Webinar addresses racism and its impact on students’ mental health

KEARNEY – Ebony McGee worked as an electrical engineer for several Fortune 500 companies before an epiphany changed her career path.

“I realized that I wasn’t impacting the lives of others in a way that made sense to me. On my tombstone, I didn’t want it to say, ‘She made power products.’ I wanted something more meaningful for my life,” McGee explains in a Vanderbilt University faculty profile video.

Ebony McGee
Ebony McGee

Inspired by her own experiences in a workplace that was “mostly white and mostly male,” McGee now studies racial inequality and marginalization in higher education and STEM professions. Her research focuses on the racialized experiences and racial stereotypes that adversely affect the education and career trajectories of underrepresented groups of color, as well as the physical and mental wellness issues these students face.

“The process of healing from racial battle fatigue and institutional racism requires significant internal commitment and external support. Black college students are brilliant, talented and creative, and they dream as big as other students. Pursuing higher education should not make them sick,” McGee wrote in a 2015 publication.

An associate professor of education, diversity and STEM education in Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, McGee will discuss this topic 5 p.m. Feb. 4 during a webinar hosted by the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The Zoom presentation, “Racism, Black Students and the Emerging Mental Health Crisis,” is free to attend, but participants must preregister at http://bit.ly/3c0Lq80. One continuing education unit is available for licensed professionals.

The event is sponsored by UNK’s Chi Sigma Iota honor society, Women’s, Gender and Ethnic Studies Council, College of Education Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Committee, Division of Research and Black Student Association.

Asianna Harris
Asianna Harris

“As we work to become a more inclusive and multiculturally oriented campus, I thought it would be pertinent to have Dr. McGee speak to our faculty, staff and students about the mental health issues unique to Black students,” said Asianna Harris, a master’s student and graduate assistant in the department of counseling and school psychology and member of the College of Education’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Committee.

“Dr. McGee is highly regarded in the fields of race and STEM,” Harris added. “One of her main objectives is to help universities identify interdisciplinary perspectives that foster strategies to support Black students in the process of healing from multiple forms of racialized trauma, especially trauma encountered in the higher education system.”

After leaving her career in electrical engineering, McGee earned a doctorate in math education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Chicago and a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at Northwestern University. She co-founded the Explorations in Diversifying Engineering Faculty Initiative and the Institute in Critical Quantitative and Mixed Methodologies Training for Underrepresented Scholars.

McGee authored the book “Black, Brown, Bruised: How Racialized STEM Education Stifles Innovation” and was lead editor of the book “Diversifying STEM: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Race and Gender.” Her research has been featured in The Atlantic, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, NPR’s “Code Switch,” Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, U.S. News & World Report and Inside Higher Education.