Anti-racism Class Spurs Action

Andrew Wicklum ’24 sees himself as a “rowdy changemaker.”

by Chris Farnum

Kate Heffernan and Iman Rodriguez performing on stage during Pippin

Andrew Wicklum ’24 (not shown) was the production stage manager for Pippin at Nazareth in fall 2021. Pictured: Kate Heffernan ’24 and Iman Rodriguez ’24. Photo by Ron Heerkens Jr., Goat Factory Media Entertainment, LLC.

Sophomore Andrew Wicklum gained so much from a 1-credit Equitable Spaces class — Anti-racism in Community-Engaged Learning — that he thinks every student at Naz should take it.

“You can apply what you learn literally anywhere, no matter your major or what field you’re going into,” he says. Andrew is a musical theatre major, besides which he’s pursuing two minors: in theatre design and technology and in communication and media.

Equitable Spaces courses are intended to inspire and prepare changemakers. In their first three semesters, courses have focused on topics such as leadership advocacy and social change, gender and race in voter suppression efforts, sexism in the sciences, making the work world more equitable, justice in health and mental health, and debating issues such as political correctness and free speech.

Andrew says his anti-racism course was out of his comfort zone. “It was hard to take that step to take a class about a touchy subject,” he acknowledges. But the knowledgeable instructor ensured discussions were healthy and supported growth and change for the students, he notes.

Among the ways Andrew says he benefited:

Creating an anti-racism project

For his final project, he designed a theatre production selection board, a group of people to help research and select shows with an eye toward diversity and inclusion. His work was to consider who should be on such a committee, how to start it, and how to sustain it.

“The shows we do in the next five years will be so important to getting more diversity in the theatre department,” he says. The department has historically been very white, but he sees that’s changing, and he sees the department collaborating with others such as Nazareth’s Office for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Education to sponsor events on campus such as Art in All Its Forms: Artistic Contributions of Black Americans.

Understanding the community

Andrew, who’s from Georgia, appreciated learning about structural racism and how it affects Rochester, New York. “I got a greater understanding of the city I live in,” Andrew says. Guest speakers from community agencies made clear to him that building relationships is key to advancing equity.

Also, his classmates included students studying other areas, such as social work and psychology; that added great perspective and enabled Andrew to learn about racism in various industries, he says.

Being prompted to speak up

“I now consider myself an anti-racist,” Andrew says, which means going beyond a dislike of racism by actively working against it. The class “made me understand it’s OK to say something to someone.”

He now speaks up when he hears comments or microaggressions that hurt or disrespect people of color. “You can’t really stand on the sidelines and say, ‘It doesn’t affect me,’” he explained.

Andrew sees himself as a “rowdy changemaker.” He advocates on campus for changes he believes are needed, including by meeting with senior leaders.

He plans to carry forward what he’s learned, to shape his community and his industry for the better.

Chris Farnum is a director in Marketing and Communications.

Andrew Wicklum listening to a fellow student during class

Andrew Wicklum ’24 (in Nazareth shirt) in Anti-racism in Community-Engaged Learning class.