Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Dont Call It 'Training'

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Dont Call It 'Training'

Article excerpt

Diversity training takes on many forms depending upon where it is implemented, yet, given demographic shifts and globalization, an understanding of basic diversity and inclusion principles seems increasingly necessary. In higher education, which does not have the kind of top-down governance structures of business and government, even the term "diversity training" has to be adjusted to fit the academy.

"We don't really call it training because we've done a lot of planning with faculty on this, and we've been told, at least at Berkeley, that faculty don't resonate as much with the idea of being ?trained,'" says Dr. Amy Scharf, director of faculty and departmental diversity initiatives in the Division of Equity & Inclusion at the University of California, Berkeley. "So we don't actually call it training, very intentionally. We call it dialogue." Dr. Archie Ervin, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and vice president for institute diversity at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says that he prefers the term "diversity education" over "diversity training."

"What we've done is engage faculty from the perspective that, if we can help them become more consciously aware of the unconscious factors that often impact their behaviors, which is decision-making, they make better decisions, and the decisions are more equitable in terms of impact," says Ervin. "That's a case study for the importance of education."

At the University of Oregon (UO), Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president for equity and inclusion, says that diversity training is termed empowerment and professional development.

"Training is really a term that doesn't really reflect the scope and the nature of what it is that universities (are) trying to do these days, especially at places like the University of Oregon. So we see efforts to empower faculty and help them develop professionally. I think when you use the word ?training,' folks think of it as remedial."

Alex-Assensoh says empowerment and professional development at UO aims to help faculty have a common understanding of the principles necessary to be "excellent" in the classroom, in student engagement, and in community engagement.

Dr. Taffyc Benson Clayton, the inaugural vice president and associate provost in the Office of Inclusion and Diversity at Auburn University, terms what is known as diversity training as diversity education and organizational learning.

Clayton previously served as the chief diversity officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University.

"Diversity education and organizational learning I think is a really important and I think a far more interesting way of approaching this matter of how it is we help our faculty, staff and students develop the kinds of diversity and inclusion competencies that we'd like to see them have," she says.

Keys to success

Clayton outlines a few principles she believes are key for any diversity training program on a college campus, noting that diversity programming that includes bringing in a national thought leader and involves faculty in breakout sessions can be effective.

"I do find that the models that work are these high-quality, topic-focused formats, seminar formats, featuring the thought leader, lectures, and the action and strategy component," says Clayton, "that really works well."

At Berkeley, Scharf says she believes "it's really valuable" to have classroom diversity training sessions "led by other faculty. That's turned out to be very meaningful to people. Our faculty who run them are not all ?diversity trainer' faculty. They're from a lot of different departments."

Scharf adds that, for instance, one of the Berkeley faculty members selected to lead a diversity training session happens to be a biologist studying the rainforest.

"He goes in and he says, ?I'm not an expert. I'm just a faculty member like you trying to work on these issues. …

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