Academic Unit Programming for Faculty & Academic Staff

Driven by the need to support and foster greater inclusion and belonging in academic units, our academic DEI education model is implemented at the department level. Recognizing the distinctive challenges and opportunities, as well as the unique culture within each academic unit, our thorough pre-assessment supports data-informed interventions and processes appropriate to each department’s specific needs. Ongoing assessment allows us to better understand and address both the evolving needs of the unit and the short- and long-term impact of our collaborative work (read more about the three phases of our department-level processes under the How section).

The general goals of our department-level processes are: 

  • Understand the needs of the unit related to communication, inclusion, and diversity
  • Develop and practice skills to communicate, connect, teach, mentor, and study across different experiences and points of view
  • Enhance understanding of how social identities influence interactions with colleagues and students
  • Leverage dialogue to strengthen belonging and create meaningful connections with staff, academic colleagues, and students
  • Identify ways to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the department, field, and institution

In many instances, DEI training is perceived by both participants and leaders as an “add-on” or a standalone activity aiming to address the need to “improve diversity and belonging”. Research shows that standalone DEI “training” sessions have limited impact on behavioral and institutional change, and they may signal that deep issues related to identity, power, and belonging can be unpacked and resolved in a short, isolated intervention (Devine & Ash, 2021; Bezrukova et al., 2016). Our department-level model offers an integrated, multi-phased approach to DEI education, rather than “training” that works to build capacity in individuals and in the unit.

Phase 1: Pre-assessment

In the pre-assessment phase we meet with college and department leadership to identify key needs and goals for our collaborative process together. Additionally, all faculty in the department are asked to complete a pre-assessment survey asking them to share their perspectives on intergroup communication skills, awareness related to DEI issues, and their capacity to make change within their department.

The data collected from this pre-assessment process informs our goals, practices, process and content, and follow-up assessment for the program.

Phase 2: Programming

The programming phase generally consists of at least 6-hours of experiential and theoretical learning with all faculty and academic staff in the department (either three 2-hour sessions, or two half-day retreats). At the end of the 6 hours, participants are asked to complete a post-survey assessing their reactions to the programming, behavioral learning (e.g., self-reported skills, intentions), and affective/attitudinal learning (e.g., changes in beliefs, self-awareness). 

Our programming phase focuses on achieving change at different levels – personal, interpersonal, and structural – and in three crucial spheres:

  • Cognitive: participants’ awareness and understanding of DEI issues at personal, interpersonal, and structural levels
  • Behavioral: participants’ actions at personal and interpersonal levels
  • Institutional: participants’ capacity and attempts to make change at a structural level

Like any other process led by our team, our curriculum and pedagogy are based on four key development areas drawn from existing research:

  • Human connection: Strengthening our innate capacities to connect authentically with ourselves and others
  • Social identity: Exploring the impact of social identities on individuals’ feelings, perspectives and experiences; and understanding how identities are linked to discrimination and privilege at individual, interpersonal and structural levels
  • Intergroup communication: Collaborative communication in which we broaden our perspectives, challenge preconceived notions, build relationships and develop mutual understanding
  • Strategic change: Comprehending our own roles in complex systems of inequity, pursuing opportunities for social change, and leveraging personal and collective resources to strive for social justice

Phase 3: Follow-up and Ongoing Collaboration 

At the end of the 6-hour programming with the department, we reconvene with the department and college leadership to share data from the post-surveys and key insights from the sessions, to discuss potential future interventions, as well as opportunities for department leaders to receive consultation from our team about ways to implement and reinforce the frameworks and tools practiced in group sessions. Additionally, this phase includes ongoing assessment, to allow our team, the department, and the college to measure progress and development over time and to assess additional needs.

Contact with any questions.