Tag: campus climate

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Plan for Working Across Difference

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Plan for Working Across Difference

by Amelie Hyams

The Diversity Community of Practice (DCoP) is a network of individuals from across academic and non-academic units on the Twin Cities campus who are working together to share ideas, information, examples, and take action towards improving equity and diversity at the University of Minnesota. Recently the DCoP’s Communications Subcommittee has begun conducting Appreciative Inquiries, inviting our member units to share examples from their ongoing efforts on equity and diversity including improving campus climate at the U. Our plan is to share a wide range of ideas across UMN departments and units, that can serve as inspiration for everyone working on these issues since “Diversity is Everyone’s Everyday Work.”


When looking for a process to highlight for a DCoP Appreciative Inquiry, it didn’t take long to find the Working Across Differences Initiative (WADI). We look for a program, event, initiative or other idea that is working well towards improving campus climate. WADI stands out.

What is WADI? It’s a program led by the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) to improve their students’ understanding and appreciation of different cultural frames.

The program works on the premise that intercultural competency is not assured through simple encounters with difference. Individuals can increase their competency in stages, through incorporating learning experiences around difference, within and outside of the classroom.

CFANS wants all students to graduate with the ability to recognize and work across differences as a core competency. And so, beginning in 2013, participation in WADI has been part of the college experience for all CFANS undergrad students.

How does WADI work? At the beginning of the process, students took the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) assessment. This provides a baseline. IDI measures an individual’s level of cultural competency along a range of five stages, moving from denial to minimization of difference, to adaptation, [meaning here] the ability to view the world from another cultural perspective. (See a report on this process)

Representation of the IDI model

The first-year students who took the IDI in 2013 will retake the assessment in 2017. The expectation is that in these 4 years their scores will have moved forward along the continuum.

There are already indications that this class is significantly ahead of the seniors who graduated in 2013 in their intercultural competence.  The majority (83%), of these students, reported they have a better understanding of what it means to be inter-culturally competent.

Q & A with Karl Lorenz, DCoP member and Director of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, who responded to our DCoP Appreciative Inquiry questions about WADI.

Why did CFANS feel the need to develop WADI?

There is little doubt that now, more than ever, our graduates need to have the skill to engage effectively in the context of difference: different values, cultural communities, life experiences and historical contingencies with both a local and global mindset.

We recognized that, while we had good investment in meeting the diversity and inclusion needs of faculty and staff in the college through various initiatives, we didn’t have anything comparable for our student population.

We decided rather than approach this through workshops and trainings, we would be more successful by identifying a systemic approach and integrate diversity and inclusion more directly into the curriculum. Our goal is to build the content where the students are at, rather than asking them to come to us. Moreover, we wanted something more than a once-and-done class or training.

Why does the IDI give a score for participant’s perception of their competence, in addition to their actual competency rating?

The IDI offers two scores: a raw response score (the subjects self-perceived orientation) and a weighted score (developmental orientation) that results from the application of an algorithm derived from response consistency to various questions.

The perceived score offers individuals insight into their assumed understanding of intercultural competence (where we imagine ourselves functioning), versus the stage we actually operate at, relative to our intercultural competence.

The difference between the actual and self-perceived scores highlights an opportunity gap and the awareness to be intentional in closing the gap in estimating our actual practice.

How has WADI been received by students, faculty and leadership?

Students, in general, have responded quite positively. They view intercultural competence as a helpful personal and professional skill. Though, as you might expect, the interest and acceptance of a deepened focus on diversity themes and intercultural topics depends on where the students are in their development. Those in the earlier orientations of denial and polarization sometimes don’t see the relevance.

CFANS faculty – In some areas there was significant faculty interest, and in other areas greater faculty resistance to incorporating diversity content into their classes.

Some faculty mentioned that they didn’t know how (or want the responsibility) to teach diversity content. They were concerned they could lose control of the class over difficult topics that they had limited knowledge of themselves.

We decided to pilot an effort with faculty who had an active interest in participating and demonstrate how this can be done in the classroom. That led to the Teaching Across Difference (TAD) faculty cohort model. [TAD offers syllabus review and is facilitated by an experienced faculty member].

