February 17, 2011

Faculty, Staff Become Champions of Diversity

Diversity game
Train the Champion members Gayle Musiek (left) and Deidra
Davis take part in an activity regarding privilege during last
week's meeting. Photography by Susan Griffith.

Diversity encompasses a variety of areas, from race and ethnicity to gender and age. The Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity is working to spread knowledge across campus about the various dimensions of diversity, starting with its Train the Champion program.

Train the Champion is a group of 35 faculty and staff members from across campus who are learning more about issues in diversity in eight monthly meetings, which started in January. Last week’s meeting included interactive discussions on Exploring Living In and Out of Privilege.” The program aims to foster an environment that is inclusive of diversity; assist with retention and recruitment of faculty, staff and students; encourage overall workplace satisfaction; and foster a sustained dialogue on diversity, with a specific focus on issues in higher education and at Case Western Reserve University.

The Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity hopes to not just raise awareness about diversity but also to create “champions” of diversity. “We hope to attract people to the program in a lot of different areas so if they see issues related to diversity happening, they can be a positive influence,” said Tenille Kaus, manager of faculty diversity and development.

This includes people such as Aarti Pyarti, assistant director/training and multicultural specialist in University Counseling Services, who has received diversity and social justice education for years but was interested to learn more about specific campus-related issues and how to get people more involved in the conversation.

Dan Anker, associate dean for faculty affairs and human resources in the School of Medicine, saw the same mission. “The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity sounds the trumpet, but the mission needs to be carried out in the trenches by faculty and staff,” he said. “Train the Champion will provide tools and perspective that will help make it happen.” In particular, Anker uses the tips he has learned in the two Train the Champion meetings to communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion in his office, he said.

To become a member of Train the Champion, faculty and staff members applied to the program. Gladys Haddad, professor of American studies, was attracted to the program because she believed in the group’s mission “to foster an environment that is inclusive of dimensions of diversity,” she said. Haddad’s positions as professor, member of the Social Justice Institute Leadership Team and radio program host on WRUW give her ample space to share the knowledge she gains during Train the Champion seminars.

Diversity lunch
The lunchtime sessions provide opportunities for colleagues
such as (from left) Me'Lani Joseph, Kendra Svilar and Karen
Farrell to get to know each other and talk about diversity.

She, as well as other members, sees the promotion of diversity on campus as “critical” to the university’s success.

“An awareness of diversity and inclusion is as important as the awareness that everyone on campus needs to eat, to sleep, to communicate with one another, or any other basic task,” Pyarti said. “If you believe we need to do those things, then you likely believe that we need to have an understanding of diversity—because we are all doing those things with different meanings. We are all coming from different backgrounds, identities, beliefs and worldviews, but we are all coming together somehow on this common ground of our university.”

The 35 members will “graduate” in November (with a break in the summer). Seminars will be 90 minutes and include topics such as Exploring Generational Differences, Not Just Skin Deep: The Psychological Construction of Race, and Taking the "Dis" Out of Disability.

The program was modeled after Lead Diversity from the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, and is funded by the Office of the Provost. For more information on Train the Champion, go online.

Posted by: Emily Mayock, February 17, 2011 07:55 AM | News Topics:

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