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.
Message from Vice Chancellor Denise Pearson
2022 DEI Summit
The State System hosted its annual systemwide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit earlier this month that included more than 1,000 registrants! Keynote addresses included Dr. Tracie Addy (co-author of What Inclusive Instructors Do: Principles and Practices for Excellence in College Teaching), and Dr. Jelani Cobb (author of The Matter of Black Lives), and Dr. Terrell Strayhorn (author of College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students). Among the nearly 40 outstanding sessions was an engaging panel discussion with members from the PA Council of Trustees. Thank you Rich Frerichs (PACT President), Julia Burcin (Bloomsburg University student trustee), J.D. Dunbar (PennWest Clarion trustee), Cheryl Harper (Cheyney trustee), Dr. Amber Sessoms (Millersville trustee) for sharing your perspectives on the role of trustees in advancing DEI. Thank you, Christa Cobb, for the skillful facilitation of this important discussion. Special thanks to Board of Governors Chair Dr. Cynthia Shapira for offering closing remarks! We are already looking forward to the 2023 Summit!
University Campus Visits
In October, I visited Slippery Rock, Indiana, and PennWest California universities.
During my visits I had the privilege of meeting with small groups of faculty, staff,
and students. It was a wonderful experience to engage face-to-face with folks again!
During my visit to PennWest California, I met with student government leaders including
four brilliant international students from the African countries of Togo, Zimbabwe,
Left to right: Tatiana Milca Kodjo (Togo and Nigeria), President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson (PennWest), Blessing Gusta (Zimbabwe), Melissa Chimunye (Zimbabwe), and Tasha Nakhulo (Kenya).
Sincere thanks to Chief Diversity Officers Dr. Terrence Mitchell (PennWest Edinboro), Elise Glenn (Indiana), Rogers Laugand (PennWest Clarion), Sheleta Camarda-Webb (PennWest California), and Dr. Anthony Jones (Slippery Rock) for arranging these visits — informative and appreciated!
Earlier this year, PASSHE administered its first systemwide campus climate survey to inform university work aimed at strengthening inclusive campus communities. The survey was administered from Jan. 31 to March 3 to gather baseline measures to enable universities to develop plans and chart progress. The Office of Advanced Data Analytics created a public dashboard to review the data from the response of nearly 13,000 students, faculty, and staff combined. We know that we have work to do — there is always room for improvement. However, we are eager to leverage what we are learning at the system and university levels to ensure that PASSHE is an inclusive place to work, study, and play. Thank you to everyone for your input. Special thanks to Dr. emily howe, Manager of Special Projects, Research and Reporting for managing this tremendous undertaking.
Christa Cobb Named System’s Title IX Coordinator
The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion recently appointed Christa Cobb to serve as the State System’s Title IX Coordinator. In this especially vital role, Christa will be responsible for coordinating the training, reporting, convenings, and other Title IX-related activities. She will also work closely with the Office of Legal Affairs on Title IX regulatory and compliance matters. You may recall that Christa joined the State System as Assistant Vice Chancellor in August, after serving at Cheyney University for six years. We are excited to have her accept this new opportunity to reposition Title IX as part of the Office of DEI’s broader portfolio of supports for universities in building inclusive communities. Christa can be reached at email@example.com.
Quarterly Quote — Food for thought...
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Dr. Maya Angelou, Poet Laureate
In this Issue
PA-ADOPT: Four System Schools Close
- Keepers of the Flame Awards
DEI Summit Sponsor Spotlight - PSECU
Members Achieve More
- FDI Corner
- Title IX
By Loretta MacAlpine
While the State System has been able to freeze tuition for four years, textbook prices are often beyond what many of the students our universities serve can pay — in particular, Pell-eligible students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of textbooks has risen 88% between 2006 and 2016 and, nationally, 65% of students declined to purchase a textbook in 2020 because of cost. 1
Through a consortium established in 2021, four State System universities are collaborating to make textbooks more affordable by creating Open Educational Resources (OER) or open electronic textbooks. With $918,000 in funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education Open Textbook Pilot Program, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Design of Open Textbooks (PA-ADOPT) is removing the financial barrier to obtaining these educational materials, helping to lower the overall cost of students’ education.
