On April 15, 2015, more than 140 faculty and staff attended UT’s first statewide diversity summit, hosted by UT’s Diversity Advisory Council, and here are some of the presentations and materials from the day’s agenda.


Dr. Noma Anderson, Chair, UT Diversity Advisory Council and Dean, College of Health Professions at the UT Health Science Center introduces UT President Joe DiPietro during the Diversity Summit in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Closed captioning available in the video player. A written transcript is provided below.

[Dr. Noma Anderson] – Good morning.

[All] – Good morning.

[Anderson] – It is really exciting to see everyone here. Let me introduce myself, I’m Noma Anderson from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and as chair of the University of Tennessee Diversity Advisory Council, the DAC, I’m excited to welcome you to UT’s first Diversity Summit. Let me tell you a little bit very briefly about the DAC. The Diversity Advisory Council is comprised of UT staff and students and faculty from across the state, representing all of the campuses and most of the institutes, and the DAC works to present strategies and recommendations to Dr. DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee. And our efforts are to make the University of Tennessee more excellent, more efficient, and more effective in advancing diversity.

I would like the members of the DAC to please stand or wave so that we can acknowledge you and the hard work that you do and my public opportunity to thank you. I’m pleased this morning to introduce Dr. Joe DiPietro. On January the 1st, 2011, Dr. DiPietro became the 25th president of the University of Tennessee. Dr. DiPietro has unequivocally and continually communicated to the DAC, to our board of trustees, to the university and to the public, his commitment to diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee, holding himself and our chancellors accountable for change. Welcome Dr. DiPietro.

[Joe DiPietro] – Good morning everyone, it’s a pleasure to be here. It’s been a little bit of a struggle to get here because of weather but we made it, that’s what counts. I don’t second guess the pilots when they said we couldn’t land in Murfreesboro, it’s not like I say to Mike, how ’bout tryin’ it. Actually, our first year in this job, one time we were flying into UT Martin, one of my favorite spots to go, and it was one of the first trips out there, and for those of you who aren’t from Tennessee and don’t know Tennessee, some of our speakers are from outside the state, it can be a little bit like Duluth, Minnesota, ’cause it can be icier out there. We came down to about a thousand feet. Our pilot said to me, he looked over and said, “Hey, it’s icy down there, we can’t raise anybody” and looked at me like, uh, you should make a decision. And I said, you know, Jim, I’m a bag back here, just get me on the ground safe. So, we got here and that’s what counts, and I’m very pleased to be here, and I plan on spending the majority of the morning with you, and I’m very interested in the group speakers that have been put together, and I have a deep-seated commitment to diversity because of my experience growing up as well as the fact that my family is multiculturally diverse, so as a result of that, it’s very, very important to me, and I see it as a very, very important thing for a great university to advocate and to have a responsibility to advance.

Being here today recognizes your willingness to know that we always have to improve in this area. You’re among about 150 advocates representing every part of our university system. Every campus and institute. And by being here today, you’re helping lay the groundwork for a statewide conversation and a call to action. And it’s about a call to action. Advancing diversity goes beyond the roles of recruiting students and hiring employees. It’s about being unified as a campus community, being together in the belief that everything we’re working to achieve is made better when enriched by the contributions of diverse faculty staff and students. People of different backgrounds, cultures, religions, points of view, abilities, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation, among other diverse characteristics add to our environment that benefits us in so many ways. Diversity among our students enhances the educational experience, exchange of ideas, and preparedness for the workforce, and actually, also, increases obviously our students multicultural competencies.

Diversity among our staff and faculty makes the outcomes of our research and discovery programs and the solutions they provide more pertinent and in a more broad fashion in their pertinency. Diversity makes our outreach efforts more effective and more broadly accepted by the diverse population that we have across the state and the nation. But more importantly, from the bottom of this man’s heart, diversity’s about people. And everyone matters, everyone has something to contribute. We aspire to be an institution that reflects our commitment to diversity and is welcoming and empowering to all. Progress is occurring at each of our campuses and institutes because of your work and efforts, but we’ll never reach our goals by looking to a handful of people or departments for solutions. We have to create a statewide conversation, and that’s what today’s about, and a sense of urgency among our entire university community if we hope to achieve big change.

In the last six to seven months for those of you who are in the system who are with us, and that’s most of the audience, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it takes to do big change when it comes to our relationship with the state and our budget and I’ve talked about an unsustainable budget model and I talked about a fellow who wrote a book, John Kotter, on Leading Change, it’s a book that was published in the nineties, and the biggest reason big change doesn’t happen is ’cause you can’t create adequate urgency, so the ability for us today to focus on this issue of advancing diversity creates some urgency across the system, to want to have outcomes that improve and grow us in this regard are very, very important if we’re gonna be successful.

We invited you here today to start that conversation, to push your thinking, to embrace your ideas, to encourage your collaboration, and ask for your help. We hope that you’ll take many things away from today, especially leaving with a deeper understanding of diversity and renewed focus on making an impact. I ask for your help raising awareness, educating others, and obviously and most importantly, leading by example, but before we get started this morning, I’d like to recognize, again, the Diversity Advisory Council, you’ve already stood, and we’ve recognized you. This group has provided me tremendous advice and insight and is very valuable to the institution. I’d also like to thank Dean Noma Anderson who’s Chair of DAC for her dedication and leadership and commitment to the DAC as well as diversity. And thank you, once again, to all of you for being here and participating, I’m grateful for your help and all that you do, it makes my job a lot easier. Thank you, and have a good day, and I’ll give it back to Dean Anderson.

Making Diversity Really Matter

University of Minnesota Duluth Chancellor Lendley Black

Closed captioning available in the video player. A written transcript is provided below.




[Noma Anderson] – Today we’re going to hear from national leaders, and we’re also, as Dr. DiPietro says, going to have a conversation, and one of the most important things and exciting things is we’re going to hear from each other. We’re going to hear about what’s happening on our campuses. We will be doing that by presentations and by posters. So, please, during the day, look at the posters, they are very, very exciting. Some of the posters are here, some of the posters are in the hall, so please take advantage of those presentations in addition to those that will be presented orally to you. Let us begin.

It is my immense pleasure to introduce the summit’s first speaker, Dr. Lindley Black, Chancellor of the University of Minnesota Duluth, to talk with us about making diversity really matter. And when you look at the program, you see Chancellor Black’s bio and I will read it with you.

Chancellor Black joined the University of Minnesota Duluth as Chancellor in August 2010. Previously he served as provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. He was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Emporia State University in Kansas for nine years. He earned his doctorate in theater at the University of Kansas. When you look at the University of Minnesota Duluth campus climate webpage, Chancellor Black writes, “when I joined the University of Minnesota Duluth community in August of 2010, I announced a major campus initiative. To create an inclusive campus climate for all who learn and work at UMD. Hence, one of the goals of UMD’s strategic plan is to create a positive and inclusive campus climate for all by advancing equity, diversity, and social justice.” Welcome Chancellor Black.

[Lendley Black] – Thank you very much, Dean Anderson, I appreciate the kind introduction. Well, good morning everyone.

[All] – Good morning.

[Black] – It’s always a good morning when I can come back to my home state, ’cause I’m gonna add a little bit to the bio that you read. I’ve not lived in Tennessee for many years now, but it still feels like home when I return. My home is now in Minnesota as you heard. On the slide, there is a picture of a double rainbow over Lake Superior, this is just a few miles up the shore from our campus, does not look like Martin, Tennessee. Although Martin is awfully nice, and I’ll mention that in a minute.

We are one of five campuses in the University of Minnesota system, so our system does share some characteristics with Tennessee, UMD has approximately 11,200 students, about 1800 faculty and staff. We are located on the banks of Lake Superior, the greatest of the Great Lakes, ten percent of the Earth’s fresh water is located in Lake Superior. Duluth is a fairly progressive community of about 86,000 and part of the metropolitan area around 200,000. We are a tourist community 12 months out of the year, if you can believe that, with a strong focus on higher education. Within our metropolitan area, we have two public universities, a private college, and a number of community colleges and tribal colleges. Dean Anderson quoted from our campus change website and that is the URL that’s on the slide here, so if you want to learn more about us, I encourage you to visit and see what all we’re up to.

