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Shenandoah University names new assistant provost for inclusion, diversity, equity

Hakeem Leonard
Hakeem Leonard. Photo courtesy Shenandoah University.

Hakeem Leonard has recently been named as Shenandoah University’s first assistant provost for inclusion, diversity, and equity.

In this new role, Dr. Leonard, an associate professor of music therapy, will collaborate with and provide leadership to faculty and deans to create and promote curricula and pedagogy that are anti-oppressive and that integrate more histories and stories from those who have had to show ‘historical resilience’ in negotiating the barriers of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ableism and cisgenderism and barriers that are anti-Black.

Leonard encourages the implementation of curricula that disrupt the systemic effects of colorblind racism, or the failure to see the implications of race and racism in society, education, health care, criminal justice, financial systems and more.

“Our mainstream curriculum no longer needs to be colorblind or culture blind,” Leonard said. “It should promote deep inclusion. There’s been a sense that racism is an overt action toward people. We now understand how systemic it is. It’s in our culture, and one way it exists is through colorblind racism.”

Leonard’s goals are to help faculty shape academic programs that raise race and cultural consciousness, that are anti-racist and anti-oppressive, and that move coursework and program structure toward transformation. He would also like to elevate classrooms from simply democratic ones — where every student is valued and respected — to those that are also proactively and holistically racially and socially just.

“I love teaching and learning,” Leonard said. “More than ever, the knowledge and the learning is connected to living and liberty. This is for our students, for the lives they will lead and what they can envision for themselves and their communities. I’m fully invested and I know that it’s not only me. It is going to take us all working together for transformation. The unexamined impacts of racism and oppression cannot stand here. We are not unique in that racism and oppression are everywhere, but we want to be accountable in the way we acknowledge, listen and learn, commit and collaborate, and follow through with sustained action.”

Leonard will continue to maintain his current role in the Shenandoah Conservatory as associate professor of music therapy. He is also the business owner of Healing Hearts Music Therapy in Florida and a member of the board of directors of the American Music Therapy Association. He recently published an article titled, “A Problematic Conflation of Justice and Equality: The Case for Equity in Music Therapy” in the journal Music Therapy Perspectives. He is also a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory, which is a theory-based assessment of intercultural competence.

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