Tag: Diversity Community of Practice

Minnesota Population Center Summer Diversity Fellowship Program

Minnesota Population Center Summer Diversity Fellowship Program

by Amelie Hyams

The Minnesota Population Center (MPC) is about demographics and numbers and what that data means for people in Minnesota and around the world.

They are also working to increase diversity and inclusion in these fields, as can be seen in the MPC Diversity Fellowship program, co-directed by Mia Riza and David Haynes.

The program was recently proposed as a subject for a Diversity Community of Practice (DCoP) Appreciative Inquiry in the DCoP Communications Subcommittee. Reviewing the details about the introduction of this program in an article written in 2015, it seemed like a good time to check in and see how things have gone so far.

We encourage you to read that earlier story and to learn with us through this Appreciative Inquiry with program co-director, Mia Riza, as we examine the why and how about what’s working well.

MPC serves interdisciplinary audiences of more than 150 faculty members, graduate students and research scientists in various fields from 26 academic units across 10 colleges at the University of Minnesota. Learn more about MPC.

Does MPC have goals towards equity, diversity and inclusion? If so, how does the Diversity Fellows program support those goals?

Yes, the goals are outlined in the diversity statement. The National Science Foundation was pressing the MPC and all other associates to do more outreach to diverse audiences. The MPC was always trying to be diverse but until 2015 there was no written statement.

Riza tells us the statement was actually an outcome of the initiation of this program. They wanted to be able to point to a statement that summed up the goals of the program so they needed to think about that first and craft a statement in the beginning stages of program development.

This has now become ingrained in the center. “We believed we were inclusive, but this takes us a step further. Having a program and naming it as such, puts action where you think your intentions are.”

What’s different/unique about this program?

“The work is very interdisciplinary – that’s unique.” MPC works with academic departments across the U, historians, sociologists, economists, environmentalists, and others.

But it’s really the mentorship model that is very unique. Haynes and Riza developed this model based on their own experiences and their vision of the need. It’s composed of four parts:

  1. a research data project
  2. 1-2 mentors: PhD staff researcher & faculty member
  3. a graduate student
  4. an undergrad student

Having the undergraduate student being mentored by someone who is nearly a peer, provides opportunity for insights into what it’s like to be a graduate student.

The graduate student in turn has an opportunity to learn how to be a mentor in a supportive environment.

Riza tells us that graduate students of color are called upon to mentor at a much higher rate than their white peers. Haynes and Riza are able to help them to develop the skills and confidence in their abilities, basically to develop their mentoring style, in a very supportive environment.

Members of the 2017 cohort of the MPC Summer Diversity Fellows Program.

Riza shared with us some of the comments collected from participant feedback surveys.

  • Students on mentoring:
    • Since they were from different educational backgrounds than me, we were able to exchange different outlooks and perspectives on the same thing.
  • Students on if they recommend the program to other students:
    • I love that it was more than an internship. It provided professional workshops to help students gain more than just a research experience.
    • It was a great experience. I learned a lot both in terms of technical knowledge and non-technical things as well. Also it was a good chance to get to know people outside my academic field, learn about their work, and connect with them. This fellowship is especially for an undergraduate since it let me start thinking about my future planning. Thank you for offering it!
  • Mentors on working in multi-tiered teams:
    • I think the multiple-level component was helpful. The grad student came away with a very valuable experience and the under graduate was able to learn how to utilize one resource and begin working as a team. My thought was that our team worked very well together. I was so impressed by their efforts.
    • I think it enhances the experience. Everyone is learning new things. If the grad students are not building as many technical skills, they are building mentoring skills no matter what. I also think the set-up alleviates any temptations toward a competitive atmosphere since rolls are well defined.
  • Mentors on what they liked about being a mentor:
    • I loved seeing the students learn about data, data cleaning, and data processing during the program. It was great to see them understand how hard data work actually is.
    • I really enjoyed the summer!! Great students, interesting project, awesome experience!

Are there ways you, as program leaders, would like to see the program evolve? If so, how?

For now the program is only open to UMN students. Riza feels it is going well, so someday they would like to expand it out to other students, beyond Minnesota.

What have the outcomes of the program been so far, as it has just concluded its third year?

Undergraduate students have gone into graduate school and chosen paths based on their experiences in the program. Both graduate and undergraduate students have been hired into research fields with the Population Center. Others have chosen work centered on this experience.

Particularly on the undergraduate level, program participants have used this experience to shape their direction. ”They maybe don’t know all the options and this program is a way to see some of the options available and to have the confidence in their ability to apply for graduate school.”

Riza feels that “from a departmental standpoint, it helps to have a program with the intention to bring in diverse and underrepresented people. It means that as a department, we value this.”

For questions about the MPC Diversity Fellowship program, and insights that may inform mentoring programs in your own units, please contact Mia Riza at mriza@umn.edu.




Humphrey School – Placing Diversity and Equity at its Core

Humphrey School – Placing Diversity and Equity at its Core

The Diversity Community of Practice (DCoP) is pleased to present the Humphrey School’s Diversity Strategic and Action Plan as our next Appreciative Inquiry.

