Roundtable discussion to explore experiences of Penn Staters of color

The second installment of the Toward Racial Equity roundtable series will be livestreamed from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 8

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On Sept. 8, Penn State leaders, faculty members, staff and students of color will take part in a roundtable discussion on their experiences within a predominately white university setting as the second event in a series of roundtable conversations titled “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity and Social Change.”

This roundtable discussion – titled “What Will Be the New Normal?  A Conversation with Penn State Students, Faculty and Staff of Color”--- will be livestreamed at from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and is co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Equity, the University’s Division for Development and Alumni Relations and WPSU.

“We are witnessing a historical moment in which many people from many walks of life, both across our nation and the world, are expressing their frustration and speaking out against systemic racism,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity. “While Penn State as an institution of higher education continues our ongoing efforts to foster greater diversity, equity and inclusion, it is imperative to provide our community a chance to engage in dialogue, to listen and to learn about the experiences of friends and colleagues of color during these challenging times, so that we can each take an active role in creating a more equitable and inclusive Penn State.”

The panelists speaking during the roundtable discussion include:

  • James Franklin, Penn State Football head coach
  • Nya Holland, University Park undergraduate student and Black Caucus president
  • Carmen Hernandez, Penn State Berks undergraduate student
  • Carlos Norman, University Park undergraduate student
  • Jose Soto, associate professor of psychology
  • Tracy Peterson, director of student transitions and pre-college programs in the Center for Engineering Outreach and Inclusion
  • Alina Wong, assistant vice provost for Educational Equity
  • Brandon Short, Penn State Board of Trustees member

Jennifer Hamer – professor of African American studies and senior faculty mentor in the office of the vice provost for Educational Equity – will serve as moderator of the discussion. The first section of the three-part discussion will focus on the experiences of the student panelists, the second will explore the experience of faculty and staff, and the final part will see the panelists discuss what an ideal Penn State might look like and how the University community can move in that direction.

“Penn State, like other universities, has seen students of color sharing their experiences with racial and ethnic microaggressions and their feelings of a lack of belonging within the Penn State community,” Hamer said. “These experiences are most apparent and visible to those who have lived them, and it is incumbent upon all members of the Penn State community to listen, to recognize and to respect the lived experiences of students, faculty and staff of color so that we can more fully realize the unity, equity and equality captured in Penn State’s ‘We Are’ spirit” and define a ‘new normal’ for the Penn State experience.”

The first event of the “Toward Racial Equity” series was held on June 30, and featured Black members of University leadership exploring the experiences of people of color and members of underrepresented racial and ethnic communities at Penn State. It can be viewed online at

The Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity recognizes the interest within the University community for, and importance of, actions and movements that advance social justice and invite discussion of current events. The “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State” series reflects a broader national movement of teach-in opportunities for college students, faculty and staff to engage in reflection and discussion on contemporary issues, including police brutality and the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and how these issues impact communities, including university communities like Penn State.

The “Toward Racial Equity” series will conclude on Nov. 4 with a conversation titled “Race in the Community,” which, broadly, will focus on the experiences of people of color in the current political climate.

Last Updated April 15, 2021