Leadership in the college has been supportive. And they have provided funding critical to develop faculty interest in engaging this initiative.

What elements of the program do you feel are particularly successful?

Faculty are beginning to realize that this work holds the potential for publishable scholarship and conference presentations. We are seeing independent action on the part of some departments to review and adapt their curriculum to meet the goals of the Working Across Difference Initiative.

Reaching all freshman during orientation to the major classes is important. It has set the expectation of students to see more of this content in other courses in the major.

What advice would you offer other units who might be interested in adopting a similar program?

  • You need college leadership involvement – an expectation that diversity matters and that effort in that direction will be rewarded.
  • A valid and reliable measurement tool is essential – be prepared to defend it.
  • Make the business and educational case for the initiative. Demonstrate how this strengthens/furthers student learning, student career success, reputation of the college, faculty interest and innovation.
  • Have a strategy in place for how to unfold the initiative and a roadmap to desired outcomes. But leave sufficient flexibility to allow for a culture of practice to emerge, based on faculty interest.
  • Provide participating faculty with time, support and reward for their involvement. Their involvement is key.
  • Anticipate where there is interest and where there is a potential for resistance. Understand your collegiate culture and recognize that some resistance is inevitable.

Our thanks to Karl Lorenz and CFANS for providing this model for our DCoP Appreciative Inquiry.


A longer version of this article containing all details from the digital discussion of WADI – can be found on the DCoP website under Unit Profiles – Appreciative Inquiries here: https://diversity.umn.edu/dcop.

For questions regarding this article and DCoP Appreciative Inquiries, contact Amelie Hyams (hyams003@umn.edu) and for questions regarding WADI, contact Karl Lorenz (klorenz@umn.edu).

Improving Climate at the Law School:  The Communication Changes That Are Helping Make It Happen

Improving Climate at the Law School: The Communication Changes That Are Helping Make It Happen

by Amelie Hyams

The Diversity Community of Practice (DCoP) is a network of individuals from across academic and non-academic units on the Twin Cities campus who are working together to share ideas, information, examples, and take action towards improving equity and diversity at the University of Minnesota. Recently the DCoP’s Communications Subcommittee has begun conducting Appreciative Inquiries, inviting our member units to share examples from their ongoing efforts on equity and diversity including improving campus climate at the U. Our plan is to share a wide range of ideas across UMN departments and units, that can serve as inspiration for everyone working on these issues since “Diversity is Everyone’s Everyday Work.”

Our thanks to DCoP members with the Law School: Nubia Esparza, Senior Coordinator of Diversity and Student Programs and Erin Keyes, Assistant Dean of Students, who are the first to share an example of work from their unit.

Esparza and Keyes have offered insights on an internal communication effort initiated in the Law School. These communications are intended to improve campus climate at the Law School and inspire equity and diversity among its stakeholder communities.

They introduced us to this plan by forwarding a newsletter the Law School recently sent to their stakeholders. In addition to updates and resources, the newsletter directs readers to the Law School’s website section containing resources and information about issues of equity and diversity.

In their response to my questions about these communications, Esparza and Keyes discussed the rationale for the plan, the approach they have used, and some assessment of how effective these efforts have been, so far.

How long has the Law School had a Diversity page on their website – is this new?

We’ve had a Diversity page for some time, but it was buried and rarely updated. The new version, which launched with our website overhaul last Fall [2015], has been adjusted over the course of the year to add links to key content within and beyond the Law School (including the Campus Climate page). New to this version is the calendar feature, where we add diversity and inclusion-related events on and off campus that may be of interest to the [Law School] community.

How often does the Law School send out these email newsletters to their stakeholders?

We circulated email updates to the Law School on behalf of the Diversity Committee in the Fall and Spring semesters. We’d like to make this a more regular feature (twice per semester as preview and wrap-up.)

Who is the intended audience for these newsletters?

The audience is the Law School community of students, faculty, and staff. This past year, the Diversity Committee’s work has been focused on internal climate issues, and fostering more avenues for open discussion. We’re certainly inextricably connected to a broader community, but the primary focus has been immediate to the Law School.

