Humanities Education for Anti-racism Literacy in the Sciences and Medicine (HEAL)

A project of the Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative

The Humanities Education for Anti-racism Literacy (HEAL) in the Sciences and Medicine project seeks to provide models and examples of transformative higher education by drawing on humanities research to advance anti-racist practices and pedagogies in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). Beginning with an acknowledgement of the pervasive impact of systemic racism, our aim is to center the educational experiences of Black, Native, Indigenous and other students of color to build more accurate narratives about histories of racism in the sciences and medicine, allowing us to better redress persistent underrepresentation and to develop educational tools for building a more equitable university and society.

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Our Vision and Goals

We envision:

  • A university community that strives to reach its full potential by reckoning with impacts of settler colonialism and white supremacy and actively seeking to repair legacies of its colonial and extractive histories and harms done particularly to Black, Native, Indigenous as well as other people of color.
  • A university that fosters a strong sense of belonging for all by listening to and learning from Black, Native, Indigenous and other people of color on campus and in the surrounding communities and by actively engaging in dialogue and actions towards social justice and equity.
  • A Wisconsin Idea built on reciprocal relationships in which the university listens, learns and partners with surrounding communities and then acts in service, such that both campus and community members are positively transformed through collaboration and co-production of knowledge among equals.
  • Creation and collection of course-based pedagogies and pedagogical materials across all disciplines at the university and beyond, grounded in anti-racist principles of mutual learning, dignity, honesty, and care.
  • Education systems and practices that include critical historical analysis of power structures, racism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism in their core curricula.

The goals of the HEAL project are to:

  • As a team, continually re-educate and challenge ourselves about ongoing histories of racism and oppression in our society, in academia, and in our institutions and disciplines, in order to recognize their legacies today and to actively engage in anti-racist practices.
  • As a team, commit to practices of anti-racism, co-production of knowledge, and centering the experiences of Black, Native, Indigenous and other people of color to create with our partners new models of relationship-building and collaborations for equitable learning and working environments.
  • Listen to, learn from, partner with, and serve Black, Native, Indigenous and other people of color on campus and in the surrounding communities in order to develop and deliver educational materials that are inclusive, equitable, accessible, and that reflect the experiences of Black, Native, Indigenous and other communities of color.
  • Co-create new models of research collaborations by building partnerships based on anti-racist practices and reparative relationships with Black, Native, Indigenous and other communities of color.
  • Collaboratively research, create, teach, and disseminate educational materials that convey how racism, settler colonialism, and white supremacy shaped the (1) historical development of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM), other disciplines, our academic institutions, and scientific practice; and (2) continue to influence power relationships, as well as who pursues learning and careers in these fields, questions researchers ask, and methods used to answer them.
  • To engage the wider UW-Madison community in meaningful educational opportunities, productive conversations, and actions that recognize and work to counteract the legacies of racism, settler colonialism, and white supremacy in the academy and STEMM, in particular, including through partnerships with other efforts to transform the racial climate of higher education.

Our research takes place on the unceded lands of First Nations, including land the Ho-Chunk have long called Teejop. We are committed to working with Native and Indigenous partners as well as community organizations reaching minoritized populations. Community partners currently include Pioneer Possibilities and Nehemiah-Justified Anger. We are also working with UBUNTU Research and researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research to help us evaluate the project.

We seek to record and make publicly available all of our work, so that it may be accessible, usable, and helpful to the communities we are working for.

HEAL includes several cross-disciplinary, co-informed projects, including:

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Black Madison Voices

The main aim of Black Madison Voices, led by co-PI McKinney de Royston, is to curate a public history archive of Black Madisonians’ educational experiences and desires in STEM fields, which are critical assets for advancing anti-racist curriculum, policies, and practices in STEM on and off-campus. The BMV is a collective effort of Black women scholars committed to connecting Black Madisonians to each other’s intergenerational and educational stories in ways that will last far beyond this project. Our project is grounded in a commitment to Black humanity and agency through life-giving/affirming research that serves the Black Madison communities’ expressed interests and concerns. Our project has five primary goals:

  1. To amplify and gather the stories of Black students, families, scholars, staff, and/or alumni experiences at UW Madison through oral history interviews that are humanizing and dignity-affirming.
  2. To learn from and archive the stories and local legacies of Black Madisonians and bring them into the public record for recognition and to facilitate more just educational and social policies, practices, and futures.
  3. To develop and refine anti-racist curriculum (especially in the STEMM fields) that honors Black Madisonians, and Black communities’ more broadly, experiences of harm and possibility within STEM fields and post-secondary educational spaces
  4. To facilitate reciprocal relations between Black scholars on-campus and Black Madisonians.
  5. To honor institutional harms done to Black communities within higher education settings and to model for educational institutions how to engage in reparative, regenerative, and right relations with vulnerable communities rather than to continue histories of exploitation and extraction.

