SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA — Taifha Alexander was a little over a month into her role as assistant dean of students for diversity and leadership development at Wofford College when the COVID-19 pandemic began disrupting campus life. Her office, however, has been a bit of a nerve center for the campus community in the past year.
Alexander’s ability to lead discussions on race during the pandemic and in the wake of national protests after the violent deaths of Black Americans in high-profile cases has led the South Carolina College Personnel Association (SCCPA) to name her the recipient of its Joseph E. Heyward Humanitarian Award.
“Despite having only a month of experience on our campus, she rallied her office, our division and the entire college around the causes of social justice and equity,” says Allen Lollis, associate director for residence life and community standards, who nominated Alexander for the award. “As a member of the Wofford community for nearly 10 years, I have never seen anyone, or any group, for that matter, unite as many different factions from our campus for one goal.”
Alexander’s office began hosting virtual discussions last summer for the college’s students, faculty, staff and alumni with people around the country willing to discuss systemic racism while offering insight on steps to address it. Those conversations have continued throughout the academic year. The office also organized an anti-racism challenge for student organizations and athletics teams to participate in while being paired with faculty and staff femtors and mentors.
“It has been both a personal and professional honor to work alongside faculty, staff and students to advance antiracist curricula, pedagogy and practice on campus,” says Alexander. “I am thankful to my friend and colleague, Allen Lollis, for nominating me for the 2020 SCCPA Joseph E. Heyward Humanitarian Award and am excited to continue the work that so many others have supported and remain committed to. I am especially thankful to the Antiracism Action Team for their leadership and support in making Wofford a more equitable and antiracist campus for the entire Terrier community. This award is just as much theirs as it is mine.”
SCCPA’S Joseph E. Heyward Humanitarian Award recognizes the contributions of student affairs professionals who promote understanding and awareness among diverse people.
“She’s physically been on our campus for a month, yet dozens and dozens of students would readily tell you that she has been an important source of support for them in an extraordinarily trying time,” says Lollis.