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​Connectivity focuses on all things related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The publication will highlight thought leaders, promising initiatives, and other actions that promote diverse, equitable, and inclusive policies and higher education practices across the Commonwealth and beyond. Connectivity will be informative, inclusive, thought-provoking, and focused.


 May 2021

We are excited to share with you some of the work happening throughout the State System to create and sustain a world class system where diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of our DNA.  For starters, the State System Strategic Framework for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) was affirmed by the Board of Governors during its April 15th meeting.  This was an important step in our determination to refresh the State System's DEI mission, “ensuring accessibility and championing the success of all members of its community regardless of one’s identity.”  The framework was the result of months of collaboration and consultation with a wide range of stakeholder groups and individuals including the Board of Governors, university presidents, faculty, staff, students, and the DEI Board of Advisors comprised again of a representative and diverse group of the State System community.  We look forward to completing the five-year strategic plan centered around five strategic priorities including goals, SMART initiatives (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound), and action steps as illustrated below.  Exciting stuff!  Stay tuned! Reach out! Share your thoughts at dei@passhe.edu.  

In partnership and service,
Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer



Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Curriculum by Dr. Christine Pease-Hernandez Strategic Communications and Media, Slippery Rock University 

In 2003, yes, 18 years ago, as I contemplated my dissertation topic, I wondered if diversity work in higher education was even worth investigating. One would think that after 50 years, surely, we lived in more equitable and inclusive times. Perhaps my topic was now outdated…NOT. My research focus, which I later used as my dissertation title, was “Talking/Doing Diversity STILL: A Critical Focus Group Study Investigating Difference, Community, and Social Justice in Pedagogical Practices.” In the last chapter of my dissertation, I wrote, “What makes this research significant is that despite all the scholarship related to diversity and social justice education, despite the passion for learning, and the passion for teaching, we are still coming up short. In other words, there are still classrooms where meanings get constructed through authority and not dialogue, where students and faculty oppress others with the language they use in the classroom, where there is fear of talking about differences, and where diversity and social justice discourses do not matter.” And today, more than ever, we STILL need to work on creating learning environments where diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice in the curriculum are not just add-ons, but a part of our university culture. 

Considering faculty/student weekly contact during a semester, it is safe to say that faculty members play an important role in helping students develop personal and professional critical thinking skills that are transferrable to life after college. According to Samuels (2014), “Sometimes faculty members are the only consistent institutional contact a student has in a  college or university setting, therefore, faculty members can have great influence on students in terms of both retention and achievement” (p. 9). This being said, as faculty, we have a great responsibility to create and foster student-centered, inclusive learning environments. All students must see themselves represented in the curriculum. According to the Nelson Laird (2014), “To create an inclusive learning environment throughout the curriculum and in all fields, all faculty members should consider how they are incorporating diversity into their courses and how they can be more inclusive in their teaching.”

I don’t know how anyone could argue against the need to develop a diverse and inclusive curriculum. We know it is important. We know it enriches learning communities and we know it prepares our students to serve in multicultural and global work environments. State System and systemwide universities need to continue to mold organizational culture so that DEI initiatives/policies are part of our identity. DEI work needs to be mindful, intentional, and policy driven. Part of infusing diversity into the curriculum involves the manner in which the curriculum is taught. A critical pedagogy requires faculty to move away from the “banking system of education,” where faculty deposit knowledge into passive student minds (Freire, 2003), to co-creating knowledge with our students. A critical pedagogy questions and challenges structures of power and oppression, opens up spaces for self-reflection, diverse student voices and supports change through action.

The task at hand is to continually look for ways to study and engage in critical pedagogy, to look for available DEI resources related to one’s discipline, and to explore spaces available for engaging in dialogues about pedagogy. Campus leaders must support DEI professional development and offer opportunities to help prepare faculty as they learn to foster diversity in the curriculum, AND faculty, as life-long learners, must take advantage of these opportunities. Samuels (2014) states, “In a growing multicultural world, there is so much to do to prepare for inclusive environments where students, educators, and staff can thrive. Although it is difficult to create systemic institutional change, we must remember that those systems and institutions are made up of individuals like us” (p. 118).  

