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Message from Vice Chancellor Denise Pearson

Greetings everyone!

Welcome to the start of another exciting, growth-filled academic year at Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. I look forward to engaging with students, faculty, and staff during my fall and spring campus visits during this academic year. Your voices are important, which is evident through the intentional, outcomes-oriented plans universities have put in place following the intensive examination of climate survey reports and engaging with a wide range of stakeholder groups. I am deeply grateful for the collaborations with university presidents and their Chief Diversity Officers that made these plans possible. Leadership matters!

August is National Civility Month so I decided that I would dedicate my column to exploring an expanding area of research in higher education policy and practice – civility. The notion of civility also aligns with the State System’s DEI Strategic Priorities – specifically Inclusive Communities. The State System defines inclusion as actions that foster feeling of being respected, valued, and embraced in the curriculum, co-curriculum, and university community. It means authentically and intentionally bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. An inclusive State System is one where all admitted and enrolled students (faculty and staff) feel a sense of belonging. Lastly, this months attention on civility aligns with the focus of the Systemwide Climate Survey that sought to learn more student, faculty, and staff experiences as members of the State System community. I hope you find some value in what I am sharing.

So, what is this thing called civility? At its core, civility involves acts of showing regard for others and being polite and respectful. It is the way you treat people, even those who have committed harmful acts against you. The word civility comes from the Latin word “civilis,” meaning “relating to public life, befitting a citizen.” Why is it an important topic for the State System to uplift? Let us first acknowledge that civility does not suggest the absence of conflict. In fact, conflict is a natural and necessary byproduct of human interaction and diversity.

Civil behavior, however, can impact whether interpersonal and/or group conflicts become constructive or destructive in nature and outcome. Furthermore, civil behavior enables diverse groups (e.g., faculty, staff, and students) to engage with one another in ways that may actually mitigate conflict. In contrast, incivility harms others through words or actions by people who act against humanity and empathy. It comes from the Latin word “incivilis,” meaning not a citizen.


National Civility Month Timeline

National Civility Month Timeline

So, why is the Office of DEI recognizing National Civility Month?

  • Civility promotes understanding and respect for others.
  • Civility fosters positive work environments and cultures.
  • Civility promotes communication even in conflict situations.

What can you do to promote civility on your campuses and in your communities?

  • Practice civility yourself.
  • Influence others to practice civility.
  • Raise awareness about civility.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Give compliments.
  • Express gratitude.
  • Spread positivity.
  • Volunteer.

Source: National Today

Happy National Civility Month!

In service with gratitude,

Denise Pearson, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor and Chief DEI Officer


In this Issue

Featured Stories


Featured Stories


Dr. John Omole-Matthew joined the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in March 2023 as the inaugural Graduate Research Assistant. His experience in gynecology-oncology and desire to improve outcomes for women gynecological cancers using a combination of clinical/public health approaches led him to enroll in the Master's in Public Health program at West Chester University. As an international student, John was interested in learning more about DEI practices within the United States, PASSHE's commitment to advancing DEI across the State System, and how these practices could be integrated into his work as a gynecologist. His research on Improving International Diversity within PASSHE was presented on June 28, 2023, to Chief Diversity Officers, International Department Directors, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Please find below a summary of his research with links to the research paper and presentation recording.

Special thanks to all the PASSHE Directors of International Programs for participating in this research project.



By Dr. John Omole-Matthew

The United States has been a top destination for international students, with the U.S. hosting a larger majority of the global international student population at 1,075,496 students in 2021. There was a steady increase in the number of international students enrolled in the U.S until 2019/2020 session when the COVID- 19 pandemic resulted in a dip; however, figures are climbing back to pre-pandemic levels.

Historically PASSHE universities were designed to primarily cater to the educational needs of the local communities in which they were located thus increasing the educational levels in. However, in an ever-changing world, it is important that our universities evolve to stay competitive both locally and internationally. Statistics from the fall of 2020 show that only 3 of the 14 campuses constituting the system accounted for 60 percent of the 1035 international students enrolled.


  1. In the 2021/22 session, $1.7 billion was generated by the 44,370 students enrolled in the higher education institutions within Pennsylvania, with an additional 19,635 jobs created. This is a significant contribution to the economy of the state.
  2. Students who have been educated and raised in social and cultural contexts different from their host country serve as a rich resource for knowledge sharing and diverse perspectives to academic engagement in the university. This benefits the domestic students who then achieve cultural competence to be global citizens.
  3. Increased prospects of having diverse staff and faculty who have been internationally trained and prepared.
  4. Survival of academic program with poor enrollment by domestic students. This helps prevent the attendant job losses that would have occurred were the program unenrolled in.
  5. Important contributions of international graduate students to innovation, especially in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and mathematics (STEM).


Methods ranging from conducting virtual recruitment fairs (44%), partnerships with foreign high schools (33%), use of recruiting agents (22%), sport coaches’ recruitment (11%).


There are peculiar challenges experienced and this overall negatively impacts their experiences and reduces their likelihood of recommending our institutions. Difficulties range from navigating life in the U.S. (44%), funding support (44%), transportation difficulties (44%), housing and dining (33%), and an unwelcoming environment (33%).


It is important to address these challenges that negatively impact our international students and provide them with the necessary support services. Starting points include:

  • Increasing staff levels at the international offices to provide the required range of support services.
  • Adopting peer-pairing programs with domestic students can help to navigate the challenges of adapting to life in the U.S. and inadequate public transportation infrastructure at rural locations.
  • Robust programming to foster an inclusive environment for the students right from when they are admitted to when they arrive in the U.S.
  • Extending orientation to at least 3 days to allow time for immersion, provision of scholarships, and funding support applicable to students.

Making concrete and consistent budgetary support will aid international recruitment efforts.


Download this document in PDF formatImproving International Student Diversity in PASSHE Universities


WCU ODEI Capstone Video Promotes Correct Use of Plural Pronouns

By Keri Palasz, PhD, MS, RDN, LDN

Through her studies to complete requirements for the Advanced Certificate in Cultural Competence and Inclusive Excellence, a West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCU) professor came to appreciate that the rules for correct grammar regarding using plural pronouns have changed. Like many professors, Keri Palasz attaches high importance to using the most current and correct grammar when addressing students. “The recent grammar changes are more inclusive,” says Dr. Palasz. “It is now grammatically correct to use the pronoun “they” when referring to an individual.”

Dr. Palasz chose to make a short educational video (<4 minutes) with professors as the target audience for the capstone project to complete requirements for the Advanced Certificate in Cultural Competence and Inclusive Excellence, offered through the West Chester University of Pennsylvania Institute for Cultural Competence and Inclusive Excellence.

“I hope this video might help inform other professors of these changes to universally accepted grammar rules for the use of plural personal pronouns,” says Dr. Palasz. “For some of us, this change in use of the word, ‘they’ is natural. For others, it poses a challenge as we have decades of experience using the former grammar guidelines.”

The WCU Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) offers educational and learning opportunities for all students, faculty, and staff. In accordance with the University’s strategic plan, ODEI works to foster a campus environment that invites all community members to build upon their awareness, skills, and competencies related to diversity and inclusion topic areas. ODEI offers basic and advanced certificates in Cultural Competence and Inclusive Excellence.


Integrated Studies - A Student Perspective


Download this article in PDF formatIntegrated Studies - A Student Perspective

Article originally published in The Snapper’s Spring 2023 Magazine


A Long Talk at KU

By Jerry Schearer

Eighty-five Kutztown University employees recently completed "A Long Talk". This was a joint effort between the Enrollment Management and Student Affairs (EMSA) Division and the Athletics Department. Three members of the KU EMSA Division went through online training with other members from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) last year. Jerry Schearer (Chief Diversity Officer), Bilal Salaam (DEI Officer for Athletics), and Melinda Quiones (Director of Multicultural Services) thought it was so impactful they organized the in-person training for Kutztown for May 15 and 17 with the support of Interim EMSA VP Krista Evans. Along with the EMSA staff, coaches, and athletics staff, the KU Interim Chief of Police, a faculty member, and a few other staff were able to participate in this training.