For more information, contact Dr. Maxine McKinney de Royston (mckinneyderoyston@wisc.edu).


Represented Collective

Represented Collective is a community partner NGO led by CEO and Founder Winnie Karanja. The project focuses on creating the Legendary Collection, a 56 illustrated card deck that celebrates women of color in STEM and their stories. In 2021 Represented Collective activities included: biographical research on women, product research (manufacturing and marketing), contracting and working with artists, product development.

For more information, contact Winnie Karanja (hello@representedcollective.com).

Equity and Resilience: Tribal-University Relationship Building in Education, Stewardship, and Research

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Indigenous Arts and Sciences

Indigenous Arts & Sciences (IAS) (led by co-PI Bauer-Armstrong and Michelle Cloud) seeks to contribute to a more equitable university by developing educational tools for social justice, including Indigenous perspectives, and providing spaces for more grounded histories of racism and colonialism. IAS aims to improve the Native Education Pathways partnership to address underrepresentation of Native Americans in STEMM. The project also seeks to share Tribally-driven models for Tribal university collaborations in education, research, and land stewardship. For more information, please contact Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong(cherylbauer@wisc.edu), Michelle Cloud (mcloud2@wisc.edu)

Environmental Equity Participatory Action Research (EQ-PAR)

Environmental Equity Participatory Action Research (EQ-PAR) (led by co-PI Hougham), is assessing how off-campus learning venues can better address racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion in field experiences and science education. Field stations are an integral part of place-based environmental research at many land-grant universities, and thus the team strives to integrate them into meaningful interrogations of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The EQ-PAR team takes a multi-faceted approach to develop immersive student experiences through academic courses pertaining to BIPOC perspectives of the land and environmental justice, and providing professional development venues to examine environmental equity issues in context. For more information, please contact Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong(cherylbauer@wisc.edu), Michelle Cloud (mcloud2@wisc.edu) Dr. Justin Hougham (justin.hougham@wisc.edu).

Peeshkêesh Yáv Umúsaheesh – Changing Settler-Colonial Practices in Klamath River Restoration (University of Washington)

This project area (led by co-PI Woelfle-Hazard and Karuk collaborators Morehead-Hillman and Hillman) aims to develop multiple pathways for Karuk youth to higher education and to train and support graduate students in working in ongoing collaboration with Native communities. Using arts, social science, and science approaches, we listen to the Klamath River and its Basin, as well as its people and relations, to understand and advocate for shared goals for cultural revitalization, tribal sovereignty and affirmation, and traditional education/healing. This project area operates as a “gentle” translation, working between Indigenous and Western scientists, rural Native and urban academic communities, families and institutions to foster respectful communication and meaningful action.

For more information, contact Dr. Cleo Woelfle-Hazard (cwhaz@ucanr.edu).

Collaboration with Our Shared Future

Co-PI Clark-Pujara and graduate fellow Molli Pauliot are collaborating with the Our Shared Future initiative on the UW–Madison campus, which seeks to increase awareness of the history of the land the university occupies and recognizes the inherent sovereignty of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

For more information, contact Dr. Christy Clark-Pujara (clarkpujara@wisc.edu).

​Indigenous Public Health in Wisconsin – A collaboration with the UW Population Health Institute

HEAL is collaborating with County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a program of the University of WI Population Health Institute, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. CHR&R provides data, evidence, guidance, and examples to build awareness of the multiple factors that influence health and supports leaders in growing community power to improve health equity. The main aim of this project is to develop a case study of Indigenous health in select counties in Wisconsin. The project will describe key sociohistorical data to reveal how health inequities are produced and highlight strategies that Indigenous communities are using to create conditions for health and wellbeing.

For more information, contact Dr. Elizabeth Hennessy, (elizabeth.hennessy@wisc.edu).