As you heard, prior to moving to Duluth, I was provost and academic Vice President at Kennesaw State not too far from here, and then spent many years in Kansas after I received my doctorate at the University of Kansas, I worked there and at Emporia State University which is a regional university in Kansas. We did a lot of diversity work there, and I continued that diversity work at Kennesaw State. But what’s not listed in my bio is that yes, I have a doctorate from University of Kansas, I have a master’s from University of Connecticut, but I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Tennessee Martin.

I didn’t change that on the written bio, I wanted to announce that personally. I did grow up in Memphis, my wife grew up in Nashville. Let’s hear it for Memphis. My wife grew up in Nashville, we met as students at UTM, and this summer we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. There was a focus on student success at UMT, UMD, UTM. Too many initials, UTM, that has served my personal life well as well as my professional life, but in all seriousness, I received an outstanding liberal arts education at Martin and it served me extremely well when I went from Martin to U-Conn, as a graduate student, I was working with graduate students who were from Princeton and Brown and SMU and I certainly was able to hold my own as a result of the education I got at UTM, so I’m very much thankful for that.

As I mentioned, I grew up in Memphis, a very segregated neighborhood in what was then called East Memphis, now East Memphis goes way beyond where I grew up. I was in Overton High School in Memphis in the late 1960’s, when Memphis became one of the focal points of the civil rights movement. I remember very clearly the Sanitation Workers Strike and all the events that led up to Dr. Martin Luther King coming to Memphis to march and to stand up for those who were disadvantaged. This was also obviously when Dr. King was murdered and when his death resulted in violence, and not only in Memphis, but in many major cities across the country, and these events and the violence and the aftermath, I think, really changed these cities in significant ways, some for the better, some not. But certainly we were different. You could feel a difference after those events. And while growing up in Memphis, I vividly remember both the subtle as well as the very glaring manifestations of segregation, of misunderstanding, of ignorance, and of power.

Now, I grew up in a very loving and modest family. My parents were from very hardworking farm families in west Tennessee and northern Mississippi. My father was wounded in World War II and had to stop working in his thirties, and he passed away when he was 49, so financially, we struggled. My mother had to go to work at a fairly young age. This was in the early sixties at this point, my dad did not want her to go to work because women weren’t supposed to do that sort of thing, according to him, but she had no choice. I started throwing the morning paper, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as soon as I was old enough. I think I started at 14. Would ride my bicycle and get up early. Now, a young person riding their bicycle in Memphis at five o’clock in the morning just doesn’t sound right, but at that time, that’s what we did. But in spite of these life challenges, I grew up in a family with many advantages or privileges.

Now, it’s always been a little difficult for me to talk about privilege because I certainly did not feel privileged growing up. We were not privileged in our economic status, certainly. We were not privileged in elite education. Neither of my parents went to college. I have an older sister and she went to Martin, she’s three years older than I am so she was already there, and that was one of the reasons I followed her there. But my parents were still smart and wise people, but they were not highly educated. It took me many years to sort of understand and come to terms with this whole aspect of privilege and advantages that I had simply because of the color of my skin, because I was healthy, I’m able-bodied I’m male, I’m heterosexual. Some might consider being Protestant an advantage. Of course, right now I’m a Lutheran in Minnesota, you don’t get much more majority than that. During my first month at UMD, I spoke openly on campus about my privilege, and I told a version of this story to a group of people my first week or so at UMD.

Now, this was uncomfortable in some ways for me and for others because the whole topic of white privilege has taken on so many negatives and confrontations over the past several years that it’s risky to even open the discussion. However, as Allan Johnson states in his book, Privilege, Power, and Difference, you can’t deal with a problem if you don’t name it. Once you name it, you can think about it, you can write about it, you can make sense of it, by seeing how it’s connected to other things that explain it and point towards solutions. Hence, Johnson advocates the use of the words like privilege, racism, sexism, antisemitism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, dominance, subordination, oppression, patriarchy. In order to work towards solving the challenges we all have with difference and better understanding those who have been disadvantaged.

If diversity is going to really matter, it must begin with us and we must all come to terms with the challenges that each of us has and continues to have with difference. We have to know individually where we are in our own biases and what steps we are willing to take to advance to the next level of intercultural understanding and engagement with people who are different from us. I began this morning by telling you something about myself because we need to understand the individual stories that we all work with. If we better understand where people come from and how they come to be where they are now, we are better able to connect with them and work with them on a deeper level. It’s much harder to hate someone or to display unacceptable behavior towards someone if you understand who they really are.

Now, in some ways I credit my theater and humanities studies which began at Martin, and also the research and teaching I did as a faculty member, my research area was Russian theater and drama when I was a full-time faculty member. But I credit this academic perspective with some of my interest in diversity, because in those areas we were centered on in the humanities and the theater, we’re very much centered on understanding what it’s like to be human. And also, especially in the theater, trying to get under the skin of people who are very different from ourselves. I could argue that English and theater majors connect with diversity in significant ways. I could also argue they make the best college administrators.

When I became Chancellor at UMD in August of 2010, the campus needed a stronger focus on diversity, and it needed a process to confront and move beyond a racist incident that had occurred the previous spring. In the spring of 2010, two white female students laughed at and made racist comments about two African-American students on the UMD campus in their residence hall, and posted, they posted the insulting and racist comments on Facebook. So, you know what happens, it spread very quickly, became an extremely controversial issue on campus. Now, from what I could tell, the campus had responded well and appropriately and really supported the African-American students. However, the incident left a residue of hurt feelings and a desire to improve the overall climate on campus. During my first weeks at UMD, I felt the urgency that your president just talked about, the immediacy, we had a reason to act quickly. And there was some energy and the time was right, I thought, to take a big step.

We organized a two day training on creating an inclusive campus climate, an inclusive campus climate, with faculty, staff, administrators, and students. I began the training by talking about my own experiences and commitment to diversity, and this training was facilitated by Kathy Obear and Jamie Washington from the Social Justice Training Institute. From this effort, we developed the UMD Campus Climate Initiative that consisted of a renewed campus commitment and a new structure that would facilitate sustainable change and to me, it was critical that we had sustainable change, a commitment to sustainable change. I was not interested in talking about diversity, I wasn’t interested in just having a generic diversity program. We needed something that could be impactful and sustainable.

Campus Commitment

The objective of this campus climate work was captured in our campus commitment. Ah, there we go. Sometimes I have the tendency as others do to point this toward the screen, like it’s gonna do it some good. We got it right over here. We developed a campus commitment that provided an intellectual foundation for the work we were going to do. And this is sort of in three segments and I won’t read it all to you, but I’ll go over it quickly and then we can come back to it later, or, like I said, you can go to our website and read about it in more detail. But part of the purpose was an integration. An integration of equity, diversity, inclusion, social justice. We also were focusing on campus life, the totality of campus life, the academic areas, as well as our student life areas. And we wanted to be intentional in the work. We wanted to create an environment that is both physically and psychologically safe. It’s that safety factor that I find concerns our students the most. And as we do a variety of focus groups with our students who have been disadvantaged, what I hear over and over again is them say, I need to feel safe.

We also wanted to eliminate both structural and interpersonal barriers that would limit the opportunities of our students, that would keep them from reaching their full potential. We also said in this commitment statement that we recognize and understand that people have been marginalized, and to us, it was important to admit that. And sometimes we dance around these issues too much. Instead of coming out and saying, we got a problem here, folks. And it’s not the problems we have at Duluth, they’re different from what I saw in Georgia and Kansas and Tennessee growing up. And they’re similar at the same time, but it’s not about just UMD being a bad place, ’cause it’s not, it’s a great place, it’s a wonderful place. But the more we can admit we have some problems, we have issues that needed to be addressed, the greater progress we felt we could make. What we did was to create a structure that had three primary parts. A Campus Climate Leadership Team, a Campus Change Team, and 18 Unit Change Teams throughout the campus. And these Unit Change Teams are centered in the departments in the various units, colleges, and schools. We have five colleges and schools at UMD. Pretty traditional in terms of structure. We have a liberal arts college, we have science and engineering, we have fine arts, we have a school of business and we have a college of education in human service professions.

