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How colorblind racism and white fragility hurt all kids with Anne Williford

Updated: May 29

Release date: February 12, 2024

There is a nationwide movement to ban discussions of race or ethnicity from classrooms. Proponents of a ban argue that such discusses compromise learning, undermine white students, and actually promote racism in an environment that should be focused solely on “individuals and merit.” My guest today is Anne Williford. Anne is an Associate Professor and PhD Program Director in the School of Social Work and the Director of the Healthy Schools Initiatives Division at the Prevention Research Center at Colorado State University. Anne and her colleagues have studied what actually happens when such bans are implemented. This episode was intentionally produced to support the formation and coordination of adolescent-centered care and services, so you also will hear from Vinny Chulani of the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health. It was recorded live using a webinar platform to encourage questions from alliance members and other listeners. More information about Anne and about the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health is below.

Biography of Anne Williford

Dr. Anne Williford is an Associate Professor and PhD Program Director in the School of Social Work at Colorado State University. She also serves as the Director of the Healthy Schools Initiatives Division at the Prevention Research Center at Colorado State University. Dr. Williford received her PhD in social work from the University of Denver in 2009. She was on the faculty at the University of Kansas from 2009-2017 prior to her current appointment at CSU.

Throughout her career, Dr. Williford has investigated the etiology of youth risk behavior, including violence, suicide, and substance use, particularly emphasizing ecological factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of these behaviors in peer, school, family, and community settings. A critical aim of her scholarship is to identify effective prevention and intervention strategies to mitigate risk and promote positive behavioral health outcomes in young people.

Dr. Williford has tested the impact of several preventive interventions, most recently examining how Sources of Strength, a school-based prevention program, influences suicidality and violence exposure. She served the principal investigator of two projects funded by the Spencer Foundation aimed at testing the effectiveness of the program: 1) a qualitative process evaluation of the intervention’s underlying change mechanisms; and 2) a longitudinal study investigating the impact of the program on post-high school trajectories.

In an effort to reduce racial disproportionality in school discipline, other recently funded scholarship has focused on developing, implementing, and evaluating effective policies and procedures to effectively address acts of school violence and investigating state- and system-level infrastructure to support the delivery of school-based mental health services to youth.

Dr. Williford is the co-lead of a workforce development taskforce for the Coalition for the Promotion of Behavioral Health, one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work. In this role, she is co-leading an effort to train social work students in prevention practice, policy, and science.

Dr. Williford is as an Associate Editor for the Journal for the Society of Social Work and Research (JSSWR) and is on the editorial board of Social Work Research. Dr. Williford’s teaching interests include community practice and advanced research methods. She has a B.A. in Psychology from American University and an MSSW from the University of Texas at Austin.

Biography of Veenod Chulani

Dr. Chulani is Section Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics in the University of Arizona -Phoenix Department of Child Health. He is also a founding member and clinical consultant to the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health. He completed his pediatric residency training at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York; his fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; and, his Master’s in Education from the University of Southern California-Keck School of Medicine. His clinical and research interests include adolescent sexual and reproductive health, the care of gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, health equity promotion and diversity and inclusion. He has lectured nationally and internationally on a host of topics related to Adolescent Medicine. He has delivered lectures and workshops nationally and internationally and is the recipient of numerous awards recognizing his contribution to adolescent health.


Anne Williford

Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health




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