Higher Education

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STEMM Outreach

The main goals of the HEAL STEMM Outreach Working Group, led by co-PI Marín-Spiotta, have been (1) building community for graduate students of color in STEMM disciplines who are leading efforts in anti-racism activism, education and research at UW-Madison, (2) compiling an extensive library of literature relevant to the project, (3) developing a website for the overall project to disseminate anti-racism resources for teaching, mentoring and research practice to STEMM educators and practitioners, hosted by the Science Education Research Center (SERC), (4) contributing to the HEALing STEM short course, and (5) revising curricula of STEM courses to include anti-racism and history of science and settler colonialism.

For more information, contact Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta (marinspiotta@wisc.edu).

HEALing the Sciences Trainings

HEALing the Sciences trainings include a 7.5-hour short course and pedagogical toolkits designed designed to introduce scientists to the ways in which long-running histories of racism and white supremacy have shaped the development and current practice of science. We approach anti-racism education in STEM from a historical perspective grounded in conviction that making the sciences more equitable and inclusive requires not only pipeline and retention work, but also honest engagement with the histories of racism that have disempowered historically marginalized peoples and shaped inequitable access to scientific resources and achievement. We pair this historical analysis with discipline-specific examples and practical strategies for developing anti-racist scientific communities and research methodologies.

For more information, contact Dr. Elizabeth Hennessy (elizabeth.hennessy@wisc.edu) and/or Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta (marinspiotta@wisc.edu).

Why History Matters: Systemic Racism in the American University and Society

Co-PI Clark-Pujara is developing an undergraduate course, tentatively titled “Why History Matters: Systemic Racism in the American University and Society,” which will be taught in the spring of 2023 or fall of 2024. The course is a social history of the creation and maintenance of structural racism in American universities and society. The histories of ethnic cleansing forced removals and the creation of race-based slavery will receive special attention as project staff explore the systematic and structural exclusion and marginalization of Indigenous and Black people as well as other racial minorities. The class will also explore the following questions: What is systemic racism? How has systemic racism shaped universities and colleges in the United States? How has structural racism shaped American society? A similar version of this course will be offered to the wider Madison area community through the non-profit Nehemiah.

For more information, contact Dr. Christy Clark-Pujara (clarkpujara@wisc.edu).

Integrating Critical Histories & Equity Practices in STEMM Curricula

The STEMM Outreach working group is integrating histories of scientific racism, settler colonialism and extractivism, white supremacy, discrimination and other exclusionary behaviors into curricula of courses in geography and environmental science (geosciences, engineering, chemistry). Co-PI Marin-Spiotta has worked on two iterations of two courses (Geography/Botany 338: Environmental Biogeography and Geography/Soils 526: Transforming Earth Systems) (2020, 2021 and 2022) to expand content on equity in the practice, history and application of the discipline.

For more information, contact Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta (marinspiotta@wisc.edu).

(Anti-)Racism, (Anti-)Colonialism and the Environmental Sciences

Co-PI Hennessy is developing an undergraduate course (cross-listed in Environmental Studies and History of Science) that interrogates histories of scientific racism, colonialism, and racial bias in the environmental sciences. Students will examine how processes of empire building, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism have shaped Western natural sciences since the Enlightenment. They will also engage with the work of Indigenous, Black and other scientists of color to develop anti-racist and anti-colonial approaches to doing environmental science.

For more information, contact Dr. Elizabeth Hennessy (elizabeth.hennessy@wisc.edu)

Wisconsin Black History Symposium - A partnership with Nehemiah

Black people have lived, labored, and raised families in the region that became the state of Wisconsin since the 1720s. They called Prairie du Chien, Racine, Green Bay, Lancaster, Milwaukee, Madison, Pleasant Ridge, the Town of Forest, and Menominee home. Yet their stories remain largely untold. The experiences and influences of Africans and later African Americans are either marginal or absent from most histories of the region and the state. The Wisconsin Black History Symposium will gather lay, community and professional historians and artists to share their research and interest in Black Wisconsin History. The content of the Symposium will be made available to educators throughout the state.

For more information, contact Dr. Christy Clark-Pujara (clarkpujara@wisc.edu).

Who We Are

We believe the work of anti-racism cannot be left only to Black, Brown, Indigenous and other minoritized people. This is why we have a large, cross-racial and interdisciplinary collaborative team of humanities scholars, social scientists, natural scientists, librarians, evaluators, and community partners who each bring different personal and professional experiences and expertise to the project.