These three teams were the primary structure of our campus change. The Leadership Team consists of me, my vice chancellors, and other senior level administrators who are our primary campus climate leaders. The purpose of this Leadership Team, first and foremost, is to put diversity and campus change at the forefront of my senior leadership team. Bless you. We meet usually about twice a month. And so it forces us for an hour, hour and a half, to be totally consumed by campus climate, at least twice a month. We provide the primary leadership, we look at proposals, we prioritize recommendations, and we allocate resources to support the campus change initiatives. We also facilitate discussions of mission, core values, goals, et cetera.

The Campus Change Team consists of representatives from our schools and colleges and from other administrative units. We have, in addition to Academic Affairs, we have a division we call Student Life, called Student Affairs in some places, and then our third major unit is Finance and Operations. Throughout all of those areas, we have representatives on the Campus Change Team. We also have representatives from our diversity commission, we have a commission for women, a disabilities commission, and a GLBTQA commission. The purpose of this group is to foster development of equity and diversity action plans in the various departments and units. They also research plans with respect to their feasibility, their cost, and their timeliness. And through this process, the Campus Change Team often makes recommendations to the Leadership Team in terms of where they think we need to put our focus and our resources. They also build and maintain relationships with the other campus units, campus populations, and the general community.

The Unit Change Teams, as I said earlier, are located in our five colleges and schools. We also have representation from our, we do have a school of medicine at UMD as well as a college of pharmacy. There’s representation from student life and other administrative units, and then we have some specialized components or specialized Unit Change Teams. We have one in American Indian science and engineering. Since, given where we’re located, and our population, we have a strong American Indian focus. And we have very strong science engineering and engineering programs at UMD, so that’s a key area. We have a Social Justice Action Coalition and the College of Education and Human Service Professions, and then we also have representation from the Student Association, which is our student government group at UMD.

The Unit Change Teams identify and develop promising practices in order to create a welcoming and inclusive campus at the unit level. And again, the more we can drive this work down to the unit level, the more successful we tend to be. They recommend actions to the Campus Change Team as appropriate. But in collaboration with their unit leadership, oftentimes they will take action simply on their own, which we encourage. So, we don’t force them up a hierarchy in order to get things done. This structure is, it’s really more bottom up than top down, but there’s probably a better way to describe it, it’s almost like a web, because people are connected in different places, and the Unit Change Teams may make a recommendation directly to the Leadership Team or the Campus Change Team or vice versa.

In order for our campus change work to be really meaningful and to be lasting, we felt we needed a structure like this to facilitate difficult conversations, to initiate changes that make a positive difference, and to hold each other accountable, because one thing that happens when you step out with work like this is that people expect results, as they should, and they want to and they should, hold you accountable for your actions. Now, another process that occurred during my first year at UMD was the development of a new strategic plan for our campus, so during the 2010-2011 academic year, we conducted a year long systematic planning process to clarify our mission, to identify a campus vision, core values, and goals.

A New Strategic Plan

This new plan was a product of an inclusive and collaborative process involving the entire campus as well as the Duluth community and business leaders. Through this process, we developed six major goals that have helped focus our efforts on key priorities over the past few years. Now, you’ve already heard reference to goal two, and this is goal two, as a way to renew our commitment to equity and diversity, to put a high priority on creating an environment that is welcoming and respectful. Goal two says, create a positive and inclusive campus climate for all by advancing equity, diversity, and social justice, and I do read that one to you because this has become sort of the bedrock of our diversity work. And since it is now a strategic goal for the institution, it’s another way to hold us accountable, it’s another way to put the diversity work in the forefront of what we’re about.

Goal two has eight or nine action steps underneath it, as ways to really get into the nitty-gritty of what needs to happen on campus. Action steps deal with things like increasing the numbers of underrepresented students, faculty, and staff, it includes establishing definitions of equity, diversity, and social justice, which we have now done. It also includes things like increasing the intercultural competencies of our faculty, staff, and students, so we put a lot of focus on training at UMD.

Another thing that’s an action step here, underneath this goal, is that campus leadership in the evaluations of campus leaders on a yearly basis, they have to speak to the ways in which they address goal two in their work. We started with my leadership team, and so each year during the annual reviews, one of the questions they have to answer is, what have you done to help advance goal two? Well, now, we have that spread throughout the institution, so all staff members now at UMD have this question on their annual review, because it’s a way we felt, again, to hold people accountable, and make sure we were not just paying lip service to this work.

So, what’s been the result of all this so far? Well, many of the goal two action steps have been completed or are in progress. And indeed, our numbers of students and faculty and staff of color are increasing, although they’re still relatively small. Over the past five years, students of color have increased from 7.1 percent of the total population to 10.4 percent, and then we have another about 3 percent of international students, faculty of color have increased from 12.5 to 14.5, and staff of color have increased from approximately 4 percent to 7 percent. So, still small numbers, but we’re trending in the right direction and we’ll continue to make this a high priority.

So, what else have we done? The conversations on campus, the challenging conversations, the courageous conversations on campus, have increased markedly, and part of what this work has done is it has allowed us to delve into these issues in much more meaningful ways. But we realize that creating an inclusive campus is an ongoing process, and we continue to be committed to helping the campus heal from disappointing actions. While at the same time, not letting setbacks overshadow all the many accomplishments. Because we continue to have incidents that occur, in spite of our best efforts. But now, at least, we’re better positioned to address them, to deal with them, and to move forward.

But there has been progress, and actually, as a result of our accomplishments, we were proud to receive the University of Minnesota Unit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Equity and Diversity. I’m gonna pause for a second, so that you don’t have to just listen to me talk. I’m gonna show you a video that was created when we won this award, and you’ll be able to see some of our people on campus speak about diversity and the work that we’re doing. All I have to do is get the video started.

Univ. of Minnesota Outstanding Award for Equity & Diversity

[Voiceover] – The following is a production of the University of Minnesota. The Outstanding Unit Award honors transformational equity and diversity work by a University of Minnesota campus, college, department, or unit.

[Voiceover] – We are very honored to receive this award. It’s a recognition of our collective campus commitment to improve the campus climate, an initiative we call Campus Change. It was very important that the outcomes of the Campus Change initiative align with the comprehensive strategic plan. We didn’t want to have one set of campus change outcomes outside the main campus priorities and recommendations. Our success in creating an inclusive campus environment depends on the commitment and engagement of each of us from the grassroots to the institutional leadership level, as the re-imagining diversity statement says, we must all lead from where we are.

[Voiceover] – Everybody needs to ask, what do I think first, and put their own ideas out there because if it’s just always coming to a few people, our answers remain limited and we might not find that critical answer we’re really seeking to find.

[Voiceover] – The work of diversity and equity never ends. We have new students coming in, new faculty. We do have a responsibility to prepare students to live and work in diverse communities. One of my responsibilities is to work with the student organizations. It is critical that we engage students perspectives and voices, hear their concerns and ideas as we continue to move forward improving the campus climate. The students gave us many recommendations on how to improve the campus climate. It is important that we honor and value their experiences, but at the same time, as an institution, we have a responsibility to improve the campus climate.

[Voiceover] – I’m a part of a lot of different organizations here on campus that work with diversity and making the campus more inclusive.

[Voiceover] – I grew up as an openly gay individual, and I was treated unfairly and unjust for a long time, and I wanna make sure that students here at UMD are not treated that way.

[Voiceover] – I would like the university to stand behind its mission of making this campus more inclusive for all staff, faculty, and students.

[Voiceover] – Something needs to be done, so we get community support, and really further ourselves in becoming a multicultural organization.

[Voiceover] – The Diversity Commission, for the last two years, has been working on an initiative to integrate equity, diversity, and social justice throughout the curriculum campus-wide. A big part of that effort has been creating a resource site for faculty and staff to use in their curricular and cocurricular offerings, on how can I not only integrate diverse perspectives into my content area, but also how can I, from a process perspective, reach a diverse student learner.

[Voiceover] – Our intended outcome is cultural self-awareness for faculty, staff, students, and administrators, so that they can become interculturally effective.

[Voiceover] – One of the things that we’ve tried to do is really understand what these big words mean, you know, what does it mean to be a diverse campus, what does it mean to have diverse practice in a classroom, what does it mean to have a diverse body of students and faculty here?

[ Dr. Black, in video] – Memphis, Tennessee is my hometown. I was in high school during the 1960’s, and remember very clearly the night that Dr. King was killed, and the aftermath of the civil rights movement. This has shaped me quite profoundly and has certainly influenced my feelings and my commitment to equity and diversity. In terms of challenges, we are well aware that, unfortunately, many of our students face difficulties on a day-to-day basis in areas of equity and diversity. We’re also well aware that this is difficult work that is oftentimes messy, oftentimes takes many years to address, and that unfortunately, not everyone is supportive of this valuable work. Here at the University of Minnesota Duluth, we are truly honored to receive this equity and diversity award. At the same time, we are well aware that there is much work to be done.

Parting words

[ Dr. Black continues] – Okay, so that gives you a little more sense of who we are and some of the things that we’re doing. Just want to highlight a few of the other initiatives we’ve had related to this, and then I’ll open it up to questions or discussion. One of the things we did fairly early on was to develop a Climate Response Team because what we were finding was that when things happen on campus, when there’s a racial incident where there’s something that is detrimental to the kind of campus climate we want, oftentimes we’re too slow in responding, and so we now have a team of five people that, as soon as something occurs, they’re on it, and this includes people from Student Life, from academics, from external affairs, from the police department. And they are now able to respond very quickly. They also regularly review and analyze how incidents were handled, and provide recommendations on future improvements. We’ve also established a number of campus climate assessments, both surveys as well as focus groups, and as I mentioned earlier, we find that the focus groups with students are sometimes the richer way to assess how we’re doing.

We also are part of the University of Minnesota Diversity Predoctoral Fellows Program, which has helped in the diversification of our faculty. This program takes individuals from underrepresented groups who are working on their dissertations, they’re in the final stages of their doctorates, we bring them to campus, we have them teach, we have them continue their research at UMD, and then after they finish their dissertations, we’re hoping they’ll stay with us, and we’ve had a couple stay with us, but even those who don’t stay, it’s a way to immediately diversify the faculty, because you’re bringing people in right away that work with our students and diversify the faculty. We create a faculty fellow for intercultural initiatives, and this is a faculty member who’s on a reassignment in my office, it’s a cabinet level position to help us facilitate the campus climate initiatives. This person is also leading an intercultural leadership development training program, an ILD program, that’s now been offered to eight cohorts and over 140 faculty, staff, and administrators.

We have a number of new academic majors and minors that focus on diversity, and we have a new major in cultural entrepreneurship. We have now both bachelor and master’s degrees in Tribal Administration and Governance. We work these out in collaborations with the American Indian tribes in our area but also in the Dakotas. This is the only program like it in the country, so we have people coming to us from Oklahoma, Arizona, to pursue this work. We have an Ojibwe elementary school education program. Ojibwe is the native language of the American Indians from our area, and our newest program is a minor in GLBTQ studies.

Those are some of the things we’ve done academically. We’ve taken some actions, also, around the campus to improve the climate. We now have gender-neutral bathrooms mandated in all of our new buildings and we’re renovating the buildings we have and we have a new program that starts this fall in gender-inclusive housing. We’re proud of the progress we’re making but fully realize the challenges we have to face, and as I share this with you this morning, I did not share it from a standpoint of claiming to be the expert, I’m just a chancellor who’s been involved in this work for a long time. It’s important to me, I think we’ve done some good things, we’ve also made some mistakes, so I don’t present it to you as the ideal model. But I think it is a good model for us and if in some ways it can help you develop your own model, then perhaps we’ll be successful. But, you know, as I think about the challenges that we face and the setbacks that we’ve had from time to time, I’m reminded of what Dr. King said about the difficulties of achieving racial equality and freedom.

When he spoke to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on April the 7th, 1957. Dr. King, in this speech, uses a Judeo-Christian metaphor that has universal applications, and I think also applies to the diversity work we’re discussing today. In that speech, Dr. King was talking about freedom in Ghana when he said, “Freedom never comes easy. “It comes through hard work, and it comes through toil. “It comes through hours of despair and disappointment.” Dr. King goes on to say, “There is no crown without a cross. “I wish we could get to Easter without going to Good Friday, “but history tells us we gotta go by Good Friday “before we can get to Easter. “That is the long story of freedom, isn’t it?” He says, “Before you get to Canaan, “you’ve got a Red Sea to confront. “You have a hardened heart of a Pharaoh to confront. “You have the prodigious hilltops of evil “in the wilderness to confront, “and even when you get to the Promised Land, “you have giants in the land.” Dr. King then said, “Even though the giants are there, “we can possess the land, because we’ve got “the internal fiber to stand up amid anything “we have to face.”

Today as we focus on how we can make diversity really matter, I encourage us all to use our internal fiber to combat challenges to our goals and aspirations, to find what binds us together and not be deterred by our differences, and to work in concert together to rid our campuses and our communities of actions that threaten the inclusive, welcoming, and safe environments that everyone deserves. Thank you.

What Does Diversity Really Mean?

Bridget Kelly, Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago

Closed captioning available in the video player. A written transcript is provided below.




[Dr. Noma Anderson] – Thank you Chancellor Black for getting us off to such a dynamic beginning to our Diversity Summit. As you refer to your program, you see the topics and the speakers who will be coming before us to share their concepts and to lead our dialogue. I’m happy that each speaker is being introduced by a member of the DAC. So we will now go to our second presentation. Dr. Wilbert.

[Dr. Janet Wilbert] – Thank you Noma. As you’ll see in your program our next speaker is Dr. Bridget Kelly. And she’ll be speaking to us on what diversity really means. Dr. Kelly is no stranger to Tennessee. She got her undergraduate degree from UT Knoxville. And her Masters and Doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland in Social Foundations of Education. Currently Dr. Kelly is the Associate Professor in the school of Education at Loyola University in Chicago, where she specializes in intergroup dialogue, multicultural competence, and underrepresented populations in higher education. Previously she was an Associate Professor in the Student Development Administration program at Seattle University. And an Assistant professor in the University of Vermont Higher Education Student Affairs Graduate Preparation Program. Please welcome Dr. Kelly.

[Dr. Bridget Kelly] – Good morning everyone. What a wonderful way to begin. Thank you so much for my other Tennessee colleague, undergraduate colleague. It’s finding all of the Tennessee people all across the country is wonderful. I’m looking forward to spending a little bit of time with you this morning. And get right into it.

My topic today is “What Does Diversity Mean?” And I’m gonna talk to you about examining diversity and the mythical norm. So the focus of my talk is really what we mean by diversity and education and higher education. I argue that we mean anyone that is different from what I and other scholars have labeled the mythical norm. So I’m gonna define the mythical norm, and I’m gonna ask you to reorient yourself away from a mythical norm of normal college students, faculty, administrators, and staff. And then another group of diverse faculty, college students, administrators, and staff. If this myth is examined and interrogated alongside the label of diversity, we can move more toward equitable campuses, policies, practices, for all identities, beliefs, and bodies.

