Department Programming for Faculty & Academic Staff

To go beyond traditional DEI educational interventions and address current socio-political challenges impacting campus climate, the intergroup dialogue team developed and implemented a dynamic and holistic DEI education model aiming to achieve 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

The model is 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

The novelty of this model lies in the deep engagement with each of these areas, as well as in the interconnectedness between them.

Program Goals

Driven by the need for more understanding and effective communication between faculty, staff, and students, the goals of our department-level programming may include:

  • Understand the needs of the unit’s leadership team related to communication, inclusion, and diversity
  • Develop and practice skills to communicate, collaborate, and lead across different experiences and points of view
  • Enhance understanding of how social identities influence interactions with colleagues and students
  • Leverage dialogue to build more inclusion and create meaningful connections with staff, academic colleagues, and students
  • Reflect on ways and opportunities to lead an inclusive curriculum review

Design Principles

Integrated approach

In many instances, DEI training is perceived as an “add-on” or a standalone activity aiming to address the need to “do something about diversity”. Standalone training sessions have limited impact on behavioral and institutional change, and they signal that deep issues related to identity, power, and belonging can be unpacked and resolved in a short, isolated intervention. IDP’s model offers an integrated approach to DEI education (not training!) in different ways: we develop and lead ongoing processes with gradual goals and comprehensive curriculum; we change campus climate by educating critical mass of faculty, student, and staff participants; and we offer many different opportunities for people to engage in this educational work at different stages of their Cornell journey.

Interaction with members of different social groups

IDP’s programs provide opportunities for meaningful structured interactions across racial, gender, class and other differences. We aim to create a collaborative space in which a wide range of perspectives, backgrounds, and identities can be shared, critically explored, and learned from.

Intersectional and inclusive approach

This model challenges single-identity educational/training approaches that focus on one identity, such as race or gender. The single-identity approach has been criticized as leading to greater intergroup differentiation (divisions between “the privileged” and “the oppressed” or “agents” and “targets”) and attitude polarization. Additionally, IDP’s internal assessment shows that the focus on a single identity does not allow a nuanced exploration and understanding of participants’ multiple social identities, lived experiences, and their collective role in upholding discriminatory social structures. Participants in IDP programs examine the multiple, intersecting identities of themselves and others, and thus have the opportunity to reflect on both experiences of privilege/access/power and experiences of discrimination/lack of access/oppression. This approach allows participants to engage in a more authentic and less performative way and strengthens their capacity to communicate and collaborate across difference with empathy and curiosity.

Focus on both personal experiences and structural societal processes

IDP’s approach allows participants to build understanding of their own social identities in relation to systems of oppression (such as racism and sexism), thereby moving participants toward internalizing and integrating an awareness of social group membership in relation to structural and institutional privilege and oppression.

Balance between process and content

Explicit attention to blending content and process is critical to support cognitive, behavioral, and affective growth. This model integrates cognitive learning about connection, conflict, identity, difference, and inequality with effective involvement of oneself and others through sharing lived experiences and engaging in critical dialogues.

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