Top row, from left: Maxine McKinney de Royston, R. Justin Hougham, Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong, Erika Marín-Spiotta; Second row: Robin Rider, Todd Michelson-Ambelang, Christy Clark-Pujara, Cleo Woelfle-Hazard; Third row: Monica M. White, Troy Reeves, Elizabeth Hennessy, Michelle Cloud

HEAL Project Leadership Team

  • Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong (she/her/hers), Director of Earth Partnership: Indigenous Arts & Sciences (IAS), University of Wisconsin–Madison cheryl.bauerarmstrong@wisc.edu
  • Christy Clark-Pujara (she/her/hers), Professor, African American Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison clarkpujara@wisc.edu
  • Michelle Cloud (she/her/hers), Outreach Specialist, Indigenous Arts and Sciences, Earth Partnership, University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, mcloud2@wisc.edu
  • Elizabeth Hennessy (she/her/hers), Associate Professor, History, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison elizabeth.hennessy@wisc.edu
  • R. Justin Hougham (he/him/his), Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of Extension and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies – Coordinator of Environmental Equity Participatory Action Research justin.hougham@wisc.edu
  • Maxine McKinney de Royston (she/her/hers), Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin–Madison and Coordinator of Black Madison Voices: Perspectives on Education & Schooling from Madison’s Black communities mckinneyderoyston@wisc.edu
  • Erika Marín-Spiotta (she/her/hers), Professor, Geography, University of Wisconsin–Madison and Lead PI of NSF-funded ADVANCEGeo program marinspiotta@wisc.edu
  • Todd Michelson-Ambelang (he/him/his), Senior Academic Librarian, International and Area Studies Librarians; Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Liaison, General Library System, University of Wisconsin–Madison todd.ambelang@wisc.edu
  • Troy Reeves (he/him/his), Oral Historian, University Archives & Records Management, General Library System, University of Wisconsin-Madison, troy.reeves@wisc.edu
  • Robin Rider, Curator of Special Collections, General Library System, University of Wisconsin-Madison, robin.rider@wisc.edu
  • Cleo A. Woelfle-Erskine (he/him/his), Fire Advisor, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, Coordinator of Pêeshkêesh Yáv Umúsaheesh – Changing Settler-Colonial Practices in River Restoration cwhaz@ucanr.edu
  • Monica M. White, Associate Professor and Director of Nelson Institute’s Office of Environmental Justice and Engagement, University of Wisconsin–Madison monica.white@wisc.edu

Project Administration

Postdoctoral Fellows

2022-2024: Dr. prabhdeep kehal (kehal@wisc.edu)

2022-2023: Dr. Aireale J. Rodgers (arodgers4@wisc.edu)
Dr. Aireale J. Rodgers is now an Anna Julia Cooper Fellow and incoming Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Student Researchers

Bella Annan

Hannah Antczak

Aida Arosoaie

Ruby Bafu

Haritha Bhairavabhatla

Jalessa Bryant

Kela Caldwell

Yanika Davis

Virginia Downing

Zoe Fess

Ashley Gaskew

Gabrielle Hernandez

Misty Jackson

Dylan Jennings

Amber Joshway

Ruth Llana Fernandez

Dorothy Lsoto

c nelson

Marquel Norton

Molli Pauliot

Brittney Pemberton

AnnaBeth Thomas

Alexandra Villa

Advisory Board

  • Dr. Grace Bulltail, Nelson Institute and Biological Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Dr. Claudia Irene Calderón, Horticulture, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Rev. Dr. Alexander Gee, Nehemiah
  • Ms. Misty Jackson, Planning and Landscape Architecture and Earth Partnership, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Mr. Dylan Jennings, Nelson Institute and Earth Partnership, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Dr. Keisha Lindsay, Gender and Women’s Studies & Political Science, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Ms. Annette Miller, EQT By Design
  • Dr. Terrell Morton, Educational Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Dr. Manali Sheth, Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Ms. LaShawn Washington, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis  & Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Dr. Rachelle Winkle-Wagner, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Campus Partners

  • Kelly Marie Ward, Gender & Women’s Studies, Sociology
  • Sheri Johnson and the Population Health Institute
  • Our Shared Future
  • Evan Hepler-Smith, History, Duke University

Community Partners

  • Nehemiah
  • Represented Collective
  • Ubuntu

Evaluation Work Provided by

Christine Bell and Kyrie Caldwell with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research


Dr. Monique Liston and her team at Ubuntu Research and Evaluation