References:
of American Colleges and Universities.  
Freire, P. (2003). Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary ed. New York: Continuum.
Samuels, D. R. (2014). The culturally inclusive educator: Preparing for a multicultural world. 
     New York: Teachers College Press


2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit

The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is hosting the 2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit on November 3-5, 2021. Our theme for the summit is “Onward & Upward: Advancing DEI Mindsets through Impactful Action,” which reflects the commitment to build a more inclusive space for faculty, staff and students to thrive.  Our purpose for this summit is to provide a systemwide opportunity to explore the wide range of policies and practices to elevate the mission-driven role of DEI that fundamentally supports a shift in culture and mindsets relative to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its role in improving student outcomes, in particular.  An advanced mindset is achieved when we are able to not only diversify representation in our faculty and leadership, but also embrace the value of inclusivity. Such a collective mindset around diversity, equity and inclusion could position the State System to have even greater impact as this DEI work moves forward.  A change in mindset will help dismantle concepts of  sameness and make room for equity and difference.  Many of our colleagues are researching and utilizing best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion and this summit will provide a platform for this innovative and impactful work to be shared and replicated where appropriate across our campuses.  

A planning committee consisting of faculty and staff from several State System universities is working together to prepare a dynamic opportunity for the system constituents to engage in learning and sharing best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion, including  a state-of-the-art conference platform to enhance our efforts. 

Summit Planning Committee: 
  • Corinne Gibson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Office of the Chancellor, Committee Chair cgibson@passhe.edu ​(pictured)
  • Nichole Book, Chair of Diversity and Inclusion Council, Mansfield University 
  • Christa Cobb, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Responsibility , Cheyney University
  • Rev. Tedd Cogar, Senior Assessment Coordinator & LGBTQIA Support, Indiana University
  • Dr. Ronald Gray, Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, Felician University   
  • Brian Mbuu, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations, Office of the Chancellor
  • Dr. Sharon Montgomery, Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Clarion University 
  • Carrie Peluso, Office for Inclusive Excellence, Slippery Rock University
  • Dr. Keishla Rivera-Lopez, Assistant Professor of English & Latinx Literatures and Cultures, Millersville University 
  • Dr. Denise Pearson, Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Ex-Officio 

Edinboro University’s School of Education Partners with Erie School District to Cultivate the Pipeline of Future Teachers

Edinboro University’s School of Education (SOE) is committed to addressing teaching shortages and diversity, and it knows that it can’t do the work alone. Grounded in research and built on best practices, Erinn Lake, Dean, SOE, and Stephanie Williams, Director, Clinical Partnerships, are establishing an innovative partnership with Erie Public Schools and Ken Nickson, Erie School District (ESD) Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, through its BORO-Teach Program. Goals of the program include: diversification of Edinboro University’s student population; introduction of the education profession to first generation high school students; support for ESD’s hiring goals; engagement of Edinboro first generation students from admission to graduation, community engagement as a driver for sustained change, and mitigating teacher shortages writ large. Dr. Lake says, “Edinboro University was initially founded in 1857 as a private academy to prepare Pennsylvania’s teachers. We are proud of that history and, to this day, we continue to produce outstanding teachers for the Commonwealth. We are very pleased to partner with the Erie School District to continue our joint educational missions for the benefit of the greater Erie community.”

Students enrolling in the BORO-Teach Program (15 students) will be assigned university advisors and peer mentors as part of building the program’s assets-based campus culture. They will enroll in a total of 12 dual credits that will be taught in ESD using a cohort model. Proposed dual credit courses include: Children’s Literature; Intro to Psychology; and Child Development. 