Has your invitation to suggest speakers and topics, etcetera, provided the level of engagement you had anticipated? (i.e., use this link to share your ideas, speaker suggestions, and constructive feedback with the Diversity Committee.)

We did not get significant on-going engagement/ideas from Law School community members through the general Google form, but the initial push did yield some helpful comments that we passed along for consideration by departments or programs that could respond to them. We will plan to continue to include the link in future communications and may also have it placed more prominently on the website.

Another tool that did yield some good ideas was our RSVP form for the MLK Convocation. We invited those submitting RSVP’s to make suggestions about future diversity programs, topics, and initiatives they would like to see at the Law School. [The RSVP form was included in a previous newsletter and is not available here]. Nearly 40 RSVP’d attendees made comments that we’ll consider in 2016-2017 programming.

Have there been any positive surprises from either the newsletters or the diversity page on the website?

There does seem to be an uptick in interest and inclination to discuss the sometimes-hard issues around diversity and climate. That may have happened anyway given current events, but bolstered by our communications, we’re able to foster engagement such as a [Law School] Faculty discussion on classroom climate, held on May 26, 2016.

Another surprising result of our efforts this year, which may not initially seem like “good” news, is the fact that students with specific concerns appear more open to addressing them with trusted staff or faculty.

It is our hope that highlighting diversity and inclusion initiatives and concerns may have the result of increasing students’ expectation of responsiveness.

Driven to be more diverse

Driven to be more diverse

Originally posted on the Campus Climate website; reposted with permission.

A diverse workforce of faculty and staff is fundamental to the University’s mission, values, and strategic vision. Hiring and retaining top-notch women, people of color, and members of other underrepresented groups is a top priority for many employers, and the University is implementing additional strategies to be seen as an employer of choice for these diverse candidates.

That was the message Kathy Brown, Vice President of the Office of Human Resources (OHR); Vice President for Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert; and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson delivered Thursday (Dec. 10, 2015) to the Board of Regents’ Faculty and Staff Affairs Committee.

Making progress

The discussion with the Regents highlighted a broad array of efforts to accelerate progress in workforce diversity, a priority underscored in the TC campus strategic plan. Brown presented data showing that between fall 2004 and fall 2015, the U boosted the percentages of women and people of color in the ranks of both faculty and staff:

  • Female staff: 53.2 to 54.5
  • Female faculty: 30.8 to 38.8
  • Faculty of color: 12.0 to 17.4
  • Staff of color: 11.4 to 15.5

With progress in employing people of color steady, but slow, Brown said that the University has “put emphasis on employing qualified individuals of color” as part of a broader commitment to access, inclusion, and diversity. She stressed that diversity is essential to ensuring a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of the campus community and to creating the best possible learning environment for students. “This is all about having good ‘connective tissue,’” Brown said.

“Diversification of the faculty is an imperative tied to academic excellence,” Hanson stressed. “Faculty diversity enhances the quality of the education we provide to students and is crucial to the continuing vitality of our disciplines and to forging new directions in our research and public engagement. We aim for diversity not just of ethnicity, sex, national origin, and life experience, but also for diversity of thought.”

The other dimensions of diversity are vitally important in higher education because they foster diversity of thought—and it’s new thoughts and alternative perspectives that lead to discoveries and that help prepare our students for work, life, and citizenship in an increasingly globalized and complicated world.

All hands on deck

To get a diverse faculty and staff, “we have to have an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach,” Albert told the regents. She praised the U’s C.L.E.A.R. initiative, which attracts more diverse pools of outstanding faculty. A partnership between the Office for Equity & Diversity and the Provost’s Office, the initiative’s acronym highlights five factors key in hiring faculty of color: campus climate where faculty of color are attracted and can thrive, access and diversity as central to land-grant mission, the need to examine position descriptionsto signal openness to diverse ideas and experiences, the importance of advertising creatively, and the importance of building relationships in faculty recruitment and hiring.

