Rethinking Race Returns Virtually for 15th Year


“Rethinking Race: Black, White and Beyond” (RTR) is back at for its 15th year at The University of Akron (UA). This time the event is completely virtual with the mission to engage the campus and the public on important topics such as diversity in the workplace and awareness of issues and culture. The two-week series of speakers, discussion panels and virtual community events offers opportunities to learn, talk about and gain new perspectives on the subject of difference—not only around race—but also culture, gender, class, language, ability, age and the many aspects of intersecting cultural identities.

The RTR schedule will run Feb. 22 through March 7, 2021. New programs this year include a series on anti-racism; several presentations by international students of their home country in a series called “Connecting Culture;” and a virtual African dance class. Returning events include Face-2-Face Conversations, and even the Akron African American trolley tour hosted by the Summit County Historical Society of Akron is virtual this year. Events are free and open to the public. Click here for a complete list of events, as new events can be added/modified daily.

Going completely online for this year’s events gave the RTR committee a new lens through which to examine programming and content.

“We didn’t believe we could afford to lose any momentum; particularly with the events of this past year—talking about race is even more vital in this time of isolation,” said Heather Pollock, new co-chair of the RTR committee. “So, we decided ‘small but mighty’ would work in making a concerted effort to bring RTR to our community. By going virtual we are expanding the community, which is always good for dialogue.”

Benefits of going online include the accessibility of the virtual format, and more of the budget can be spent on content since travel costs of speakers is eliminated. “Being virtual frees us up to make choices that support and strengthen our focus on content, and our ability to offer it to the community for free,” said Pollock.

New programs and Dr. Cornel West as keynote speaker

On the topic of content, Pollock is very excited that this year’s virtual format has allowed RTR to co-host Dr. Cornel West, the keynote speaker on March 30 for this year's Black Male Summit. The Office of Inclusion and Equity and RTR are co-hosting West thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Knight Foundation.

“Additionally, I am thrilled to hear from the Akron Law’s Brant Lee, who will be presenting his thoughts and findings from teaching his online course ‘Racial Equality and the Law,’ which had 5,000 attendees,” said Pollock. “I am also eager to attend the panel ‘The Color of Health: Examining Racism as a Public Health Crisis’ and Dr. Joseph Gone’s presentation on mental health in Native American populations.”

New leadership

Pollock, assistant professor of instruction in classical studies and campus coordinator for study abroad, steps in as co-chair for Dr. Amy Shriver Dreussi, who served from the beginning of RTR and retired from UA last year. Pollock, grateful for the Dreussi’s leadership, said, “There is no way I would even attempt the words ‘take her place’ or ‘fill her shoes.’ Amy is the best leader of any group I have ever witnessed. Hands down.”

Rethinking Race also partners with UA’s Office of Inclusion and Equity (OIE), so it welcomed another new co-chair this year, Dr. Sheldon Wrice, interim vice president of OIE and chief diversity officer.

“These two changes do not change the direction or the mission of the existing committee; our dedication is renewed, and our goals are consistent,” Pollock declared. “We look as forward as ever to meeting them.”

Media contact: Lisa Craig, 330-972-7429 or