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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - September 2019

By Mary Jane Chew

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity workshops explore complex issues

A new program is helping the campus community discuss complex diversity and social issues facing today’s students and higher education administrators.

Renee Thomas, provost fellow for diversity and inclusion, and director of the Black Cultural Center, is facilitating “Tabletop Exercises in Diversity,” a 75-minute workshop for faculty and staff. The program was developed by PaperClip Communications.

The initiative is aligned with the following goals established by the provost’s advisory committee on diversity and inclusion:

  • To educate leaders to foster diversity and inclusion. Educate department heads and supervisors to create work settings that are conducive to recruiting and retaining talented individuals from underrepresented groups.
  • To provide co-curricular activities in support of the diversity and inclusion mission.

The exercises involve reviewing comprehensive case studies — based on real-life scenarios — and then having meaningful discussion about the scenarios. The purpose of each exercise is to raise awareness, facilitate active discussion and to better prepare participants to handle difficult campus situations that may occur.

Case study/exercise topics may include:

  • Microaggressions during class: The impact of what’s said and not said.
  • Confronting a peer’s inappropriate comment.
  • Making assumptions: A need for cultural competence.

Thomas held the inaugural workshop with the College of Pharmacy earlier this year and says the results were encouraging. Participants stated the content was meaningful and the activities were impactful. 100% of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed the session was a relevant contribution to promoting diversity and inclusion at Purdue.

“Discussions about diversity and inclusion can be difficult, especially around race, gender and sexual orientation,” said Marie Martin-Murphy, director of diversity initiatives for the College of Pharmacy. “So much anxiety, shame, fear and vulnerability are involved. However, if we really want to move the needle forward on diversity and inclusion, we need to start learning how to make these difficult conversations easier and more effective. This workshop can better prepare participants to have these challenging conversations.”

Next steps include moving to full-scale implementation with academic colleges and departments and sharing the diversity and inclusion value proposition during the on-boarding process with newly hired employees.

“As we work together to shift our society to be even more inclusive, it is important to remember that diversity is a topic that pertains to everyone,” said Thomas.

Interested individuals should contact Renee Thomas at rathomas@purdue.edu or 765-494-3091 to schedule a workshop.

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