College of Education > News and Publications > 2018: 04-06 news > Message from the Dean: Update on diversity and inclusion efforts in the College

Message from the Dean: Update on diversity and inclusion efforts in the College

As a college of education, we have the obligation and opportunity to open our faculty, staff and students’ eyes to the richness of diversity and inclusion. We can point to steps we have taken to fulfill this responsibility, and many of these efforts are pursued under the aegis of the College’s Office for Multicultural Programs and the Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (DCEC). But there remains the question about why we are not doing more.

Several students in the College of Education recently met with the deans and raised questions about what the College is doing to pursue a positive diversity and inclusion agenda. They also asked why we are not doing more. In part, what prompted these questions are instances where students witnessed or experienced behaviors on the part of faculty, staff and fellow students suggesting insensitivity to diversity and inclusion issues. The personal narratives they shared were powerful, authentic and disturbing.

As a college of education, we have the obligation and opportunity to open our faculty, staff and students’ eyes to the richness of diversity and inclusion. We can point to steps we have taken to fulfill this responsibility, and many of these efforts are pursued under the aegis of the College’s Office for Multicultural Programs and the Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (DCEC). But there remains the question about why we are not doing more.

In response to the students’ concerns, I have been meeting with Maria Schmidt, Elizabeth Smolcic (chair of the DCEC) and Rayne Sperling to think about future steps to take as a College. We have identified three inter-related areas of focus: professional development for faculty and staff; the design and content of the curriculum; and professional development for students. We are developing ideas for each of these areas and welcome input. 

One idea we are exploring involves sending a 10-person faculty delegation to the University of Southern California’s (USC) Equity as the Norm Institute, a two-day hands-on institute designed to help instructors develop skills for responding to diversity-related topics and challenges that surface in classroom settings. The Institute will run from June 4-5, 2018, on the USC campus. 

The institute is designed for the participants to become agents of change where the goal is to replicate the institute here in the College for other faculty. Participants in the institute will redesign a class they teach to better address diversity and inclusion issues. Our expectation is that the members of the delegation will stay engaged with the College’s diversity and inclusion agenda and will become the nucleus of an ongoing working team. The working team we envision will be inclusive of faculty, staff and students, and will develop short- as well as long-term opportunities for continued professional development and curricular change designed to foster the creation of more inclusive teaching and learning environments. 

The dean’s office will cover the cost of participating in the institute. If you are a full-time member of the faculty (tenure-line or fixed term) with teaching responsibilities, you are eligible for this support. If you are interested, available on June 4-5, eligible and willing to commit to engaging in the follow-up activities, please send a paragraph expressing interest to Cori Donaghy in the Dean’s Office (cxh271@psu.edu) on or before April 16. The paragraph should identify the course you plan to revise and what you hope to achieve. Maria, Elizabeth, Rayne and I will make the selections and will try to achieve a reasonable balance across departments and other budget units. Please note: we are particularly interested in including at least some of our larger, college-wide courses (EdThp 110, EdPsy 14, EdPsy 10, EdPsy 101, RHS 100, RHS 300, SPLED 400, C&I 295, etc.)

Speaking of the DCEC, as you may be aware the committee is looking for new leadership. Elizabeth Smolcic has been serving as the chair for the past three years and has done an outstanding job working with her colleagues. We are thinking about trying a distributed leadership model for the committee where there would be a lead faculty member, a lead staff member and a lead student member, and where one of the three leads would also serve as the chair. Elizabeth recently sent out a request for nominations for the next chair. Please give this matter some serious thought as we are keen on continuing to build on the committee’s successes. This is a very important committee for the College and I encourage participation. More information about the committee can be found at:  https://ed.psu.edu/dcec online.

We will keep you posted as additional plans are made, and we want to thank the students who stepped forward and called these matters to our attention.

 — David H. Monk, Dean