Along with science, literature and foreign language, first-year students at UW-Madison will have an opportunity to also study inclusion, diversity and equity through an inclusion program to launch Fall 2017.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank approved full-funding from her office for the Our Wisconsin programs. The workshops will engage students in conversations about identities, and go further in depth of the advantages and disadvantages of various groups, according to Our Wisconsin Student Coordinator Katrina Morrison.
“The main point is to show students that we can all be of different identities and come from all these different backgrounds and still coexist,” Morrison said.
Students will get an idea of the workshops in the summer at Student Orientation, Advising and Registration, where will they will learn about Our Wisconsin inclusion framework. Then, within the first two weeks of classes, full workshops will be offered in campus residence halls. It will not be formally required, but will be framed as an expectation.
The group sessions will be led by two student-facilitators, along with one faculty or staff member, but will focus on discussions among participants.
“We're really interested in the people in the room sharing their stories and experiences with each other because that's what’s going to be most impactful,” Morrison said. “It's not going to be lecture-based at all, it's going to be all about conversation.”
Morrison proposed framework for mandatory diversity training while she served as an Associated Students of Madison intern in the winter of 2015, after UW BlackOut suggested a similar program for the UW System. It was approved by UW-Madison administration for a pilot run in Fall 2016, which tested the program with residents of Sellery, Cole, Leopold and Sullivan residence halls.
Participants of the pilot program completed evaluations before and after their sessions. The Our Wisconsin team used the feedback to gauge the effectiveness of the program, and the results were “incredibly promising,” according to Morrison. She said the chancellor thought so as well, and seemed excited to get the program started.
The pilot Our Wisconsin program was split into two workshops that equated to four and a half hours, but will be one three-hour session in the fall. Morrison said the topics discussed will remain the same. She said she hopes these needed conversations will transform the campus climate.
“The goal is inclusion and acceptance for all people, regardless of how they may identify,” Morrison said. “I want this school to be a place for everyone—not just those with privileged identities.”