New Graduate Looks Ahead to Teaching About Race, Formally And Informally
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
August 13, 2020
ROCKFORD—Kevin Winn, 31, is at a point in life where his whole life is up in the air —and it will be interesting to see where it will settle into place.
In May, Winn finished five years at Arizona State, graduating with a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Evaluation — a major he describes as being about how education policies are made, who is affected and who is not. It includes national policies like No Child Left Behind, he says, “but most of my (Ph.D.) work was with a specific district and following a community activist group within that district.” 
Of course the coronavirus makes this “not a great time” to be looking for work, he says. But he is not one to just hang around as he applies for work and ponders his future.
This summer, Winn designed and presented a multi-week online course for 15 adults, most of them teachers, on how to talk about race and anti-racism. He proposed the course to people he knew from 13 summers of work at the Loras College All-Sports Summer Camp, which was cancelled this year. 
“I knew a lot of my coworkers there were really affected by the George Floyd murder and the protests,” he says. “Everyone (in the class) is white ... and they didn’t know how to talk about race and anti-racism, and what they could do” in their workplaces.
The sessions began with “whiteness” and what it means to be white and continued with how they could incorporate anti-racist policies in classes and be more culturally sensitive. Winn used articles and novels including children’s books — a lot of which are applicable to adults as well, he says. The one-and-a-half-hour sessions sometimes stretched to three hours.
“The goal for a class like this is dialogue and to have different opinions,” Winn says. “The goal we had was to assume the best of each other.”
Winn has a passion for the topic of race — and study and experience as well. Curiosity about Africa led this Boylan graduate to a non-Western history class at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, which prompted him to double-major in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, a common language in northern Africa. That included a semester of teaching in Morocco.
He then attended Yale University and majored in African Studies. His thesis on how volunteer tourists impact local host communities brought him to Tanzania for research.
But after graduation, Winn changed direction.
“I was thinking of going for a Ph.D. in African Studies,” he says, “but that wasn’t the best route for me. Everything I did led me to the education field,” including tutoring refugees through the Catholic Charities Office in Rockford during the year before he began doctoral studies.
His Ph. D. dissertation was titled “Eliminating Racism in Pinecreek?: Civic Participation in Local Education Policy,” and now Winn is busy turning that scholarly work into a different piece of writing “to highlight my interviewees’ voices and highlight the voices of people of color who I got to know through my dissertation research.” With that less-scholarly approach, he says, “I am hoping to get my research into the hands of people that can use it.”
He also is considering how he might use the online class he developed that he says can “form connections and create a (virtual) space where participants feel comfortable sharing opinions and talking about difficult issues.”
Winn can picture himself as a teacher in general, as a teacher of educators, as working in a school district or at a college or as a “director of equity, diversity and inclusion,” he says. Wherever he lands, his interest in race, racism and community activism will play a part. 
“I think people want a place to be able to practice talking about race,” he says. “I really like working with people and being able to talk about race and inequities and how we can do better.”
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