Specific initiatives aimed at diversifying the faculty cover multiple bases that often overlap, Hanson said. Examples include college- and department-specific recruiting guides, support for cluster hiring, reviewing compensation and hiring incentives needed to be competitive in various fields, and initiatives to strengthen department mentoring and other practices that help new faculty feel valued and supported.

Hanson noted that cluster hiring can also be very helpful in creating supportive environments that may span multiple disciplines—simultaneously advancing goals of diversity, interdisciplinary, collaboration, and expanded campus-community engagement.

Albert also praised the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA), an inter-collegiate effort to recruit and retain faculty of color on the Twin Cities campus through by building scholarly collaborations, mentoring, and personal and professional connections across disciplines. IDEA drew its inspiration from efforts begun by the College of Liberal Arts. In addition to supporting innovative scholarship, IDEA helps to foster a sustaining community.

But the push for greater diversity must be a multi-pronged and collaborative effort across the institution. To increase staff diversity, OHR, working with the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED), has launched an effort to boost the diversity of hiring pools for student-facing positions. OHR and OED are also leading a pilot program with University Services and the Office of Information Technology to diversify applicant pools for entry-level and other positions.

Another OHR initiative, with OED and the Provost’s office, supports training faculty and staff search committees on how to recognize and reduce any implicit bias they may have. This is a system-wide initiative; Albert reported that OED is piloting implicit bias workshops and has already taken it to the Duluth campus. And Brown said her office is using this program to improve the U’s success when the hiring process reaches the finalist stage.

Also with OED, OHR is building relationships with staff and faculty affinity groups to address efforts to recruit, retain, and engage new hires.

And how will we know when we’ve arrived as a diverse university?

“When we have a critical mass of faculty of diverse backgrounds and perspectives as well as data clearly showing we have an environment that makes Minnesota a desirable place,” said Albert. “The closer-aligned the metrics of white students and students of color, the closer we’ll be to [our goal.]”

[Header image credit: Institute for Diversity, Equity and Advocacy]

Moving MCAE Forward

Moving MCAE Forward

By Shakeer A. Abdullah, Ph.D, assistant vice president, Office for Equity and Diversity; originally posted on the U of M Campus Climate website

What is the Multicultural Center For Academic Excellence? MCAE is a hybrid academic support and engagement center that connects students to campus and provides culturally relevant academic and social support and coaching.

This past year has been full of change for MCAE, with the summer marking the transition of MCAE’s leadership and other staff. These personnel changes have given us the opportunity to reimagine what MCAE can be.

MCAE has been a staple for students—particularly students of color, American Indian students and first generation students—for the past 10 years. Its historical origins lie in ethnic and culture-specific centers that were housed in Klaeber Court and other spaces on campus. As we move MCAE forward, we do so with a nod to the past and with gratitude for all of our predecessors and those who have shaped MCAE and positively impacted the lives of all the students who have been a part of this important history.

MCAE will maintain its student-focused philosophy, but will also focus on intersection of identities while promoting interactional diversity and using academic success strategies that have been proven successful for diverse, under-resourced, and first generation students. MCAE has long focused on academics, outreach, and engagement. In addition to these vital areas, MCAE will also focus on alumni making, career advancement, identity development, leadership development, and global citizenship. None of this can be done in a vacuum, and there is no expectation that it will be done alone. MCAE looks forward to partnering with students, faculty, staff, and the community as we continue to support student success.

MCAE will be deliberate in assessing the successes and challenges of its students and will rely on best practices and research to ensure that it remains relevant and effective.

Over the past three years, MCAE has seen an increase in the number of first-year students who have attended the MCAE Kickoff, and we are hopeful that we can increase these numbers even more. Every year we celebrate our academic all-stars and provide support for the students who strive for their best.

In the past several weeks, we have held multiple open forums on and off campus to discuss the MCAE Forward model. While we appreciate the support we have received from partners and allies, it is important to note that we have also heard the concerns raised by members of our communities. Searches are also under way for a new MCAE director and the staff who will serve as multicultural associates. Change is hard, but at this moment, change is necessary for MCAE to be able to more effectively support and empower some of our most underrepresented and most promising students.

[Photo credit: Touchaing Yang, 2015]