We see this as a great example of a college advancing equity and diversity internally as well as externally. Already generally aware the School has been doing some work towards improving equity and diversity, we reached out to Laura Bloomberg, Associate Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, to learn more.

By providing answers to our questions, Bloomberg offered insights on Humphrey’s Diversity Strategic and Action Plan and about recent actions taken by the School toward recommitting to equity and diversity efforts.

Our Questions
Because of who they are, the Humphrey School is specifically called upon to lead in the area of public affairs. How does the Humphrey School describe their role in this area? Why did you feel there was a need to call out Equity and Diversity as part of the School’s strategic plan?

Tell us about the School having recently invited Glen Singleton to present “Courageous Conversations.” How have these conversations impacted the Humphrey School?

We wondered about recent events around racial inequity in the public realm that have produced deep concerns around policing and the community. How is the Humphrey School engaging in these dialogues?

Mission and Strategy

Bloomberg began by explaining the mission of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, which is to inspire, educate, and support innovative leaders to advance the common good in a diverse world. “Quite frankly, as a school we believe the very mission of the School offers a mandate to make equity and justice central to our work”. 

As part of its mission the Humphrey School recently released a strategy refresh” document that outlines their core focus areas for the next 3-5 years. Equity, diversity, and justice factor significantly into every priority area identified: 

  • Promoting Hope, Opportunity and Inclusion in a Changing America and a Changing World
  • Supporting the Institutions of Democracy and Civil Life
  • Expanding our Global Reach and Impact
  • Strengthen the Pipeline of Talented and Diverse Leaders

(Read the complete strategy statement to learn how Humphrey School is working forward in each of these areas.)

Courageous Conversations

Bloomberg told us how the Humphrey School is striving to make equity and diversity “everyone’s everyday work” through the efforts of their Diversity Committee, the Neighborhood Engagement Committee, and their regular Courageous Conversations dialogue series. 

These Courageous Conversations invite the entire Humphrey School community (all staff, all faculty and all students) into regular informal lunchtime dialogues about race, equity and justice.  

Bloomberg feels, “This creates opportunities for all to step outside of our policy research, teaching, learning and theorizing and to personalize the work of equity and justice in the world.”

Courageous Conversation CompassThe Courageous Conversation Compass identifies four primary ways that people deal with racial information, events, and/or issues:

  • emotional,
  • intellectual
  • moral
  • relational

The compass points are used to anchor the conversation. They help people to reflect on their feelings, beliefs, need for action or knowledge-based perspectives.

Participants are encouraged to discuss questions candidly and with respect to one another, engaging honestly and productively in conversations where people may hold differing views. Everyone gathers around four agreements:

  • Stay Engaged. Listening for your partners’ benefit, not just for your benefit. Modeling the listening behaviors that you seek.
  • Speak Your Truth. Having the courage to share your experience/perspective and asking questions of your partners that will encourage them to share theirs.
  • Experience Discomfort. Searching out experiences/perspectives different from your own. Having the courage to ask your partners to ask questions of you.
  • Expect/Accept Non-Closure. Not looking to solve/answer all the questions. Not looking for the solution/answer. Looking for a different question that will help us find a different solution.  

Community Engagement

Bloomberg shared that most recently, the Humphrey School community gathered and used these protocols to discuss matters related to immigration and refugees. “Specifically,” explained Bloomberg, “we grappled with these questions:”

Who deserves to be an American citizen and who doesn’t? Who gets to decide?
How does one speak “the truth” about something when your community does not typically support it?

Another instance of the impact of these talks came from a fellow DCoP member who was present at the conversation held after the tragedies of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile’s shooting in Falcon Heights in July 2016.

She described how members of the Humphrey School community and some members from the larger U community gathered in grief and solidarity in a Courageous Conversation. Emotions were high. Some people were visibly in tears. They spoke to their sense of loss and outrage about the events and about the systemic change they wanted to see.

She feels this model for authentic deliberation and discussion provided a framework and method for addressing these difficult topics. It is “a steadying handrail of sorts” as the University community navigates recent national and local events that have affected our climate.


As part of our Inquiry, we also reached out to Darren Hoff, Human Resource Manager with the College of Pharmacy, to provide a few additional questions from a different perspective.

Hoff wondered about how the Humphrey School measures progress in this area. Joel Mixon, Senior Academic Advisor for the Humphrey School, provided answers.

Hoff:  What are the goals for the initiative and how are they being measured?
Mixon: The goals for the initiative are to provide the Humphrey School with the opportunity to engage in college-wide programs, events and collaborations that support and enhance the school’s mission. They are being measured by student, faculty, and staff surveys and evaluations.

Hoff: What are your expectations for employee action? 
Mixon: Our expectations are that employees participate as they are able, based on work schedule and professional development goals.

Hoff: Are employees being rated or is this incorporated into the performance review process?  
Mixon: Employees are able to speak to their contribution, participation, and engagement in Humphrey diversity and equity-related development opportunities in the annual review process.

Encouraging faculty and staff to actively engage in efforts around equity and diversity is another example of how the Humphrey School is making equity and justice central to their work.

This DCoP Appreciative Inquiry was a collaborative effort by DCoP members: Laura Bloomberg, Joel Mixon, Darren Hoff, Virajita Singh and Amelie Hyams.

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.