Yan Searcy, dean of California State University, Northridge’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, truly believes that one person can change the world.
“One professor can inspire students and communities,” Searcy said. “One professor can be the role model that sparks global change.”
To that end, Searcy is working to create a “Community-Endowed Professorship in Africana Studies.” The individual selected for the position will split their time between teaching at the university and hosting “office hours,” as well other activities in the community to ensure that voices of the people who live in Los Angeles’ underrepresented neighborhoods are heard.
“Yes, by virtue of being out in the community, there will be some outreach and recruitment,” Searcy said. “But this person will be out in the community, listening to community members, finding out what they see their needs are and serving as a bridge builder to bring resources that the university has to our external stakeholders. I want to decrease the distance between the university and the community, and have them working together for the benefit of everyone involved.”
Searcy noted that there has been a growing distrust of higher education “and those who have the power of critical thought” among the American public.
“When we turn on the television, we see people making predictions or comments, but they are not experts,” he said. “The experts are here, in higher education, but you’re not seeing them on television. And when younger people go on social media, they’ll find even fewer experts offering commentary without any real research to back up their opinions. There are experts at colleges and universities across the country, including CSUN, who have dedicated their careers and spent years studying these topics, yet they aren’t being heard.
“We need to make what we do at universities more accessible, and demonstrate through our presence that we truly care about the communities our students come from,” Searcy said.
Searcy sees the holder of community-endowed professorship, who will be housed in CSUN’s Department of Africana Studies, facilitating a partnership between the university and the community.
“So many times, people and organizations will go into a community and tell its residents what they need,” Searcy said. “This professor’s role will be different. They will be there to listen — that’s why it’s so important they hold ‘office hours’ in the community — and work with the community to address their needs as an active liaison. Maybe it’s helping to advocate for affordable housing, addressing food insecurity by hosting sessions with the campus’ freight farming experts or setting up a college-track afterschool program for kids. What community members identify as their needs will be the driving force. This professor will be working with our students, their fellow faculty and community members to come up with solutions.”
At the same time, Searcy said, the professor also will be modeling the positive impact a college education can have, reiterating, “One person can indeed change the world, especially with CSUN behind them.”
For information about the Community-Endowed Professorship in Africana Studies, contact Tracy Baum at firstname.lastname@example.org.