After a national search, Cathy McDaniels Wilson was selected to fill a unique joint appointment between the University and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center last fall. At Xavier, she is a visiting professor in psychology, teaching a course on diversity and a course on violence against women and girls. As director of dialogue programs at the Freedom Center, which opens this summer, she is developing opportunities for visitors to discuss their reactions to their experiences in the center.
What programs are you creating at the Freedom Center? I’m developing a dialogue zone where people can share their thoughts and feelings after touring the center. It is a safe place for validation, affirmation and perhaps some challenge of thought. The healing through history project is a program where people are shown vignettes of African-American and Cincinnati history and engage in dialogue.
What prepared you for this assignment? I think my own life experiences and my training as a psychologist. I’ve learned how to elicit feelings, thoughts and reactions from others in a way that is validating and comforting, so I feel I know what needs to happen to create a safe place for people to talk about difficult issues.
What attracted you to this position? Wanting to remain connected to my history as an African-American woman is important, because when you’re in an institution you can move away from that focus. And it sounded like a wonderful opportunity. The programs are opportunities to help Cincinnati heal from its racial tensions, to help people come together and to help students become future practitioners who are culturally competent and sensitive.