Mr. Nickson shared, "We at Erie's Public Schools are excited about our newly developed partnership with Edinboro University on the BORO-Teach program. This innovative program provides a new pathway for our 9-12th grade students to gain foundational teaching courses while still in high school at no cost, followed by one full school year of tuition-free enrollment in Edinboro’s education program. BORO-Teach reinforces the serious work, outlined in our district’s strategic plan, ensures fair and equitable treatment regarding access to educational resources, to spur each student's growth and eliminate disproportionalities in achievement, and increasing timely access to rigorous courses, programs, and interventions.  I wish the first cohort of students much success as they begin their own personal path towards becoming a future educator who inspires more minds to seek teaching as a viable and rewarding career!"

Dr. Williams says that she is "…proud to be a part of the BORO-Teach program. It is when we work together as a community—linking the City of Erie’s Mayor Joe Schember's "Activating Our Vision:  A Path to Success," Erie Public Schools strategic plan, and the Edinboro University Strategic Plan, along with supports, our students will succeed.  It is exciting to have our first cohort underway." 

To learn more about teacher shortages and dual credit as an equity policy and practice lever, you can read: Sutcher, L., Darling, L., and Carver-Thomas, D. (2016).  A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and Shortages in the U.S .: Research Report: A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. and St. Amour, M. (2020) Inside Higher Education. Promising results from early-college program in Massachusetts.

Chief Diversity Officers - Fireside Chats
What We’re Reading…by Nicole Book, Chief Diversity Officer at Mansfield University

For our latest Fireside Chat with the Chief Diversity Officers, we read and discussed Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This remarkable reimagining takes the reader through 500 years of racist ideas in America. It creates a story that demonstrates why racism still exists today and how that impacts our thoughts and feelings. The book offers hope of an antiracist future as we reexamine our past. One of my main focuses in reading this book was how we can use it with our students. It utilizes so many fascinating techniques like repetition, pattern, and font to communicate its message in an engaging way. This book could serve as springboard for discussion and desire to engage in more research on the variety of topics touched on in this book.  

Sharon Montgomery (Clarion) – Curriculum Diversity

A single story within a single podcast changed my life. About four years ago I was out for a run and listening to a podcast about implicit bias. Although I am white, I felt sure at the time that the podcast was not about me. The podcast included an interview with a white man who had two adoptive black daughters. He lived with his daughters in Oakland. One night while walking, he saw a black man approaching a bus stop where a middle-aged white woman sat. He decided to stick around to make sure she was safe. As he watched, a little boy came skipping around the corner and took the black man’s hand.  His dad. Suddenly, the white man knew he had been guilty of the same bias that he warned his black daughters about. His voice was choked as he made the confession. Here was a white man raising two black girls whom he obviously loved. Who did I think I was to be immune to the same bias? I suddenly became aware that I was part of the problem and I began to notice things about myself and others that I never had before.  

One of the things I began to question was the stories we tell about the advancement of our fields.  We learn, for example, that science is objective and so is its history. We select our stories about the past based on merit. Thus, we tell and retell stories about luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Galileo. But how true are these stories? As a scientist, I know that science is rarely advanced by the work of a genius working in isolation. I know that discovery is nearly always a team effort built upon decades (if not centuries) of past work. Moreover, the discovery is hardly ever the result of a sudden “Eureka” moment but generally more like a slow, shapeshifting hunch. But the truth doesn’t make for a great story. Hence, we are okay with fiction because, like a novel or a play, the point of the stories has never been about the truth. We choose the stories that speak to us, that inspire us, that make us feel proud. Thus, these stories generally star people who look like us. However, these stories do not work equally well for all of us and it matters. When our students do not see themselves in the field’s past, they are unlikely to see themselves in its future. 
 
Right or wrong, white people control the stories and it is entirely up to white people to change the stories. Although I see it every day, I cannot end structural racism but I can do this:  I can find stories that star people of color and then tell those stories to my students. I am constantly on the lookout for these stories and I collect them like precious gems. It isn’t easy but that’s exactly why it is important.​