshops and trainings and developing teaching and learning resources for faculty.

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Turk believes Hamline does a good job promoting diversity and challenging students to think critically, although there is still a lot of work to do.

“I would never claim that any institution does this perfectly, but I do think that Hamline has people who are trying,” Turk said.

Hamline sets out to repeat history

In 2017, Hamline was one of the first 10 universities to host a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center out of the 125 that applied, according to Turk. The center’s purpose is to reach out to young people and help students explore their own bias, resulting in potential change of narratives in the future.

“The center aims to reconcile competing historical and contemporary racial narratives that encompass varied individual and collective truths and lived experiences,” the Hamline website states. “Working collaboratively with people, groups and organizations in the community, the center will investigate knowledge, behaviors and attitudes that build and sustain intersectional discovery, practice and transformative healing.”

Hamline President Fayneese Miller is committed to addressing these issues, Turk said. She added Miller is very vocal about how her involvement in the civil rights movement and how it has influenced her as a leader.

“She is using her voice, and she is out there sending messages to the campus saying hatred is not a value that Hamline supports,” she said. “And she’s out there in the news, too, saying young people should be active and vocal and, you know, college and universities are a place where you can practice those skills.”

Hamline’s new campaign is called “We Take the Lead,” but the university has been known for its progressive history. Hamline’s first two graduates were women, the Sorin sisters.

In addition, civil rights leader Anna Arnold Hedgeman became the university’s first African-American graduate in 1922. “Hedgeman held numerous impressive leadership roles in public service, including the first woman appointed to the New York City mayoral cabinet. She also helped found the National Organization for Women and was the only woman who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington,” the website states.

The university plans to continue this legacy through its involvement with the TRHT Campus Center and the Truth and Transformation conference in 2019, Turk says.

“I hope the conference is the start of a conversation and that it inspires people to rethink how they do things,” Turk said. “I think we all have more to learn about our own culture, and we all have more to learn from cultures that are different from our own. And when that seed is planted, there’s a lot more learning to do.”