First I’m gonna share a little bit about what diversity means to me. After I just give you that brief introduction. Much like my colleague I’ll talk a little bit about myself before I get into some other research I’ve done. And we’ll define diversity as anyone again who differs from the mythical norm. And just define what the mythical norm is. Specifically look at it within higher education. And share a study I conducted that shows how faculty experienced the mythical norm in their work with students. To further break down the mythical norm I will also show a video of students back in Chicago and then conclude with what hopefully you can take away back to your individual campus or unit, from our time together this morning.

Diversity is defined as difference. It is how I see myself, how others see me, and experiences that inform how I interpret the world. Diversity for me is situated in Higher Education. I have my parents here today because I was raised and grew up around college campuses ever since I can remember. And I’ve set in my whole adult life in Higher Education. So it is really how I’ve come to look at diversity.

I began as I said at the University of Tennessee, as an undergraduate. I will try to make this bigger than any of the other institutions I’ve been associated with to give homage to where I started and to where I am today. I see lots of orange around the room. So this was a school where as a woman, when I was there, women could not have sorority houses on campus because they were considered brothels. I’m happy to see that after I graduated that that’s no longer the case. But that was certainly my experience in terms of diversity when I was there.

I went on to the University of Maryland as a graduate student. Beg your pardon? Go Terps, alright! Yeah I have my red on from my Terps. Got two degrees there so I figured I could wear the red for the two degrees instead of the one. So while I was at the University of Maryland as a graduate student I fractured my ankle. And I was temporarily disabled. I was late to classes. I could not get access to many buildings because the campus was not accessible for students with disabilities. So that was a little bit about my experience of diversity at Maryland.

At Virginia Tech, any Hokies in the room here? One alright, a couple of people. At Virginia Tech I did a post doctorate work, much like my colleague just shared. I was one of the dissertation people that came to the University to finish my dissertation and then they hoped I would stay. I didn’t stay, but I still had a great experience there. So I did post doctorate on a campus with an active plantation on campus that they would give tours to. And I also could not find places that people who looked like me to worship, and community, and share my belief system. So that was a little bit about my experience of diversity at Virginia Tech.

I took my first faculty position at the University of Vermont. Anybody from that small state up north east? And much sharing with Minnesota the coldness so it’s good to be here in Tennessee today. So I was at Vermont at a time when students were fighting for civil unions, for gay and lesbian couples. It was there that I first began to call my husband my partner. In a way to recognize my heterosexual privilege and so that’s a little bit about the diversity I experienced at Vermont.

I became Associate Professor at Seattle University, anybody from that? See I’ve been all over the country. Anybody from that part of the country here today? And the pacific north west is a beautiful part of the country. So at Seattle University which is a Jesuit Catholic University, it was where I continued to be the only faculty of color in my program. The only black woman in my department. Until I became Associate Professor at Loyola University Chicago, where I am now. In a program with two openly gay white men. Two women of color, besides myself. One a Latina, and one Chinese. So I am just swimming in diversity in terms of where I am now in Chicago, which I love.

So my question to you, after sharing a little bit of that, is a rhetorical question. Am I different? Am I diverse? Again, it depends on how I see myself, how others see me, and what experiences I have had, that inform how I interpret the world.

What Diversity Means to Me

As a student I was defined as different. To answer that rhetorical question. I was defined as diverse at every single one of those institutions that I just shared. And I wanna give you some statistics from a national perspective in terms of diversity, but include myself in here. From my race, I am part of the 15% of African Americans enrolled in college nationwide. As a female, I am one of 71% of females who were enrolled in college right after high school in this country. In terms of my religious identity, I am part of 31% of college students who label themselves religious. From a socioeconomic perspective I am part of 79% of college students who earn bachelors degrees in the U.S. and come from middle to upper class income bracket. From a gender prospective, I am cisgender. Which means I am part of 65% of college students who did not report experiencing physical, verbal, and sexual violence by students, teachers, and staff, at their colleges due to their their gender identity expression. As 35% of transgender students and nationwide in colleges have. As a U.S. citizen I am part of 96% of students nationwide who are U.S. citizens. As a heterosexual, I am part of 85% of college students who identify as heterosexual. And finally in terms of my ability status, I am part of 89% of college students who identify as temporarily mind and able bodied persons.

I’ll ask the rhetorical question again. Am I diverse? Am I different? In the context of college students today, I am different than a majority of college students in only two areas of my identity. My race and my religion. The label of diversity yet, though is set in opposition to the mythical norm, as I’ll define in a minute, does not work in my case. The label of diversity was put on me but it is not exactly accurate as I will try to argue this morning. And it’s not accurate, I also would argue for the case of many students, faculty, staff, and administrators on our college campuses. Yet, that is still what we mean when we say diversity.

So the mythical norm, even with the statistics I just shared, where I align with most college students in all but just two aspects of my identity. As I said in every institution I have participated in I am considered different or diverse from the dominant majority. The aspects of my identity that I just walked you through are derived from the mythical norm. And that is from a colleague Beverly Daniel Tatum. Who many may know from, “Why Are All The Black Kids “Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” Or her former position as President of Spelman College. So I give homage to her and use this term from her. Mythical, if you look it up on your phones or in Wikipedia, is defined as idealized, especially with reference to the past. And fictitious, so if we think of.

I have small kids so I’ve just seen Cinderella and you know mythical figures. Fictitious figures, but also figures that we idealize. My daughter immediately wanted to go to the Disney store and get the blue dress that Cinderella was wearing in the movie. So they’re idealized, they’re fictitious, but they’re something that we also want to see. Norm, is defined, if you look it up, as typical, convention, standard, usual. Scholar Beverly Daniel Tatum put these two concepts together for society and asked, “What is idealized in society?” Especially if we think about historically as our colleague just shared, and we think about the 1960’s and before that and the Civil Right’s movement, the Women’s movement, American with Disabilities Act. What stories have we told about ourselves since early U.S. history? Then she combined that fictional story, the mythical, with what we tell about the U.S. with the word ‘norm’. Who do we think of when we think of the usual typical college student, administrator, chancellor, faculty member?

The Mythical Norm

White, male, cisgender, is what I think. A U.S. citizen, heterosexual, English as the first language, Christian, upper class, older individuals without a disability. So norm meaning what we’ve come to expect as typical, as standard, as par for the course. Particularly in Higher Education. So Tatum used these seven categories of identity to label the mythical norm. Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, disability status, and age. I humbly added three additional categories to her description. Gender, nationality, and language. Each of these aspects of identity hold power in U.S. society and in U.S. colleges and Universities. In some respects, again when we say diversity, we mean anyone that defines themselves different from this mythical norm. A student, a faculty member, administrator who is those categories listed at the bottom of the screen, represent the mythical norm.

The mythical norm as I’ve defined it is a myth. Because it is again the ideal based on history from a historical prospective. Or who we have come to expect who we see as usual, standard, typical, in higher education. It is also fictional because it no longer defines the norm in higher education. Rates of student of color, of females, of non U.S. students, of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender students are growing at rates faster than the mythical norm. It’s also a myth again because someone like me, who aligns with seven of the categories you see on that screen, is still considered diverse, is still not granted power in higher education, even though I’m a very close proximity to that mythical norm. Thus it’s not a matter of just changing how we label people in higher education. Some as diverse, some as not. We have to decouple the power and privilege from the mythical norm. And decouple oppression from the label and experience of people we label as diverse.

Again, to understand how we must decouple power and privilege from that norm. It’s first necessary to examine how when one identifies with the norm. They accrue certain unearned benefits. Power. Advantages. Access to resources. So persons who closely resemble the mythical norm have unearned power and privilege. So unearned benefits that come from association with the mythical norm are. I like to watch movies so indulge me for a little bit. Seeing yourself in media, about college and higher education. I asked my students to do an assignment that I’ll be getting next week. Where they have to look at different college students depictions in media. And I always have a few students who say “Oh, but it’s really, “I wanna talk to about American Indians.” To borrow from my colleague. “I’m looking for a film about college “with American Indian students. “I’m looking for a movie, “college about transgender students.” It’s really hard for me to find those depictions.

