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Psychology professor publishes her first book

December 10, 2019

A UW-River Falls professor of psychology wrote her first book titled, Teaching about Race and Racism in the College Classroom: Notes from a White Professor.

Cyndi Kernahan, who has taught at UWRF for over 20 years, specializes in the psychology of race.

Soon after her teaching began, she realized how hard it was to teach. “It’s controversial, it’s emotional, it’s difficult. Students don’t have a lot of knowledge about race. It’s just a hard class to teach and it’s a very good class to teach. It’s fun and meaningful but it could be very difficult for students,” said Kernahan.

Kernahan said she immediately began running into things that weren’t happening in her other classes, like disbelief about some of the statistics or evidence that she presented.

Cyndi Kernahan
Cyndi Kernahan with her newly published book. (Photo by Brooke Shepherd, Student Voice)

“Because of that, I wanted to figure out how to do this and how to do it well. I started doing research on how do you teach this in a way that helps students learn, while minimizing the conflict you might get in class, and that minimizes the discomfort. You can’t totally get rid of it but to minimize it, helps people learn,” said Kernahan.

The author realized there wasn’t a book like this on the market. Though there is an abundance of books on teaching this subject, they weren’t evidence based. Kernahan began writing many articles that were research based on the subject of teaching about race and racism.

Kernahan thought, “someone should put together something with the scholarly stuff, the teaching stuff and personal experience.” Kernahan continued, “I really want my work to be useful to people, that’s very important to me, and that’s kind of what drove the creation of that. I wanted to be useful to other instructors.”

There are a few other faculty members on campus who have published books. Kernahan credited Neil Kraus, a political science professor and author, for giving her the recipe of how to get a book contract.

In 2017, Kernahan got a contract and took a sabbatical for the fall semester. She wrote all during that time. “My process is to write a little bit every day,” said Kernahan.

Kernahan wanted her book to be accessible to anyone, deliberately going with a paperback printing press to keep the book affordable. Her publisher handled the cover design as well, after Kernahan sent in a few samples of images she liked. Kernahan envisioned graphics of school supplies, and said she was very pleased with the final result.

Kernahan said she would like to write another book, potentially on what to include as far as course content, or perhaps an untraditional textbook. The author said she misses having a large ongoing project. Though she acknowledges the challenge of putting together a book, Kernahan said: “There’s something cool about doing something really hard.”