Dr. Richard Reddick, associate professor of higher education administration and leadership, understands the challenges that many of his African American students are facing because he’s been there. Back when he was an undergraduate at UT Austin in the 1990s, he often felt isolated and insecure about his academic abilities as he navigated the large, predominately white college campus. Although much has changed over the years, he still sees his students struggling with similar issues.
Now as the leader of Student Diversity Initiatives and Diversity Education Initiatives, he and his colleagues are working toward making the Forty Acres a safer, more welcoming environment. Through diversity training, Allie workshops, student leadership programs and more, both of these initiatives are expanding university-wide support systems for marginalized students.
A widely-published scholar of diversity in higher education, Reddick aims to make a positive impact on college campuses across the nation. He is the assistant vice president of policy and research in the DDCE, leading understudied areas of research that call for social change in academia. We caught up with him to learn more about his good work—and how it all ties to the DDCE.
How can you relate to your students who are feeling out of place here on campus?
Being one of the few Black students in the classroom, I definitely understand the experience of being a fish out of water. But at the same time, there are ways they can use that hyper-visibility to their advantage. If you go visit a professor during office hours, chances are he or she will remember you. I remember a professor telling me that he was glad that I was meeting with him because I was missing too many classes, and I asked myself, “How does he know that? I’m the only African American male in the classroom—that’s why.” After a while, I realized there are some real advantages to that. At the same time, my students can always come in and talk to me—or other faculty and staff members on campus—about what it means to be hyper-surveilled on campus, or what it means to be the only African American in the classroom. They’re always appreciative when I tell them that I had this same experience—even in the same classrooms—back in the day.
What are you currently researching?
I’m currently working on a project with some Diversity Education Initiative staff members to explore the experiences of diversity educators and the impact they’re making. We’re looking at the importance of having comradery among fellow educators because it can be a lonely job explaining our research to people who don’t understand the relevance of our findings. Currently I’m working with a post-doctoral student, Monica Jones, looking at how African American Students are using the Multicultural Engagement Center. It’s been a lot of fun talking with students and showing how they are impacted by our programs on a day-to-day basis. It allows me to bring together my research interests in the College of Education and my work in the DDCE. Being a Texas Ex, it’s important for me to see the university improve and also highlight that we do good work.
Could you tell us more about Student Diversity Initiatives?
Student Diversity Initiatives encompasses two centers in the DDCE: the Multicultural Engagement Center and the Gender and Sexuality Center. Both centers focus and cater toward students and serve as learning centers for the entire university community. The primary purpose is to provide students a home and to allow them some comfort and Allieship from likeminded peers, faculty and staff. Not everyone on campus embraces their concerns or issues, so the centers play an important role in allowing our students to talk freely and engage in ideas. The GSC and MEC are open to anyone on campus—or out in the community—to learn more about issues pertaining to women, the LGBTQA+ community, and different ethnic groups.
What do you enjoy about working in the DDCE?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the DDCE hat comes off and the Plan II or College of Education hats come on. I feel like the DDCE infuses all the work that I do. In fact, I was just working on a manuscript with another former DDCE staff member on community engagement. It’s my passion. I’m excited about what I do and this is really a dream job.