Faculty and Professional Diversity Learning Communities
How do you engage with students of diverse backgrounds without offending them?
How can you recruit and retain additional staff and faculty of color?
How do we help all students become culturally competent in order to succeed in life and career upon graduation?
Affirming diversity takes work, knowledge, and skills. Western Michigan University is committed to doing what it takes to become a truly diverse and inclusive university where all students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds, nationalities, and identities feel welcomed, included, and have equal access to the resources they need.
The Office of Faculty Development and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion have joined forces to offer Everyone Counts. This program began in February 2010 as a way of engaging faculty, graduate student instructors, and staff on diversity through the Southwest Michigan RACE Exhibit Initiative. As such, the inaugural program focused on race and ethnicity and empowered participants to explore this topic in a supportive community. These learning communities serve to equip faculty, part-time instructors, teaching assistants, staff members, and graduate students with the skills needed to implement course objectives and campus programming centered on diversity.
Each year participants will focus on a topic area of diversity. In this year-long experience, participants will engage in regular meetings within a diverse group of 8-12 people who discuss literature on their diversity topic area, share best practices, listen to guest speakers, attend workshops and conferences, and dialogue around challenges and opportunities. The learning communities are designed for both personal and institutional transformation. Participants will be able to:
- Acquire tools to facilitate dialog between and within diverse groups
- Learn and practice ways of responding to intercultural conflict
- Work and lead more effectively to create a campus climate which is affirming and validating of diverse experiences and perspectives
Each participant will select an individual “focus course” or program to work on, or a group may work together on a collective program. Participants will be supported in the development of learning outcomes by their facilitators and their community. Participants are also encouraged to engage in action research in their courses or programs, and present project results at local, regional and national conferences.
Each participant will be expected to:
- Be an integral and active participant in your learning community
- Attend bi-weekly meetings
- Attend larger group meetings
- Consider new ways of thinking about what you do, who you are, your beliefs about others and your vision of diversity and race
- Develop an “outcome”—a project or course that integrates your
experience into your work on campus
Past participants found the Everyone Counts program to be both engaging and beneficial. They offered the following feedback:
“The learning communities gave me a chance to voice my questions and thoughts on diversity which I think, in turn, has helped me get over any shyness of being a voice for diversity in a larger context.”
“[The learning communities] changed the way I look at the culture at WMU, and has encouraged me to try to find ways to facilitate discussions about those things that make us unique, as well as those things we have in common.”
“I shared with our community members and facilitators that our bi-weekly gatherings were, at times, the most meaningful, difficult, and rewarding blocks of time I would have in a two week span while at work.”
“Everyone Counts has been an extraordinary journey for me and I will always be grateful that I was a part of this very important work on our campus.”
Participants in the inaugural Everyone Counts program not only engaged in personal and professional development, but they also created projects where they could apply new skills and ideas. Below are just a few of the projects started by the participants.
Everyone Counts 2015 - 2016
Information on application packets will be coming soon.
Interfaith Initiatives in Institutions of Higher Learning: Faculty and staff will explore the importance of interfaith conversation and education about a variety of beliefs within the context of Higher Education. As universities become increasingly diverse, it is important for administration, faculty and staff to become aware of and acquainted with the faiths, religions and belief systems of their colleagues and students in order to cultivate a hospitable, inclusive and sensitive working and teaching environment - especially in the context of the secular university. It is also important to recognize the importance of faith and religion as broader cultural forces in order to prepare students to be beneficial leaders and contributors to an increasingly complex and pluralistic society. The group will become acquainted with the current state of academic conversation as well as investigate models by which other educational institutions are addressing these matters in their administrative structures and curricula. The group will further explore appropriate measures by which the university can incorporate a strategy for raising awareness of the importance of faith and belief as crucial dimensions of the lives of individuals.
Disability, Access, and Holistic Inclusion in Higher Education
Participants will investigate disability through the lenses of ability and ableism, through current research and best practices in higher education. Participants will have opportunities to discuss how a cultural shift in access can shape the university's community through focus on disability as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon.
Race, Privilege, and Power
Deep and meaningful dialogue around race, privilege, and power helps equip participants for both participation and leadership in the creation of an equitable and inclusive campus environment. This experience allows participants the space to develop personally and professionally within the context of a supportive community.
Women Faculty, Staff, & Students in Higher Education
Women faculty, staff, and students will come together to examine the situation for women at WMU and higher education in general. Our three goals are to review current best practices and research related to gender equity; explore trans formative strategies to advance women in higher education; and create new leadership and service opportunities to better support women on campus.
Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Inclusion in Higher Education
Faculty, staff and graduate student participants will engage in the exploration of privilege and oppression as they impact the LBGT community, specifically in higher education. Topics will include LBGT student recruitment, engagement and persistence in higher education; LBGT faculty/staff talent recruitment and retention; and, LBGT academic research.