Igniting action: Institute's facilitators will enhance, lead meaningful campus DEI work

For three years, the Inclusion and Equity Institute has worked with area nonprofits, governmental entities and businesses to offer workshops, consultations and professional development centered on advancing an organization's inclusion and equity commitments.

The institute has expanded its offerings and now serves as an umbrella for similar work being done on campus with facilitators leading educational offerings for alumni, faculty and staff members and, eventually, students. This includes workshops as well as unit or college work on deepening inclusion and equity commitments through knowledge and action.

Jesse Bernal, chief of staff to the president and vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said the program expansion to the campus community aligns with the strategic direction of Reach Higher 2025.

"The institute is one of many resources available to the university and community to continue to advance its understanding of inclusion and equity," Bernal said. "Important work is being done by partners and within units across the university. This local work must continue. The intention of the institute is to provide common experiences and framing for universitywide learning."

dark blue on left side fading to light blue; Inspiring Transforming and Igniting Action
The Inclusion and Equity Institute offers workshops for campus units or colleges that want to deepen their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion work.
Image credit - courtesy photo

Takeelia Garrett, student ombuds, serves as one of the institute's facilitators. Garrett has led presentations on microaggressions, implicit bias and a general introduction to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work. She said the workshops are a two-way conversation.

"Just as much as we are teaching, we are also gaining from others," Garrett said. "The examples that are shared during sessions make you think about things that you may not have thought of before, and that enriches the presentation and discussion."

Marlene Kowalski-Braun, associate vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said the catalyst for the institute was past employer-inclusive recruiting conferences, a partnership between the Division of Inclusion and Equity and the Career Center. 

"There are a lot of organizations in the area where one person is responsible for doing the equity work," she said. "This was a way for the university to serve the community and offer space for shared learning around an organization's social justice path."

That led to building what Kowalski-Braun called a "rich tapestry" of faculty and staff members and several community leaders who are passionate and committed to facilitating dynamic spaces for learning. She said the facilitators bring knowledge and humility to the space, leaving room for each person to show up as teacher and learner.

Programs offered for the campus community include Queer and Trans 101; Anti-Racism, White Consciousness; and Speak Up! Campus Climate Concerns, among others. Custom workshops are available. 

Chastity Bailey-Fakhoury, associate professor and program coordinator of educational foundations, has facilitated workshops and said she enjoys contributing to expanding a "community of equity-minded people." Bailey-Fakhoury has led presentations on equity leadership and creating inclusive spaces, among others. She hopes faculty and staff see these presentations as a way to move beyond one's comfort zone.

"I hope that the campus community gains a desire to move out of one’s comfort zones, to interrogate one’s identities, and to continuously connect self to systems, structures, histories and the converse," she said. "Ultimately, my hope is that people will be ignited to act in ways that are courageous, justice and liberating." 

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