Mansfield Dialogue 

Addressing Racism in a Time of Pandemic

Friday, April 24 at Noon (MDT)

Live, online via Zoom


Anonymous stories of racism and fear in our community, shared by Dr. Nicky Phear

Activist and Writer Helen Zia, featured in the Academy Award nominated documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin?,  and author of PEN America Award finalist, Last Boat out of Shanghai.

People of Asian heritage have been subject to incidents of racism, not just across the country, but here in Montana as well. At the same time, foreigners in China have been subject to racism in connection to the pandemic. Join us as we address what we can do to support our Asian friends and act against racism in our community.

The discussion will also feature UM President Seth Bodnar on UM’s commitment to addressing bias; Dr. Terry Weidner, on anti-foreigner sentiment in China at a time of COVID-19; and Dr. Tobin Miller Shearer on actions individuals can take to fight discrimination in our communities. 

Helen ZiaFeatured speaker: Helen Zia is a writer, activist and Fulbright Scholar. Her latest book, Last Boat out of Shanghai, chronicles the 70-year-old exodus from Mao's revolution. The daughter of immigrants from China, Helen was born and raised in NJ. Her activism in the 1980s landmark civil rights case of anti-Asian violence is featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin?. Helen is a graduate of Princeton University's first coeducational class and holds honorary degrees from the University of San Francisco and the City University of New York Law School. She attended medical school for two years, then worked as a construction laborer, an autoworker, and a community organizer, after which she discovered her life's work as a writer.

Deena MansourModerator: Executive Director Deena Mansour has been part of the leadership team at the Mansfield Center since 2009. She has raised more than $22 million in grants to support public diplomacy efforts between Montana and the world. She is experienced in diversity and inclusion, including work with Native American tribal communities and women's leadership initiatives. She earned her master's in public administration at UM and a bachelor's in international relations and economics at American University in Washington, D.C.

Seth BodnarPanelist: Seth Bodnar is the President at the University of Montana. Prior to that, he was the Chief Digital Officer of GE Transportation and the president of GE Transportation's Digital Solutions business. Before joining GE, Seth was a special forces officer in the U.S. Army. Over the course of his career, Seth served multiple overseas deployments. His duties included: rifle platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division; detachment commander in the Army's 1st Special Forces Group; and special assistant to the commanding general of Multi-National Force-Iraq. He also served as an assistant professor of economics at West Point. Seth graduated first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He is a recipient of both the Rhodes and Truman scholarships and holds two master's degrees from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Nicky PhearPanelist: Dr. Nicky Phear is a faculty member in the Davidson Honors College and a Program Director at the Mansfield Center, where she supports youth education and empowerment on global environmental issues. She serves as an Academic Director of the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative and leads the University of Montana's Women's Leadership Initiative. She has taught exchange programs in Vietnam and Bhutan, and facilitates storytelling in her teaching and community outreach.


Terry WeidnerPanelist: Dr. Terry Weidner is a Mansfield Fellow and a retired professor of Chinese Politics. He has returned to his roots as a professor following seven years work in government (political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and as a Chinese political and economic analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service in Washington, DC) and stints as the Associate Director of International Programs at the University of Kansas (1993-98), Director of the Asian Affairs Center at the University of Missouri (1998-2003) and Director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at UM (2003-2012) . His academic interests included Chinese political economy, Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.

Tobin Miller ShearerPanelist: Dr. Tobin Miller Shearer is the director of the African-American Studies program at UM and a professor of history. He conducts research into the history of race and religion in the United States with a particular emphasis on prayer, the civil rights movement and white identity. He recently was named a Montana University System Teaching Scholar by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education for developing high-impact teaching practices for student success and serving as an excellent model for others in higher education.