Dean’s 2018-2019 Update #1 – Committed to Diversity & Inclusion

 A group of ECS students pose on the fourth floor of Link Hall

September 4, 2018

Dear Students,

I hope your semester is off to a great start! Last week, I updated you on our College’s progress in key areas, including our new undergraduate advising model and advising staff, our new faculty, and our upcoming Office of Inclusive Excellence. If you missed it, or would like to reread it, you can find it here. This update is devoted entirely to diversity and inclusion.

Last April, I committed to six initial steps that we would take as a College related to these crucial topics. My message last week indicated that I’d be addressing just the first commitment, but instead I will update you on all six. These initial steps will be augmented by long-term sustainable practices to be coordinated by the Office of Inclusive Excellence.

Commitment #1 – “The Dean’s Leadership Team, comprised of all administrators in the College, will participate in mandatory diversity training before the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.”

On June 13, my leadership team received training by the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services. We participated in three interactive sessions on diversity, culture, and moving the College forward. On June 27, we received training from the Counseling Center and the Office of Student Assistance on responding to students in times of distress and connecting to appropriate resources.

On May 18, our leadership team dedicated a portion of our alumni advisory board meeting to discuss College goals for diversity and inclusion.

A number of faculty and staff members also attended individual trainings to augment their skills in these areas, including attending a May 30 workshop on implicit bias in the engineering classroom.

Faculty teaching ECS 101 – Introduction to Engineering and Computer Science received training on inclusive teaching, which was organized through the Center for Faculty Leadership and Professional Development. This training focused on identities, intergroup relationships, and social context in the learning environment. It also included strategies for creating an inclusive learning climate and responding to challenging teaching moments. This training will be available to all faculty in the College.

Additionally, a team participated in the National Inclusive Excellence Leadership Academy (NIXLA), offered by Dr. Damon Williams to inform the structures and programming of our Office of Inclusive Excellence. Through this intensive five-week course, we joined fifty other colleges and universities in discussion and learning about best practices. Our team included me, Senior Associate Dean Julie Hasenwinkel, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Programs Gurdip Singh, the David G. Edelstein Professor for Broadening Participation and Department Chair of the EECS Department Jae Oh, Director of Career Services Karen Davis, and our community partner Peter Willner, Director of the InterFaith Works’ El-Hindi Center for Dialogue in Syracuse.

Commitment #2 – “The College’s day-long faculty retreat in August 2018 will be devoted to diversity training, with follow-up training annually.”

On August 20, Dr. Damon Williams and Dr. Sallye McKee facilitated the Strategic Diversity Leadership Institute at our day-long faculty retreat. Williams and McKee led us through a day of active-learning about the what and why of inclusive excellence and shared effective practices to inform our steps for how we will strive for an integrated approach towards diversity, equity, and excellence. Ninety-eight people attended, including 87 percent of our full-time faculty, as well as staff members of the Dean’s Leadership Team and the Diversity Council. Additional staff and guests joined us for dinner.

Our commitment to inclusive excellence was affirmed by the Chancellor and by discussions with Provost Wheatly, new interim Chief Diversity Officer Keith Alford, new Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence Martha Diede, the Director of InterFaith Works’ El-Hindi Center for Dialogue Pete Willner, and by College leaders (including myself) who attended NIXLA. We also heard reflections from Drew Jacobson, the College’s student representative to the undergraduate Student Association, who participated in the retreat.

I shared our first inclusive excellence “prototype”—plans for inclusive excellence structures and programming, which we will officially launch over the next two months and which we will continue to implement and evolve in the coming years.

Commitment #3 – “Diversity education will be integrated into ECS 101, taken by all first-year students.”

This fall, 10 percent of the grade in ECS 101 will be committed to SEM 100—a five-week supplemental course. The course will center on the University’s shared reading, Trevor Noah’s ‘Born a Crime.’ One of my favorite comedians, Noah shares stories from his South African childhood. Students in SEM 100 will participate in small interdisciplinary discussion groups. They will have a chance to reflect on messages from Noah’s book and catalyze discussion of the climate on campus and in the U.S. today. Students will address diversity, inclusion, health, and wellness, and also learn skills of listening and empathy. Numerous faculty and staff across campus (including me) are being trained to serve as facilitators of SEM 100.

Commitment #4 – “We will identify ways to integrate diversity education or training into the graduate student experience.”

Last year, we piloted a professional development seminar series for 40 graduate students. It was a great success. This year, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs Gurdip Singh and Director of Research, Graduate Programs, and Corporate Relations Yoanna Ferrara are collaborating with the University’s Office of Graduate Programs to expand upon the pilot. Working with the recently established Office of Professional and Career Development in the Graduate School, a professional development seminar series for ECS graduate students began weekly presentations on August 30 that will run every fall semester. This series focuses on topics related to career services, communication skills, diversity, inclusion, equity, and workplace professionalism. In addition, the Office of Professional and Career Development personnel will hold weekly office hours in Link Hall to advise students on individualized career paths.

Commitment #5 – “The College will create a diversity council, comprised of students, faculty, and staff to provide a forum for hearing student, faculty, or staff concerns and to help set and monitor diversity actions within the College.”

This summer, we seated the faculty and staff members of a Diversity & Inclusion Council. After release of the Theta Tau videos, I received a wealth of feedback from students, faculty, and staff through open forums, office hours, meetings, small group discussions, email, and anonymous online venues. I shared this information with the Council (with identifying information redacted). The Council met twice for initial discussions regarding College climate and initiatives described herein. I invited student leaders to become members and sent invitations again last week.

We have an active search for the position of Interim Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence. We hope to hire into this position very soon. The Interim Assistant Dean will oversee the Office of Inclusive Excellence, the Strategic Inclusive Excellence Leadership Program, and other associated programming. The Diversity & Inclusion Council will serve as an advisory and engagement council to the Office and the Assistant Dean—to provide guidance, feedback, and participation with diversity, inclusion, and equity programming. Please look for details over the next several weeks.

Commitment #6 – “We will reexamine College processes for hiring and promotion with the express goal of hiring a more representative faculty and staff in our College.”

This semester, we are specifically focusing on processes for hiring since we are in year two of our aspiration to hire 50 new faculty over five years. We are actively targeting a diverse pool of qualified applicants that better represents our student body. We recently hired four new career advisors and three student success advisors, and we were successful in hiring a diverse and dynamic team of professionals.

Ongoing Updates and Contact Info

Look for my next update this October. In the meantime, here are venues to watch and contact information for feedback and comments:

Best wishes to you and Go Orange!

Dean Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg