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Diversity, inclusion initiative open to all employees

Nov. 19, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University has launched a pilot initiative to bring employees together for a yearlong exploration of diversity and inclusion ideas and tools.

Called Everyone Counts, the campuswide initiative is a professional-development opportunity open to all part-time and full-time employees, including graduate assistants. Up to 36 people will be accepted into the program for the inaugural year, which will run from February-December 2010.

The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 11.

The new program is based on the "learning community" model, an effective method of promoting personal and institutional transformation. It seeks to equip all levels of employees with skills needed to respond to WMU's increasingly diverse campus. As organizers explain it in their promotional materials, "The challenge of diversity is everyone's responsibility … Everyone Counts because everyone's presence at the table is necessary to bring about true diversity and inclusion."

Program organizers plan to annually focus on a theme that addresses issues relevant to the University's Diversity and Multiculturalism Action Plan. The 2010 theme of race will use the upcoming "Race: Are we so Different?" exhibit as its anchor.

The exhibit is a national traveling museum display that WMU has partnered with Kalamazoo Valley Community College to bring to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in downtown Kalamazoo from October 2010-January 2011.

Everyone Counts is being overseen by the offices of Diversity and Inclusion and of Faculty Development. The program's co-directors are Andrea Beach, faculty development office representative and an associate professor of education leadership, research and technology, and Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, diversity and inclusion office representative and WMU's "Race: Are we so Different?" exhibit coordinator.

"We're using the exhibit as a kickoff theme to help address diversity issues within classes, the residence halls and many other corners of the University, such as the Division of Student Affairs and Human Resources," Beach says. "We're hoping to change WMU's culture over time, and this kind of work really is culture changing."

Participants in the program will be assigned to small learning communities of eight to 12 members that will meet at a time convenient to the majority of the groups' members. The materials being requested of applicants, such as biographical information and a supervisor's letter of support, will help ensure that each small group is diverse and composed of members who are in a position to meet on a regular basis.

The small groups will gather twice a month to discuss literature on diversity, listen to guest speakers, attend workshops and conferences, and talk about the challenges and opportunities they face in their work. In addition, group members will receive a small amount of money to create projects that directly integrate what they are learning into their daily work.

"The point of learning communities isn't just learning. It's also the creation of a product that comes out of the learning," Beach says, noting that a year-end celebration will showcase the projects resulting from WMU's new initiative. "Diversity is an asset, but it is also a challenge. Everyone Counts allows faculty and staff to forge new relationships, share best practices and work together with the support of others committed to doing the work necessary to improve our campus."

Several WMU employees already are taking a leadership role in the program's pilot year by agreeing to serve as facilitators for the small-group learning communities and attending facilitator training sessions.

2010 small-group facilitators

  • Dannie Alexander, Division of Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Felicia Crawford, Human Resources
  • Dr. Jim Croteau, professor of counselor education and counseling psychology
  • Dr. Lauren Freedman, professor of special education and literacy studies
  • Diana Hernandez, director of the Division of Multicultural Affairs
  • Dr. Yvette Hyter, associate professor of speech pathology and audiology
  • Dr. Lynn Nations Johnson, professor of teaching learning and educational studies
  • Tierra Marshall, graduate assistant in the Office of Faculty Development
  • Jodie Palmer, director of diversity for the College of Education and Human Development

For more information about Everyone Counts, visit wmich.edu/diversityandinclusion, consult the brochure sent to all WMU employees earlier this month via campus mail, or contact Beach or El-Amin Naeem.

For more information about "Race: Are we so Different?" visit raceexhibit.org.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400