College of Education to Host Free Virtual Conference on ‘Courageous Conversations for Educators’

College of Education in Atlanta

ATLANTA/MACON – Mercer University’s College of Education will hold a free virtual conference on “Courageous Conversations for Educators” July 23, 8-11 a.m., to provide Pre K-12 teachers with tools to engage their students and staff in discussions about racism.

“Many students and their families are directly and negatively impacted by social justice and equity issues. This problem is further complicated when teachers do not have opportunities to delve into deep thinking and critical analysis about these social justice issues and the individuals, groups and communities who are impacted,” said Dr. Felicia Baiden, assistant professor of education. “Simply excluding critical discussions in the classroom about these issues, or ignoring them altogether, in exchange for a ‘neutral’ curriculum merely reproduces social inequality and forfeits opportunities for students to critique their world and become agents of social change.”

The virtual conference will be conducted on the Zoom platform, and registration may be completed online.

The conference will begin at 8 a.m. with a message from keynote speaker Laura Ross, a school counselor at Five Forks Middle School in Lawrenceville and 2020 American School Counselor Association School Counselor of the Year.

Ross’ keynote address, titled “Why We Need to Make the Space for Courageous Conversations,” will focus on the reasons why it is critical these conversations are held with all stakeholder groups in the school setting. She will also share how she effectively implemented conversations with students over the summer months and how these conversations have already generated a move toward positive change and enhanced relationships in her own school community.

A graduate of the University of Georgia, Ross has served as a school counselor for nine years. Before working in the public school setting, she served as a counselor at an adult men’s correctional facility where she developed a passion for restorative justice.

At 8:45 a.m., conference participants will divide into role-specific breakout sessions for early learning schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and building and district level leadership.

These sessions will focus on proactive strategies to help teachers, building and district level leaders, support staff and board members engage their students and staff in courageous conversations to make their communities more anti-racist, inclusive and culturally responsive.

Conference participants will engage in collaborative conversations and activities with Mercer faculty, as well as Pre K-12 public and private school educators, that will encourage all stakeholders in the school environment to be active, positive participants in supporting anti-racist teaching, learning and leading during a time of social unrest.

The conference will conclude with an expert panel and closing from 10-11 a.m. Members of the panel, composed of representatives from higher education as well as public and private schools and the Department of Education, will address questions posed prior to the conference and during conference sessions. The panel will include Dr. Pamela Larde, Dr. Tom Koballa, Dr. Rob Helfenbein, Dr. Jeff Hall, Michael Champion, Dr. Loleta Sartin, Dr. Tiffany Taylor, Dr. Mack Bullard and Dr. Ansley Booker.

The conference’s planning committee includes College of Education faculty Dr. Karyn Allee-Herndon, Dr. Cynthia Anderson, Dr. Baiden, Dr. Justin Ballenger, Dr. Susan Cannon, Dr. Rebecca Grunzke, Dr. Sharon Augustine, Dr. Carol Isaac, Dr. Larde, Dr. Robbie Marsh, Dr. Leah Panther, Dr. Katherine Perrotta, Dr. Wynnetta Scott-Simmons, Sheila Thompson, Dr. N. Jean Walker and Ph.D. student Champion.

About the College of Education

Mercer University’s Tift College of Education – with campuses in Macon, Atlanta and the University’s two regional academic centers – prepares more professional educators than any other private institution in Georgia. Named for the former women’s college that merged with Mercer in 1986, the College of Education offers baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and is guided by the conceptual framework of the “Transforming Educator,” which supports those who aspire to grow professionally throughout their careers, while also seeking to transform the lives of students. For more information, visit