Opening Up to Hard History: Activating Anti-Racism in an Immersive Ed.D. Cohort Experience at Heritage Sites in Montgomery, Alabama

  • Theresa G. Coble University of Missouri - St. Louis
  • Corinne Wohlford Mason Fontbonne University
  • Lisa Overholser University of Missouri Extension
  • William W. Gwaltney National Park Service (Retired)
Keywords: memorials, affect, contested space, high-impact practices, activism, equal justice initiative


The Ed.D. program in Heritage Leadership for Sustainability, Social Justice, and Participatory Culture at the University of Missouri—St. Louis helps students cultivate the mindsets and skill sets required to sustain, pluralize, and enliven heritage in the public sphere. Although the program primarily meets synchronously online, the January 2020 “Wintercession” field trip to heritage sites in Montgomery, Alabama, provided an opportunity for face-to-face interactions, deep conversation, and reflection. Curricular, conversational, and collaborative inquiry deepened awareness and activated activism toward issues of racial justice. The use of high-impact practices (Kuh, 2008) allowed the cohort and faculty mentors to delve further into heritage leadership themes, including: confronting difficult emotions, recognizing sanctified space, facilitating group bonding and trust building, identifying models for activism, and moving forward in activism. We argue that the emergence of these themes demonstrates the value of immersing students and faculty in a shared, high-impact experience that focused on awareness, remembering, and wondering—the process of imagining the not yet (Keenan-Lechel et al., 2019)—as a means to “activate activism” in a cohort-based Ed.D. program.

Author Biography

Theresa G. Coble, University of Missouri - St. Louis

Theresa G. Coble, Ph.D.

(she, her, hers)

E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Experiential and Family Education

Community Partner: Forest Park Forever

College of Education

University of Missouri - St. Louis

Cell: 817-235-7842


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How to Cite
Coble, T. G., Mason, C. W., Overholser, L., & Gwaltney, W. W. (2020). Opening Up to Hard History: Activating Anti-Racism in an Immersive Ed.D. Cohort Experience at Heritage Sites in Montgomery, Alabama. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 5(2), 26–32.