A Long Talk About The Uncomfortable Truth is an anti-racism activation experience. Participants who self-identify to engage in this experience agree to the completion of pre work before entering into the group discussion. This pre-work is a multimedia collection of content reflecting the truth about the history of racism in the U.S. and the impact it continues to have on our society today. Completion of the pre-work serves to provide a common foundational understanding of the issue. The “long talk” begins with a pair of two-hour sessions. The experience is orchestrated as a series of reflective conversations where participants are asked to listen, view, and respond in real time. The three learning targets are 1) Unpacking Your Truth 2) Finding Your Voice and 3) Activating Your Activism.

BT Staff

Presented in the photo above is Kyle R. Williams, Chief Empowerment Officer for A Long Talk.


Cheyney Students Tell Stories of Gun Violence Victims Through Art


Every year Dr. Marietta Dantonio-Madsen, Cheyney University’s Professor of Art and Chairperson of the Department of Humanities, leads an annual healing arts project to give students an opportunity to experience new perspectives on societal issues by expressing their creativity. This year, Dr. Madsen and 32 students took the difficult, impactful journey to tell the stories of gun violence victims through their family members portraying the lives lost through art.

On May 8, 2023, a 21-foot banner was unveiled at Marcus Foster Auditorium presenting the 44 painted canvasses that memorialized victims of gun violence. The exhibit is entitled, “Healing Arts Anti-Gun Violence: The Power of Love.” Students, faculty, alumni, media, and the families of the victims joined at an opening reception that featured live music by the Pan-African All Stars African Drumming group. Dr. Madsen opened the event with remarks, and other speakers included President Aaron A. Walton, Zarinah Lomax of Apologues, several student artists, and several mothers of the victims, who shared their personal stories. Every family received their own print of canvas created in memory of their loved one.

Dr. Madsen partnered with Apologues, a nonprofit that focuses on assisting individuals to heal, empower, and advocate against violence, to help guide the project and connect students with victims’ families. The students, many who were non-art majors, shared individual experiences with someone who was killed by gun violence. “This project was an incredibly emotional and spiritual journey that centered around loss, trauma and healing,” said Dr. Madsen. “Our students forged life-long relationships with the families, which was an unexpected result.” The course began in September 2022, when the parents of the victims came to Cheyney to meet with the students to learn about their children and how their devastating loss impacted them. The students gave the parents a survey and used the answers to spark ideas and themes for the paintings. Additionally, students issued their own statement on how expressing a loss from violence impacted them and how they now look at life.

Jamilah Phillips, a senior who participated in the project, said the words of Maya Angelou were an inspiration throughout the project, ‘“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.’ This quote stuck with me throughout my entire project,” said Phillips. “My experience with the Anti-Gun Violence Project was life changing. I’m truly blessed to have been able to experience this new platform and I hope we have more projects in collaboration to come.”

The class collaborated on what medium to use to express the families’ stories and decided on using a heart as the shape on fabric canvas. They all drew hearts on canvas to tell each victim’s story. There were many discussions on violence in the world.

“Students agreed that violence doesn’t discriminate,” said Dr. Madsen. “If there isn’t love within communities and society, people can resort to violence.” The discussions helped the class determine what background would work best for the paintings. They all believed violence does not discriminate, so they chose to use all shades of human skin for the backgrounds of the paintings. Dr. Madsen had to teach students how to create their skin color shade which created a whole new level of design. Each parent wrote a message to their slain children and these statements are displayed on every canvas panel and on the back of the prints the parents received. Students added symbols and imagery somewhere in their painting to embody the victims. The project grew to include paintings that addressed the issue of gun-violence and how it impacts communities. Dr. Madsen enlisted the help of faculty and alumni to help the students finish the paintings.

“Despite loss and pain, these families persevere and despite how they see it that is the true definition of strength and a survivor which is shown intertwined through each piece of this art,” said Zarinah Lomax, executive director, Apologues.


DEI Summit Registration

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2023 DEI Summit Call for Proposals

2023 DEI Summit Call for Proposals banner

Download this document in PDF formatCall for Proposals Information - Download PDF


Next Virtual Q&A Session – Thursday, August 24th, 2-3 PM

Register for Q&A Session


Upcoming Events


Overbooked book club event featuring keynote speaker Heather McGhee about her book, The Sum of Us Register for Overbooked
Connectivity Live! event, Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Frederick Douglass Institute


Empower Change Through Search Advocacy!
By Dr. Joseph Croskey, Executive Director, FDI

Are you eager to play a vital role in shaping a more inclusive and diverse academic environment within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education?

Introducing the pilot PASSHE Search Advocacy Program, based on the highly successful Oregon State University (OSU) Search Advocacy program. This transformative initiative aligns perfectly with PASSHE's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategic priorities. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is excited to invite a select group to participate in the initial pilot. This initiative will help build capacity to support the implementation of the DEI framework and we hope it will lead to reducing URM attainment gaps. The Frederick Douglass Institute is helping sponsor this initiative. Some of our colleagues participated in this search advocacy training at IUP before the pandemic. SRU is engaged in the nascent stage of creating a search advocacy program. They are utilizing what they learned from the OSU training. Mary Hennessey and Keisha Booker spoke to me about their search advocacy initiative at SRU. Mary attended the IUP training and went to OSU for the two-day training in 2019. Mary and Keisha created the initial search advocacy training for SRU and recognized that people are eager to learn how to be effective search committee members. Our discussion motivated me even more about how useful search advocacy can be for PASSHE.

This action underscores our quest to build the vibrant, diverse, equitable, and inclusive faculty and staff our community deserves in the following ways:

Foster Diversity: Your engagement in the search process can make a significant impact on promoting diversity within our institutions. By actively advocating for a diverse pool of candidates, you will contribute to a more vibrant and enriching academic environment that prepares our students for success in a diverse world.

Create Inclusive Communities: Inclusivity is at the heart of our mission, and through Search Advocacy, you can help cultivate an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued, and respected. By identifying and addressing bias within the hiring process, you will contribute to building truly inclusive communities that thrive on diverse perspectives.

Drive Equitable Outcomes: We are committed to achieving equitable outcomes for all members of our community. By participating in the Search Advocacy Program, you will be at the forefront of advocating for fair and just hiring practices, ensuring that all candidates have an equal opportunity to succeed.

What to Expect:

Comprehensive Training: The OSU program offers in-depth training sessions led by seasoned experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Search Advocacy training will occur on the following Wednesdays: September 20 and 27, and October 4 and 11, 12:30- 4:30 p.m. and will be provided by Dr. Anne Gilles, Oregon State University You will gain valuable insights into inclusive search practices, unconscious bias awareness, and strategies to advocate effectively for diverse candidates.

Collaborative Learning: We intend to foster a community of passionate PASSHE colleagues who share your commitment to driving positive change. Exchange ideas, share experiences, and learn from one another as you navigate the path towards a more inclusive academic landscape

Recognition and Impact: We intend to develop leaders in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within our State System. Search Advocates’ efforts will contribute to building a stronger, more inclusive academic community for generations to come.

Together, let’s advance the PASSHE DEI strategic priorities and create a brighter future for all. Embrace the power of Search Advocacy and become a driving force for change within our institutions. To express your interest in participating or to learn more about the program, please contact Joseph Croskey, Let’s shape a more inclusive and equitable State System together!


Title IX


2023 Title IX Retreat

The 2023 Title IX Retreat took place at Shippensburg University on August 10-11. More than 30 Title IX coordinators, Title IX deputies, student conduct officers, and university legal counsel members participated in this training with the Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Legal Affairs, and Labor Relations. The focus of this year's training was to provide attendees with information related to supporting the following communities in the Title IX process: LGBTQIA students, pregnant and parenting, students with disabilities, and faculty members. Links to presentation slides from the retreat are included below:


Upcoming Title IX Training

12th Annual ATIXA Conference, October 8-13, 2023, Philadelphia, PA

Register for ATIXA Conference