PA-ADOPT participants are faculty members at West Chester, Cheyney, Kutztown, and Millersville universities. Marc Drumm, M.Ed., Senior Instructional Designer in the West Chester University Office of Digital Learning and Innovation is the principal investigator responsible for project management.
The eTextbooks produced under this grant are required to cover STEM-H (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health) and high-enrollment writing courses since the ability to write in a clear and organized manner is critical to the communication of scientific knowledge.
“We estimate that the PA-ADOPT project could save students approximately $400 per year,” which would cover one introductory and one advanced STEM-H course, notes Drumm. Drumm created WCU’s eTextbook Initiative in 2017, through which he and the university’s other instructional designers teach faculty how to create high-quality electronic textbooks for their courses. He modified that training for PA-ADOPT’s first cohort of faculty, who began via Zoom instruction in fall 2021. Now a cohort of eight, the faculty have gone through writing, peer review, copy editing, and will have their eTextbooks ready by the end of February 2023.
The PA-ADOPT eTextbooks will be open license, allowing other schools to use the digital books and other faculty to adapt or modify the eTextbooks and re-release them. Drumm will track usage statistics on the publications produced through PA-ADOPT: how they’re used, what books they replace, cost savings to students. The partner universities share responsibilities, including cultivating faculty to participate. In addition to training and best practices for eTextbook creation, West Chester handles copyediting through its Word Works program that uses trained graduate students in the English M.A. or publishing certificate programs.
By the end of the grant (August 31, 2024), Drumm expects that the three cohorts of faculty will exceed the original proposal to publish 24 eTextbooks. “We’re aiming for 28.” The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) awarded West Chester University $918,000 for PA-ADOPT.
1 Source: United States Public Interest Research Group
The 2022 PASSHE DEI Summit theme was “What does it mean to belong? Cultivating relationships and centering equity in our communities.” As we explored the question, “What Does It Mean to Belong?” Students, faculty, and staff were invited to share real stories of belonging from across Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
#UBELONGPASSHE is an opportunity to share ‘What It Means to Belong’ and to foster a sense of belonging by honoring the dignity of every person.
DEI Summit Student Committee Stars
Name: Alexis Gish (She/Her)
Institution: Pennsylvania Western University at Edinboro Campus
Classification/Major: Senior/International Early Education & Philanthropy Nonprofit Management
“What Does It Mean to Belong?“
“Belonging, to me, is the result of feeling welcome to exist as you are, to be authentically embraced”
Name: Wren Genua (He/they)
Institution: Slippery Rock University
Classification/Major: Junior/Social Work
“What Does It Mean to Belong?“
“To me, belonging means existing in a space in which I feel safe. It means I am not afraid of what my peers will do or say, and I am accepted for who I am in that space.”
The Planning Committee of the 2022 DEI Summit, in collaboration with the State System’s Chief Diversity Officers, proposed an inaugural award ceremony to highlight the contributions of State System employees and students for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their communities.
This award is called PASSHE’s Keepers of Flame. Keepers of the Flame are people who embody a commitment to creating and promoting diverse and inclusive environments that cultivate a sense of belonging. Their work is always striving to improve the conditions in and around the university and to address historical inequities. Keepers of the Flame can be students, staff, faculty, administrators, or community members. They are members of the university that inspire others, engage in collaboration, and enact positive change.
For the inaugural year, we recognized “Foundation Builders” at each of the 14 campuses. Foundation Builders are employees (past or present), alums, or community stakeholders who are longstanding contributors to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the university. Their work has contributed to the solid foundation that undergirds and motivates DEI work at their campuses. Each campus nominated one person for this award under the leadership of the CDO.
