The new director of UNC’s Institute of African American Research plans on repaying the organization that helped advance her career.
Professor Karla Slocum, who assumed her role on July 1, might have a new position, but working for the institute is familiar territory.
From 2002 to 2006, she directed the IAAR’s Moore Undergraduate Research Program, which prepares and trains students committed to diversity to become graduate students and faculty members at universities across the country.
“I very much liked the work of the Institute,” Slocum said of her decision to apply for the position.
“It had done a lot for my career, and I just very much supported it and wanted to be part of moving it forward.”
Slocum intends to introduce new programs to the IAAR, but said she is not ready to discuss them.
Slocum said she is pleased with her transition into the role and happy with attendance and interest at an August IAAR event concerning civil rights in the 21st century.
One of the first IAAR events of the academic year was a panel on Trayvon Martin, which aimed to provide insight on the social, cultural and historical context of the case.
Slocum said the event was a reflection on her goal to bring up critical discussion about complex racial issues, something she feels her research will aid her in doing.
“I think my research has helped me to see a lot of broad pictures related to African-Americans in contemporary times and their relationship to a lot of central questions,” Slocum said.
Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, chairman of the anthropology department, said Slocum builds her research questions with the community in mind and really connects with the people she is studying.
“I think she really understands how the research we do connects with people’s lives and why it matters,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said.
Professor Isaac Unah, the current advisory board chairman for the IAAR, also spoke to Slocum’s ability as a researcher, describing her as a leader in the field of anthropology.
“Karla is very insightful, she is very organized and she is powerfully eloquent, and I think she has a real vision that she is bringing to the leadership of the Institute for African American Research,” he said.
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