Reflections on the SMTI/ASCN Workshop on Diversity and Inclusion

Inese Berzina-Pitcher
Western Michigan University
Inese Berzina-Pitcher
published Jul 13, 2017

Last month in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) we organized SMTI/ASCN Workshop on Diversity and Inclusion.

One of the major objectives of the workshop was to advance a dialog on diversity and inclusion in undergraduate STEM education between practitioners transforming institutions and researchers who are studying systemic change at higher education institutions.

The workshop featured case studies of institutions that are making progress on increasing diversity and inclusion on their campuses. These case studies were used to stimulate small group discussion amongst all participants on what is working or not on their campuses. In addition, small group discussion by ASCN working groups also were offered.

With a great interest we read reflections offered by the workshop participants and in turn decided to share reflections of the ASCN leaders involved in organizing the workshop.

Charles Henderson
Western Michigan University

One of my big takeaways from the recent ASCN/SMTI meeting is the importance of relationships in creating change and our simultaneous lack of attention to the importance of relationships in creating change. We all know implicitly that a change leader will be more effective if she has previously built strong relationships with relevant stakeholders. Yet, we do not have good ways to measure the quality of relationships in a change initiative, our theories and models of change typically only focus on structural issues, and we infrequently discuss how to address issues of inequity that can arise since personal relationships are often strengthened through homophily.

Thus, one of my charges for ASCN moving forward is to work toward better articulating the role of personal relationships in change efforts. This is relevant for all five working groups. For example, Group 1 (Theory) can highlight change theories that are relationship-based and think about how to incorporate relationships into theory. Group 2 (Cost/Benefit) can think about the costs and benefits of forging and maintaining personal relationships. Group 3 (Leaders) can more clearly articulate the role of relationships and relationship skills for a change leader. Group 4 (Measurement) can develop mechanisms to measure and document relationships. Group 5 (Equity) can focus on how individuals and systems can re-examine their beliefs and practices to develop personal relationships that promote rather than degrade equity.

Andrea Beach
Western Michigan University

I was struck by the themes that ran across the case and working group discussions: the need to shift the language of equity and inclusion away from a "deficit model" of students toward a systemic, organizational commitment to serving students; the importance of actively defining excellence and diversity as necessarily interrelated, and the critical nature of relationships in achieving change goals. These are powerful themes that I think will serve as foundational ideas supporting the work ASCN does to build a strong focus on equity and inclusion.

Linda Slakey
University of Massachusetts-Amherst

From the point of view of building the network I found the case study mode of working together with another community to be very rich, although I think we have room for improvement both in assuring it offers enough to the people who presented their work, and enough opportunity for other participants to share their findings. Meeting jointly with another group also let us introduce ASCN to potential members in very concrete contexts. We added several enthusiastic members to specific working groups as a result of conversations at this meeting.

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