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Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Anti-Racism Community

Dean's Award for Inclusive Excellence in Graduate Education
Nominators: Zachary Rosenthal, Kevin LaBar and Nancy Zucker

The Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Anti-Racism Community (ARC) is a community of graduate students and faculty from the Duke Clinical Psychology Program that aims to address systematic racism on Duke’s campus. 

ARC was formed in July 2020 by Clinical Psychology Ph.D. students and faculty in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, police brutality at subsequent national protests, and the legacy of anti-Black racism.

“It was actually started by two clinical psychology students coming together,” said Carolina Daffre, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology Program. “It’s a department-wide effort, but it’s led by individual people coming together and creating a shared vision. It’s led by individuals and their passion for anti-racism.”

ARC has since expanded to include the entire department and students from all of its training programs.

“The transition happened this past summer,” said Nicolas Camacho, a third-year doctoral student. “We made a conscious effort to expand beyond the scope of the clinical program. It was requested by us. The department wanted to engage with us.”

The community is structured around three pillars, each emphasizing a different element that helps establish an anti-racist culture at Duke. The first pillar aims to enhance recruitment and retention of BIPOC students, faculty, and staff; the second pillar focuses on ensuring all academic activities reflect anti-racist values; and the third pillar revolves around elevating multicultural awareness.

To address the first pillar, ARC created a virtual office hours program, offering time and critical guidance to applicants over the past two application annual cycles. This program served 48 applicants to psychology Ph.D. programs: 60% were low-income students, 52% were first-generation college students, 50% were BIPOC, and 35% identified as LGTBQ. 

Efforts in the second pillar help faculty create anti-racist and culturally responsive syllabi for all classes, structured under the Council of Chairs of Training Councils Toolkit, a resource created by a multi-disciplinary group providing a clear and pragmatic rubric to evaluate if the syllabi adhere to anti-racism and cultural responsiveness. 

The last pillar helps with professional development. ARC has launched a recurring student multicultural consultation meeting and an anti-racism speaker series. The community has been able to recruit nationally recognized leaders in anti-racism as speakers. 

The professional development efforts were supported in part by a Professional Development Grant from The Graduate School. In fall 2021 and spring 2022, graduate students organized and created a clinical psychology anti-racism lecture series. It featured 13 speakers across the year.

Beyond the pillars-specific activities, ARC has hosted social gatherings for both students and faculty to further enhance the sense of community. 

“Building a community helps us feel like we’re not alone when sometimes it can feel a little bit isolating.” Camacho said.

“I really love the work that we do and I think it’s all really, very special,” Daffre said. “But I don’t think it’s something that is unique to this group of students, or is unique to the psychology department, or psychology-focused work. I truly believe that every department at Duke could have an anti-racism community. Every graduate department could use a good look into their recruitment practices and how they recruit people of color.”