The Pathways to Presencing – Toward Wholeness grant will provide needed relief to the new Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS) in the College of Arts & Letters (CAL) at Michigan State University by giving us space and time to nurture relationships among faculty and staff through three facilitated retreats that will intentionally draw on practices of Black gathering, trust building, and presencing. By “presencing” we mean the intentional practice of being wholly and authentically present to each other in ways that cultivate the trust necessary for personal and structural transformation. Practices of presencing are at the heart of the Charting Pathways of Intellectual Leadership (CPIL) initiative CAL has been implementing to support all members of its academic community to lead fulfilling and meaningful academic lives. In addition, the grant will support the development of a graduate student recruitment program that enacts an ethic of care for graduate students’ ideas and a demonstrated actionable respect for who they are as whole persons, welcoming them into an academic environment that values intentionality, authenticity and trust.
The practices of presencing we intend to enact through the facilitated AAAS retreats, the proposed CPIL fellows program, and the graduate student pathways to intellectual leadership program are designed to be both self-transforming and structure-transforming. The presencing retreats will nurture trust in AAAS, the CPIL Fellows will build trust across CAL, and the graduate program will introduce practices of trust and presencing to a new generation of emerging Black Studies scholars. Drawing on the vitality of the humanities, our proposal seeks broad, sustainable personal and institutional transformation. This is our shared project, disrupted by the pandemic, enlivened by our imagination, and shaped by our experiences as humanist leaders in higher education.