Recipient: Maxine Coleman
University/Campus: Cheyney University
Cheyney State College Alumna
Recipient: Dr. Irvin Wright
University/Campus: Commonwealth Bloomsburg University
Retired Associate Dean of Academic Achievement
Recipient: Daniel Elby
University/Campus: Commonwealth Lock Haven University
Alumnus and Council of Trustee member
Recipient: Dr. Lynn Pifer
University/Campus: Commonwealth Mansfield University
Professor of English and World Languages
Recipient: Mr. Wayne Bolt
University/Campus: East Stroudsburg University
Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast Committee Member;
Prince Hall Endowment Scholarship Founding Member;
Prince Hall Annual Educational Scholarship Golf Classic Founding Member and current Chair
Recipient: Debra Evans Smith
University/Campus: Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Alumna and current member of several commissions and councils
Recipient: Barbara Taliaferro
University/Campus: Kutztown University
Retired Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion;
Associate VP of Diversity and Inclusion;
Assistant to the President for Diversity;
Coordinator of Minority Affairs
Recipient: Dr. Rita Smith-Wade-El (posthumously)
University/Campus: Millersville University
Retired Professor of Psychology;
Director Millersville African American Studies Minor;
Founder of Black Culture Celebration and MU RSWE Intercultural Center;
Advisor for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Recipient: Mr. Alan James
University/Campus: Pennwest California
Retired Dean of Student Development and Services
Recipient: Dr. Brenda Dede
University/Campus: Pennwest Clarion
Administrative Emeritus; Associate VP for Academic Affairs
Recipient: Dr. Frank G. Pogue
University/Campus: Pennwest Edinboro
Recipient: Ms. Diane Jefferson
University/Campus: Shippensburg University
Alum and Director of Multicultural Student Affairs
Recipient: Keshia Booker
University/Campus: Slippery Rock University
Assistant Director for Multicultural Development
Recipient: Dr. Jim Trotman
University/Campus: West Chester University
Professor Emeritus of English
To create a financial institution where collective resources benefit all members. That was the vision of the 22 ordinary people who made an extraordinary commitment to each other in 1934, when they founded PSECU.
Our founders were state employees, struggling against low wages and a high cost of living. They were living paycheck to paycheck. Banks didn’t want to lend them money, and loan sharks were charging as much as 40% interest. They had little control over their financial lives.
So, they decided to take action. Though they didn’t have much, they were focused on providing better lives for their families. Together, they pooled $90 in assets and began what is now the largest credit union in Pennsylvania. Almost 90 years strong, the credit union today has over $8 billion in assets and more than half a million members living across the state, country, and world.
So, what is PSECU?
We’re a not-for-profit credit union offering a full line of financial products and services, from checking and savings accounts to home and auto loans. We offer a convenient anytime, anywhere digital-first banking model, so you can manage your money at the time and place that works for you. What makes us different?
We’re not like big banks. We’re here to help our Members Achieve More, not line the pockets of corporate stockholders.
We do this by offering low- or no-fee products and services designed with our members in mind. We provide financial wellness resources at no cost to members and nonmembers alike. And we give back to our community in honor of the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.”
Although we’ve grown significantly over the years, we continue to uphold our founders’ legacy. Then and now, we want to help you live better, whether that means saving more money, paying down debt, or achieving your financial goals.
How can I join?
There are many paths to PSECU membership. One of those is being a student, faculty, or staff member at one of the universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. You can join PSECU today and bring us with you wherever you go. We welcome you to be a part of our story.
Thank you to our generous sponsors for their support of the 2022 DEI Summit!
By Dr. Joseph Croskey, Executive Director, FDI
Plans Underway for the 9th Annual Douglass Debates
We are excited to announce the date and topic area for the 9th Annual Douglass Debates. The topic for the spring will be environmental justice. We are in the process of formalizing the debate resolution as well as an information packet to help you and your team prepare for competition—be on the lookout in the upcoming month. The debate is tentatively scheduled as a virtual and in-person event for April 11 and 12. Please feel free to put this in your syllabus and in your student group activities.
I remember my first time as a debate coach – last year. I was working with the team to help them conceive their argument. We got a little more help from an experienced debate coach, RJ Green. Somehow, I missed something about having the team create arguments from both perspectives. Our teams scrambled and thought of those arguments and put them together. The team didn’t win overall, but they were glad that they competed, and they did see some success. They learned quite a bit about the topic and themselves.
