Campus News

Diversity Liaisons Program aims to foster inclusivity, acceptance in classrooms

The office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer and the Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff created the Diversity Liaisons Program that will provide a hands-on approach to offering more opportunities for campus leaders to actively engage matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, and implement best practices in the classroom and beyond.

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As part of their continued effort to facilitate acceptance and inclusiveness in the UW-Madison community, campus administrators are accepting applications for a program in which select faculty members advise others on best practices for creating a welcoming classroom environment.

The Diversity Liaison Program — created by the office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer and the Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff — will provide a hands-on approach to offering more opportunities for campus leaders to “actively engage matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, and implement best practices in the classroom and beyond,” according to Mary Carr Lee, the communications director for the chief diversity officer.

Lee said the selected faculty members will be tasked with designing workshops to help other UW-Madison faculty members create a welcoming campus climate by increasing inclusive communication skills and cross-cultural competency, as well as by heightening awareness “of aspects of diversity that can detract from students’ success and access to an inclusive learning environment.”

“What is learned and what is developed as best practices would be then shared in a number of different venues,” Lee said. “I see Diversity Liaisons having workshops where interested faculty or instructional staff can come in and learn about best practices and how they can take them into their classrooms.”

According to Lee, DLP addresses goals outlined in both the university’s Diversity Framework regarding staff demonstration of their commitment to inclusivity. It also aligns with the 2016 Faculty Senate and academic staff resolutions that commit faculty “to participating in ongoing professional development experiences related to fostering a greater sense of cultural awareness and inclusion.”

The program is accepting applications from faculty through Oct. 15. Eligible applicants must have the rank of associate or full Professor, and instructional staff looking to apply must have at least five years of work experience in their role. Lee said ideally, the chosen Diversity Liaisons would serve for three years in order to ensure the refinement of the developed practices.

“It’s a really important point that this program, once it starts, will continue to grow in the refinement of the initiatives developed, and we’re really hoping to keep that refinement going as the process is engaged,” Lee said.

According to Lee, the three to five Diversity Liaisons will be announced later this fall. Liaisons will be chosen by the Office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer with support from the Learning Communities for Institutional Change and Excellence staff.

Associated Students of Madison Chair Katrina Morrison said this effort is a start at promoting inclusivity, but not an ultimate solution to improving conditions for marginalized students in the classroom.

“This sounds like a good start, and I’m glad that it’s clear the university recognizes marginalized students have a harmful experience in the classroom,” Morrison said. “I do hope that it doesn’t end here and that the administration and faculty alike continue to do more to make the classroom a more inclusive place.”

The program is then set to begin piloting the curriculum with workshops beginning in spring 2018.

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