New CWB Senior Scholar: Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

New CWB Senior Scholar: Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott
Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott

Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott, Associate Professor in the School of Integrative Studies and the Department of History and Art History, has joined our center as a senior scholar. Her teaching and research focus on how the past shapes our current understanding of freedom and justice, as well as how students can become more culturally responsible for well-being. She has been recognized for her distinguished work on diversity and inclusion, winning Mason’s inaugural Alcalde Family Medal for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion.

“Wendi brings vast experience and depth to our work at the intersections of diversity, inclusion, and well-being,” says Dr. Nance Lucas, our center’s executive director. Lucas and Manuel-Scott will lead Mason's new Inclusive Well-Being Collaborative together. As co-chairs, they will lead a group working to implement key strategic initiatives on diversity, inclusion, and well-being at Mason.

Helping people learn more about – and practice – well-being is something Manuel-Scott prioritizes because, “I want others to understand that well-being is about deconstructing systems of oppression (racism, sexism, and classism) so that all people can be respected, valued as full human beings, and allowed to create vibrant joyful lives rooted in their identities, culture, and experiences," she says. "Well-being practices must include anti-racist/anti-sexist engagement because if my actions silence or marginalize historically oppressed people they can’t be well-being practices. My well-being must be about interdependency, authenticity, and empowerment.”

Resilience, a vital well-being skill, is especially important to Manuel-Scott. “My research and teaching has always centered on the resiliency and resistance of people of African descent,” she says. “And, I am especially interested in the inventive strategies of survival and protest utilized by black women in the past and present. In other words, how did enslaved women maintain well-being and unearth moments of joy when forced to labor against their will? How did young school girls scratch out colorful happy lives when attending one-room school houses in the Jim Crow south? Or, how did Mamie Till find the ability to smile and laugh after a group racist men in Mississippi lynched her son Emmet? These sorts of questions ground my research and teaching.”

Most recently, Manuel-Scott’s research has explored African-American resistance to systems of racial oppression in Antebellum and Jim Crow Virginia. “Through my research, I received a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy to co-curate an exhibit entitled “Separate and Unequal in Buckingham County: An Exhibit on Segregation and Desegregation in Virginia,” and a grant from National Trust for Historic Preservation to explore African-American life and leadership in Falls Church, Virginia. … Last summer, Dr. Benedict Carton and I were awarded an OSCAR grant to complete a research project with five undergraduate students on the enslaved people of George Mason’s Gunston Hall.”

Manuel-Scott says she’s looking forward to her upcoming work with our center. “I am looking forward to learning from CWB colleagues and finding creative ways to collaborate. I believe there will be many exciting opportunities to expand how we think about an inclusive well-being pedagogy.”