This year the FDI fellows will have the opportunity to participate in monthly professional development events. These will be held virtually on the first Friday of each month so that FDI Scholars can meet other faculty fellows who are on different campuses. This will provide opportunities for learning, collaboration, and support. It may also afford these new scholars with the opportunity to develop relationships that lead to more interdisciplinary research that advances scholarship and innovative curriculum.
There is evidence that debate helps students grow in several ways. Some of those include developing innovative thinking and creative problem-solving skills. You could see this in the different way teams conceived and presented their arguments. They had to synthesize information from different areas and their life experience. Students acquired practice in public speaking and responding under stress. There was that and more.
The FDI Scholars is one effective program that our institutions can leverage to achieve their strategic priorities.
Let’s hear it from the student’s perspective. Khyla Brooks, Dakota Curran, Charlie Allison, Jeniah Allen, Nydirah Torrence and other competitors shared the following sentiments: “It was a cool experience.”
“I learned to write more professionally. It was a challenge to craft a six-minute argument that was persuasive and compelling.”
“The cross examination helped me to think on my feet.”
“It helped me learn how to work as a teammate. Taught me about partnership. I didn’t have to do everything. We could combine our strengths while working together.”
“I really enjoyed the debates, and it helped me to gain more knowledge on how to do debates. I understand more about CRT, and its effects inside the classroom. It was a great experience, and I'd love to do it again.”
“Participating in the Douglass Debates was an experience that gave me the chance to utilize my love for public speaking and meeting new people! The debate was a wonderful chance for all of the participants to meet each other and learn from each other. I loved the fact that I got to educate and debate about a topic as relevant as the Critical Race Theory because it also provided me with new ideas about our society that I can implement in more aspects of my life. Thank you so much for everything!”We hope you’re motivated to participate in the Douglass Debates this academic year. We look forward to having new coaches, teams, and judges. The new participants will get training and participate in a community of coaches/practice where Storm Heeter, RJ Green and others will share tips and have discussions about argumentation, debate, and the topic of environmental justice.
- West Chester held their Annual DeBaptiste/Douglass Lecture on Oct. 13 and Senator Andy Dinniman delivered a fantastic talk about how to build the beloved community.
- Slippery Rock hosted a Frederick Douglass Now performance by Roger Guenveur Smith on Nov. 6.
Dr. Jane Brown:
Behavior, Conduct, Title IX and Students with Autism (By Christa Cobb)
Title IX Retreat 08/30/22 - 09/01/22
Dr. Jane Brown from the College Autism Spectrum gave an insightful presentation on Behavior, Conduct, Title IX and Students with Autism during the hybrid Title IX Retreat for Title IX Coordinators, Title IX Deputies, PASSHE Legal Counsel, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Dr. Brown’s presentation began by defining neurodiversity as a way of thinking about the neurological conditions (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and Dyslexia) as variations from the typical population, rather than a disability. She challenged us to examine the social model of disability that says disability is caused by the way society is organized vs the medical model of disability which says people are disabled by their impairments or differences. As we continue to advance DEI for all students, we must accept neurodiversity as a way of life, be flexible in the way we interact with others, and implement accommodations.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides equal access and reasonable accommodations based on the level of functional impairment and impairment of in major life activity. Unlike where public K-12 schools are required to conduct a manifestation determination when there is a risk of serious disciplinary action, college students with disabilities are not protected against conduct/disciplinary charges for manifestation behavior. If a student violates the institutional code of conduct policies, they are to be treated like any other individual in that situation. Dr. Brown provided guidance on how our institutions can provide meaningful support to students:
- Clear Behavioral Requirements
- Behavioral standards & expectations must be explicit
- Student & family need to understand because this is different from high school
- Standards are not subject to accommodation
- Make sure student understands the rules and the consequences for breaking them
- Conduct Boards and Hearings
- Accommodate the Process
- Train Judicial Board
- Use a trained advocate/”interpreter”
- Notification on all hearing letters
- In order to ease them out, bring them in
- Demonstrate you “get” the student
- Develop a structure and set routines with the parents
- Let parents know that this is college, and the rules are different than high school
- Specific Title IX Training for Students with Autism
- Autism training and resources for Campus & Public Safety Officers
- Students With Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel
- The Parent's Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Parties, Dorms and Social Norms: A Crash Course in Safe Living for Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum