University News

OIDI launches faculty, staff training

Voluntary DIAP professional development includes lecture series, lunch trainings, book club

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion is offering a variety of voluntary professional development opportunities this fall for faculty and staff members to “engage in discussions, interactive workshops and capacity-building activities around diversity and inclusion issues,” wrote Liza Cariaga-Lo, vice president for academic development, diversity and inclusion, in her Sept. 16 community-wide email.

The lineup of faculty and staff trainings and initiatives falls under the umbrella of programs mentioned in the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan released in February.

The first of these initiatives, the Diversity and Inclusion Lecture Series, will include two lectures, one by Claude Steele, professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, on Nov. 9 and one by Douglas Massey, professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton, on Nov. 16, according to Cariaga-Lo’s email.

Steele will devote his lecture to “understanding and unpacking contextual understanding of how people of color and other diverse populations in the classroom experience curricula” as well as pedagogical approaches to issues of diversity and stereotypes, Cariaga-Lo said.

Massey will speak about his work on the experiences of immigrant students and first-generation college students as well as about inequality and pipeline programs, Cariaga-Lo said.

The lectures aim to answer the question: “How do we ensure that we in fact are being inclusive in the classroom about the ways that we advise, support and mentor students?” Cariaga-Lo added.

The University will also launch an eight-week Diversity and Inclusion Professional Development Lunch Series on Sept. 28. Each of the eight “highly interactive workshop sessions” will speak to the different needs of different populations, Cariaga-Lo said.

In response to requests for book recommendations following last spring’s professional development trainings, the OIDI will be facilitating the creation of book clubs by purchasing copies of six recommended books and lending them for free to various constituencies at Brown whose members wish to continue conversations about diversity and inclusion in their own communities.

The books — from Steele’s “Whistling Vivaldi” to “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini — will include both scholarly texts and works of fiction.

To provide a more concrete way for staff in management to get involved, the OIDI will initiate a “12-month fellowship program” that is “designed to nurture talented and diverse staff by providing enhanced access to professional development resources and networks,” Cariaga-Lo wrote in her email.

By meeting with divisional heads, engaging in weekly seminar meetings and participating in mentor programs in departments of interest, staff members will gain the skills necessary to become leaders in higher education, Cariaga-Lo said.

The OIDI generates its ideas and initiatives largely from feedback it receives from faculty and staff members, Cariaga-Lo said. For example, the OIDI organized a special event Sept. 28 in response to concerns from staff members who wanted more time to discuss the topic of privilege after a recent Staff Advisory Council forum.

Other feedback comes from the University’s DIAP implementation working group, student activist groups and administrators who have met with students and passed on suggestions. The OIDI also collaborates with organizations such as the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, said Mary Wright, director of the center.

This fall, the Sheridan Center will focus on inclusive teaching methods that aim to help faculty members and teaching assistants manage diverse perspectives and backgrounds in classrooms. The center also offers orientations for new TAs and faculty members that aim to “leverage student interaction” to enhance student learning, she added.

Though no data were collected for new faculty members, 99 percent of participants in the TA orientation indicated they would bring at least one inclusive teaching practice to their classroom, Wright said.

Students interviewed expressed mixed reactions about this semester’s lineup of diversity and inclusion trainings, though few said they read the email sent out by the OIDI.

Yvonne Wingard ’20 said that in her few weeks at Brown, the discussion of race in her courses has been refreshing. Her public health class in particular has dedicated time to discussing how race and ethnicity factor into health issues.

“I like classes that talk about race,” Wingard said, adding that the faculty and staff trainings are likely a motivator of these discussions.

Joon Sung ’20 said that while he thinks the trainings are a good idea, he doubts that professors who need the trainings will actually attend. Only those professors who are “proactive” will attend in order to be “better informed,” Sung added.

Students also addressed the question of whether professional development trainings should be mandatory, a topic of discussion when the DIAP was undergoing revision.

“I think they should be mandatory,” Aaron Peng ’20 said.

“Voluntary means that the people who actually want to be there will learn,” Morgan Ross ’20 said, citing research that shows that mandatory trainings deter learning.

Representatives of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Brown Center for Students of Color and a number of faculty members did not respond to requests for comment from The Herald.

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