Normal, standard, practices. Unearned power to see yourself in that. In some of those pictures you see on your screen. See yourself in relationships that are normal and standard. You get unearned advantage of being able as that picture shows. My students love that picture. Of being able to fall asleep in a class without it being attributed to your maleness or your race. In the case of that student on your screen.

Access to resources such as study groups. Look at the other picture on your screen. Where you’re assumed to be smart and a contributing member. Because people don’t ask me maybe to be on study groups if I’m a woman in the stem fields, because I’m not assumed to be smart. Or like I could be a contributing member. Which in my case would be correct, because that’s not my field. So juxtapose that to being labeled diverse is to experience maybe, depending on your context, limitations, discrimination, oppression, restrictions. And thinking about, even if the mythical norm is not true. Even if someone just has one, or some of the privileged identities that we went over in the mythical norm. One might still experience negative experiences that can come with being labeled diverse.

Thus we must first define diversity as it is currently used in higher education. Decouple it from oppression and then rid higher education of policies, practices, and attitudes that associate people who are different in any way from the mythical norm as my colleague just said as subordinate. Limited access is something that you may experience if you are diverse as well as a lack of resources. So to be labeled and experience higher education as diverse is to be oppressed by the onslaught of questions and stereotypes about why your hair looks and feels different from those in the mythical norm. It is to be. I get some amen’s from that in the corner. It is to be limited in your career options because you are considered not intelligent. Or a college athlete because you look like a black male.


To be diverse is to be restricted from certain colleges and universities because your high school did not have advance placement courses or it was not in a “good enough” address. To experience college as diverse may mean a lack of access to admissions reserved for children of alumni. To lack financial resources to college and graduate at much lower rates than the majority of students. To experience diversity is to practice a religion that few people on your university have ever heard of. And to be criticized for joining a student organization where you feel affirmed and valued as a person not just someone who is diverse.

So to look at higher education in diversity. Again, diversity is defined as anything that is different than the mythical norm in higher education. The mythical norm holds privilege and power in higher education. Higher education was designed historically and still operates currently. Largely for students, faculty, and administrators, who most closely resemble the mythical norm. So if we’re gonna move away from that mythical norm and be labeled diverse, then we put ourselves apart from the dominant power structure in the U.S. The label of diverse in my case also can happen if you do not have enough of the identities or beliefs of the mythical norm. Or if you have them all. But you actively work to disrupt the system of power and privilege on which the myth is founded. As my colleague I think has demonstrated before me.

If you are a U.S. citizen, white, heterosexual, Christian, middle to upper class male, cisgender, temporarily able bodied and act in accordance with the dominant belief system, you will more than likely be afforded deference, respect, and legitimized authority in places that matter, such as in our colleges and universities. Conversely, the more diverse you are or different from the system of domination, such as an immigrant to the United States, a person of color, bisexual, Muslim, low socioeconomic class status, a female, transgender, or have a disability, or act in ways that subvert the system of domination, the less access to power and privilege you have in domains that matter. Such as in our colleges and universities.


So of course I’m a faculty member so we’re gonna talk a little bit about faculty this morning. To describe how the mythical norm operates on higher education I’m gonna share a qualitative study a colleague and I did with 11 faculty who teach diversity courses within higher education programs across the country. The demographics of the 11 participants consisted of seven females, four males, five white, one Asian American, one Latina, and four African Americans. Three were lesbian, one was gay, and one was a bisexual, and six identified as heterosexual. We were unable to collect data on socioeconomic class status for every participant. All were U.S. citizens, spoke English as their first language, and were temporarily able mind and bodied.

As I discuss the study I’m mostly goning to focus on sex, race, and sexual orientation. And whether the faculty held power or lacked power across these aspects of their identities. Overall we found the closer faculty worked the dominant paradigm in the mythical norm, the more power and privileged they were afforded compared to faculty who diverged from that norm. Out of the 11 faculty, three discussed tempering their power and privilege in the classroom. Of the three, two were white heterosexual males, and one was a white lesbian female. And this quote by Greg he shared. And I quote, “Students deferred power “and authority to him in class because he is the norm.” As I quote, “A person who identifies with a “great many privileged categories. “And can’t be assured that my students are “always gonna challenge me.”

Another white heterosexual man Rick, explained that he comes from a privileged background and used the classroom as a democratic space where he handed out a lot of power back to students. To make decisions about assignments, about points, about grading. Elizabeth, a white lesbian, said “It’s important “for her to locate her own privilege as a white “upper class professor. “And try really hard not to have that “overtake that classroom experience.” In addition she relayed “Students defer power to me. “They take you on faith that you are trying “to do the right thing “and then will forgive you if you screw up. “Even in ways they probably shouldn’t forgive me.” Elizabeth did not discuss any instances where her sex as a female or her sexual orientation as a lesbian effected her credibility or power in the classroom. This demonstrates that the giving and taking of power by students and faculty is complex. And not solely attributable to identities one holds.

This further supports the falsehood of the mythical norm and problems with labeling some diverse and others not. Thus for some faculty with access to the dominant power structure and the mythical norm gave power to students or were granted power by students. Other faculty experienced students taking power from them. Melanie and Michelle, two heterosexual females of color, both discussed their power and authority being challenged in the classroom. For instance, a white female student in Melanie’s class got up and left during a discussion on white privilege. Melanie said “Usually students tell me “if they have to leave early and so on. “But for some reason she just left. “So later I received an email from her “and she says to me ‘That she did not enjoy the class ‘because she didn’t feel like talking about white privilege ‘had anything to do with the diversity class.'” I felt disrespected. Also because I started to think again on my position as a woman of color teaching this class. There’s perceptions that people hold of me. And I wondered how this would have been perceived by this woman had I been maybe a white professor and a male.

Melanie described several examples of the manner in which her power and credibility were usurped in the class. Hilary, a bisexual female, shared her sexual orientation in class. And a student who had sat next to her everyday up until that point sat far away from her after that. The student later disclosed he had difficulty reconciling his religious beliefs with her sexual orientation. From that point on Hilary questioned her ability to connect with students in future classes. So though our study focused on 11 faculty, their experiences highlight how the mythical norm can negatively impact faculty lives.

Faculty participants in our study who held certain dominant identities associated with the mythical norm were afforded power. And those who held certain non dominant identities and considered diverse had power usurped in the classroom. Although nuanced in terms of faculty holding multiple dominant and subordinate identities, those who were white and male in our study experienced the most privilege in the classroom. Those who were black and female in our study experienced the least power in the classroom. Students interacted with faculty based on the mythical norm and faculty members proximity to the power it holds. Breaking away from a belief in the mythical norm will enable all faculty to be treated equitably.

Some suggestions from our study are to expose the myth. Talk about power and privilege labels such as normal, and diverse, and what they can bring. And actualize the faculty experience as one that can be held by individuals with any number of intersecting identities, beliefs, and attitudes.


In addition to seeing the mythical norm play out and faculty experiences in the classroom. I want to show you how the norm plays out for students. I gave students in my program no language I wanted them to particularly use. And was not even there. And I don’t even know how they did this. How they filmed the video. But I just asked them to talk about who they are, how they identify themselves, and what would they say to you. What would they say diversity means to them. So I want you to pay attention to the descriptors that the students used to define themselves and the answers they gave to the question of what diversity means to them. And I hope my video plays as well as my former colleague does.

[Three minute video plays over guitar music…a sequence of images of diverse students holding signs of the language they use to identify themselves]

It was good but you may not wanna see it right away again. So you see why I love my job. My students are quite amazing. So in case you didn’t get to see everything, if you’re like me I tell my students these aren’t for show. I really do have a hard time seeing visually. From the small sampling of students you can see no examples of students that represent the mythical norm. Students of color made a point to add the word American to their description. For those labeled diverse in higher education there is often an assumption, you can talk to the President of the United States, that they are not a U.S. citizen. And with citizenship comes power. In addition, for many of the students of color, they made a point to add words such as college graduate, scholar, educator. They thought it necessary to include identifiers that would get them some of the power afforded to people not labeled as diverse.

Overall, you can see the mythical norm of white U.S. citizens as being the norm of college students as false. Yet it is impacting these students who are more often than not labeled diverse based on skin color, hair texture, and other visible markers of difference from the mythical norm. These students are connected to larger movements and higher education such as Black Lives Matter, and I, Too, Am Harvard. Where college students are making racial oppression known as alive and well within the academy. Much like race, ethnicity and nationality are linked with students identifying with their cultural background and not linking themselves explicitly to U.S. in their description. These students are also labeled diverse and often mislabeled because people can not always tell someone who is Bulgarian or Peruvian for example.

Many of these students learn to give these labels and descriptors to themselves because of the barrage of questions they faced as college students. They looked or acted different enough from the mythical norm. Different enough to be labeled diverse. Words such as ‘Chicana’ and ‘brown’ are used to claim power and a space that often takes power from them. These students are connected to larger movements in higher education such as ones that seek to debunk the model minority myth of Asian students.

Descriptors such as proud and female and confident women leader, convey that these students recognize oppression, lack of access, and limitations that females and women experience in higher education. These students chose to connect strength and power to debunk the myth that females and women are weak and ashamed. Similarly, students who are persecuted for their weight and size took ownership of their bodies to reclaim some of the power that is taken from them in a sizeist. That’s hard to say. Sizeist culture. Easier to type, hard to say. No males, I want you to know. No males added qualifiers or language around power. Or size. It is not enough then for females to be the majority of students who receive college degrees at every single level of higher education. They mythical norm still negatively impacts their experience.

These students are connected to larger movements in higher education, such as the Vanderbilt case. Where two male students were convicted on multiple counts of sexual battery and aggravated rape of female students. Unlike race, ethnicity and sex and gender, one’s belief system is an aspect of identity that is often invisible. Nonetheless, when asked how they identify, many students chose to claim a salient identity of theirs involving belief and religion, spirituality or no faith. These students attend a Jesuit Catholic Institution. If you’ve not been to Chicago that is the Madonna della Strada Chapel on Loyola University Chicago campus. So these students attend a Jesuit Catholic Institution and one might assume that most students come to this University because they are Catholic. That is a myth. Most students at Loyola identify something other than Catholic. And many are Jewish, Muslim, or Atheist.

Sexuality is another invisible aspect of one’s identity. Yet it gets a lot of attention for some reason in higher education. Students acknowledge their identities as people who sometimes or always experience a same sex attraction. People who exclusively experience a different sex attraction, are people who are attracted to people of any sex or gender identity. These students are connected to larger movements on higher education such as cyber bullying. Which was brought to national attention by Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi who committed suicide after students in his residence hall privately taped him with another male student and posted it on twitter.

While there were less students who noted invisible identities they hold of ability and socioeconomic class status, student’s descriptors of these identites showed the power or disempowering effect status can have on their experience. Highlighting being able despite the label of disabled, and owning being dyslexic, show that students experience the common myth of being assumed “less than” because of their ability status. Similarly, students wrote about being on the lower to middle end of the socioeconomic class system. But no one labeled themselves as upper class. These students are connected to larger movements in higher education to make campuses accessible and inclusive for students of all ability types as well as the national call to make higher education affordable. So that low income students can access a college education. I always tell my students I went to state Universities. I believe I got a scholarship and paid about 8,000 a year to got to UT. And the tuition at Loyola is 30,000. So it’s amazing.

My students at Loyola are similar in conversation with students all across the country who experience the label of diversity as something that limits access, restricts ones movements, and limits resources. It is disempowering to be labeled and treated as diverse, and it sets them apart from the mythical norm. From those in the mythical norm. On the one hand, their answer of what diversity means as you can see on the left hand of the screen is what diversity means to them currently. They experience oppression from multiple connections to diversity. Such as being women of color, being a gay woman. They experienced diversity because of things people can see or think they see when they look at them. Such as their race and gender. And like the faculty in my study who experienced a student move away from her when she revealed that she was a bisexual. My students experienced discrimination because of invisible identities such as sexuality.

The label of diverse means students have to be vulnerable to deal with students, faculty, and administrators, thinking they are on campus to fill a quota or to help Universities report a favorable statistic about who is on their campus. Or to be included in admissions websites, so Universities can appear diverse. On the other hand, students answered the question on the right side of the screen about what diversity means to them by expressing what they hoped or wished diversity would mean in the future. Students want space on campus to share their stories. They want those in powers to hear their voice and use it to make the campus a place of equal opportunity and empowerment. They wish the campus to be one that is courageous and compassionate in their love of human variance. And some, they want to dismantle the mythical norm and decouple it from power and privilege, not afforded to those thought of as diverse.

The statistics that I shared with you early on the faculty and my study, the students that you just seen, that you’ve just seen in the presentation, all give credence to the mythical norm being the perception of higher education but not the reality. When we examine what diversity means we have to do so by exploring how diverse students, faculty, and administrators, experience our campuses. We have to hear their voices and act according to our stated missions of educating everyone including those who are not part of the mythical norm. In addition we have to acknowledge that those who align more closely with the mythical norm or do not actively fight against the dominant paradigm on campus are granted unearned power and privilege on University campuses. In order for anything to be a norm it has to be widely accepted by society. And then it needs to be engrained in new members.

Beyond Guests in Someone Else’s House

The mythical norm and what is considered diverse has been widely accepted by higher education policy makers, decision makers, and leaders. The mythical norm gets engrained very easily in new members to higher education, by students when they see “Oh well, can I ask “who the person in charge is?” Who did they see when they ask who the president is. Who did they see? When they asked to see who the board of trustees are at our institutions. Who do they see? When they asked to see who the Vice Presidents are, who did they see? Deans, department chairs, full professors, who are those people on their campus?

New members are also indoctrinated into the mythical norm by who they see is assumed to be full payers of college tuition. And who is assumed to be in college on scholarship because of affirmative action. Caroline Turner is a colleague of mine that has researched diversity on campus for almost 30 years. And she wrote a seminal book entitled a “Guests in Someone Else’s House: “Students of Color on Campus.” Though she wrote it in 1994, it’s still true today. And I would argue not just for students of color, but for every student, faculty, or administrator who are labeled diverse, and experience the oppression that comes from not fitting in to the mythical norm.

In 2015 I got to hear Dr. Turner speak and she said “Guests in someone else’s house “feel that they can never relax “and put their feet up on the table. “Guests are not family whose foibles “and mistakes are tolerated. “On the contrary, guests must follow the house rules. “Such as keeping out of certain rooms, “not touching anything, leaving everything in it’s place, “and guests must always be on their best behavior. “Guests have little to no history “in the house that they occupy. “There are no photographs on the wall “that reflect their image. “Their paraphernalia, their paintings, “their sense and sounds do not appear in the house.” So I believe it is time to build new houses, new campus climates, practices, and policies, that empower all to be homeowners instead of guests in higher education.

It’s up to us as educators to remove barriers to students, faculty, and administrators, who experience diversity as being guests in someone else’s house. In order to do this we have to disrupt systems of power and privilege that uphold the mythical norm. I would like you to think about, as my students want you to think about what does diversity mean to you? What does it mean on your campus? In your department? In your unit? What did you learn from the notion of the mythical norm and it’s connection to diversity? What can you do to remove barriers for guests and empower them to be homeowners?

This work takes partners and collaborations to dismantle long standing systems of domination. Who you can identify as potential helpers? I leave you to reflect on these questions. And I’ve also included my contact information and I can give this to the powers that be here, a couple of the resources that may be helpful to you. Thank you.

Best Practices Showcase

Pathway to Professionalism in Medical Laboratory Science for African American Women

Linda Pifer, Professor, Clinical Laboratory Sciences, UT Health Science Center




Maintaining Academic Momentum for Disadvantaged Students

Eric Stokes, Assistant Director, Undergraduate Admissions, UT Knoxville

Christie Banks, Admissions Counselor, Undergraduate Admissions, UT Knoxville




High School Introduction To Engineering Systems

Travis Griffin, Director, Diversity Programs, College of Engineering, UT Knoxville




Communicating Our Diversity

Anitra Cottledge, Director of Communications, Office of Equity and Diversity, University of Minnesota

Closed captioning available in the video player. A written transcript is provided below.




[Dr. Tonja Johnson] – Good morning.

[Audience] – Good morning.

[Dr. Johnson] – My name is Tonjanita Johnson. I am Vice President for Communications and Marketing at the UT System and I am always delighted to have the opportunity to introduce a kindred spirit in the profession. I’m especially excited today to introduce our current speaker because I have heard that she is one who will continue to be in the forefront of conversations like these across the country and will be an increasing presence in the realm of higher education leadership and training. Director of Communications for the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota, Miss Anitra Cottledge previously served as Assistant Director of the University’s Women’s Center, where she was responsible for not only coordinating leadership development initiatives and educational workshops for undergraduate and graduate students, but also for coordinating communications and outreach. With research and professional interests that include race, women of color in higher education leadership, vocation and career pathways, and the uses of social media in social justice movements, among other things that you’ll see listed in your program, she has earned her Master’s Degree from the University of Minnesota in educational policy and administration. Along with being recognized as a remarkable writer and teacher, she is also an award-winning professional. Among her awards and recognitions include a 2011 Women’s Center Award from the National Women’s Studies Association, declaring her an emerging leader. Well, ladies and gentlemen, by all accounts, she has emerged. Speaking to us around the topic of communicating our diversity, Anitra Cottledge.

[Anitra Cottledge] – Technical Difficulties. Please stand by. Yeah, is this going down there? Oh, wrong one. That one. Perfect, yes. All right, thank you, VP Johnson, I mean, that was a really great introduction and now I feel the pressure to produce, to live up to having emerged all ready. I feel like I should be like my previous colleagues and say something about my connection to Tennessee. Unlike them, I have no connection to the state of Tennessee. I’m enjoying my time here, but I was born and raised in Detroit. Are there any Detroiters? Okay. Yes. Hi. My people. And I did my undergrad at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Are there any Missourians? Missou? Yes. It’s always nice to see people that I know or people from similar contexts. So, thank you to the planning committee and the DAC for putting this event together. I’ve enjoyed my opportunity to just listen to some of my colleagues and I’m happy to be with you here to talk about communicating about issues of equity and diversity. So, in our short time together, hopefully you come away with some food for thought and some useful ideas to take back to your local work environments.

I like to start off with this quote: “You cannot not communicate,” and for those of you like me who are English majors, that double negative might drive you a little nuts, but I love starting out with this quote because I think it really represents, particularly when you’re communicating about equity and diversity, both the challenges and the opportunities. It’s a little overwhelming to think about the fact that everything we do from the fact that I use my hands a lot when I talk to what I’m wearing to how I wear my hair, to my accent or lack thereof, all of that stuff communicates in some way to someone, even in action or silence communicates, but it’s also, I think, an exciting way to envision what we might do around equity and diversity communications.

So, a few, let me go back. A few goals in our time together. Normally, I do this talk in about three hours, so this was a task to squeeze this down into about 30 minutes, but hopefully we have some time to talk about the idea of a diversity brand and understand why it’s challenging to create one. I want you to come away recognizing some best practices and identify some strategies for successfully communicating about equity and diversity. And then, consider some next steps for yourself as an individual and for your unit or department around communicating around these issues.


I want to start with the idea of brand. I know some people really don’t like the word brand. It sounds very corporate. It doesn’t really reflect the very human component of what we do. I’m fine with using narrative or story. I’m not married to the word brand. I just use it as a way for us to begin our conversation. I think of a brand as communication shorthand, so all of those things that we subconsciously, and often very quickly associate with an organization, a product, an office, based on our experiences and our perceptions. I’m going to throw up a few iconic brands on screen and ask you what you automatically associate them with.

When you think of Nike or you see Nike or the Swoosh, what do you think about? Someone can just yell it out. Just do it. Right. So, just do it, sports, shoes. You have these things already in your head. The Red Cross, what do you think? Right, disaster aid, disaster relief, or on campus, sometimes you see the bloodmobile if you’re doing blood drives, so there’s The Red Cross. When you think about Apple, what do you think about? Okay, I heard laughs, so that’s all I heard about. So, computers, what was some of the laughter about? Wow, Shay, doesn’t play well with others.

Okay, I have a funny story about Apple. I mean, when I think about Apple, and I admit, I’m an Apple person, so I switched from PCs, yay. I switched from PCs about eight years ago and haven’t looked back and so I went to a mall recently and there was, in the mall, there’s both an Apple store and a Microsoft store and they’re fairly close to each other. When I think about an Apple store, I think about the sleek design, all the products have a certain look to them, very personalized customer service, and I went to the Microsoft store and it was exactly like the Apple store. I mean, there were things in the way they had designed the store and designed the experience that I immediately recognized as being sort of an Apple derivative. I don’t need to know the official mission of Apple to recognize what my experience is when I go into an Apple store, when I see it in a different context.

Starbucks, what do you think? Coffee. More laughs. I’m picking very funny brands today. So, with Starbucks, you think coffee, whether you like the coffee or not, or you might think of the fact that there seems to be one on every corner, at least, that’s how I feel about it. I just point this out to talk about we have these associations with brands, sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and that extends to when we start talking about diverstities, diversity, or diversity brands. How many of you are familiar with Starbucks’ campaign called Race Together, by a show of hands? Okay, a good amount. Starbucks, maybe mid-March of this year had a campaign where you would go into their stores and the barista would hand you your Caramel Macchiato, and it would have (hashtag)#RaceTogether. The idea behind this was to spark conversation about race and this campaign lasted for about a week and it got enormous, enormous backlash. Some of you may have heard about the backlash. The other thing that happened when you went into the Starbucks store was there was this publication called Race Together and it was full of all these statistics and questions about race.

On the back, it says, “Your race relations “reality check,” so it has these questions and you’re supposed to answer. “In the past year, I’ve been to the home “of someone of a different race, blank times. “Blank members of a different race live “on my block or apartment building. “In the past year, I have eaten a meal with “someone of a different race blank times.” As you can see from the tweets that are up here, you can Google Starbucks Race Together, snarky tweets, and those and many, many others will pop up. One guy is saying this is the worst in liberal, white liberalism. Then, there’s also some really sarcastic ones like “If only Selma had put in a Starbucks. “You know, would we be in a different place?” I think the issue is that on the one hand, there’s a logistical issue. I get my Caramel Macchiato with soy, of course, and when am I supposed to have this conversation about race with the barista? Right then? What if there’s 12 people behind me? Am I just supposed to take it and then talk with someone else? I think there was a lack of clarity about what are we supposed to do with this and as one of my other colleagues said, the problem was they wanted to talk about race without talking about racism. They just wanted you to answer these very individualized questions without you having to think about systemic issues of oppression.

Whether you like the Starbucks campaign or not, now it’s part of their brand. When Starbucks now has other conversations about diversity, we have this as a reference. Now, whether they improve upon this or not, this is just part of the brand, this is part of the conversation. Why does diversity branding matter? Excuse me. It enhances your connection or engagement with your constituents, it promotes your mission or vision that you have for your organization, it showcases your recognition or points of pride, and I do want to pause here and say I feel like we don’t do enough, usually, most institutions, most departments don’t do enough around showcasing those points of pride. We tend to be pretty reactive when it comes to diversity work. But, how do we proactively start talking about the things that we’re doing really well? It helps you create some clarity and some focus for your work, it sets you apart from the competition. Often brands, that’s sort of how they function is to talk about what makes you unique and it provides your business value, which often, people don’t think about, but it is a very important part of having a diversity brand.


Some challenges, because I think if this was that easy, we’d all be doing it and we’d all be champs at it, but it does come with some challenges, I think. In higher ed, particularly those of us who do work around equity and diversity, we have a lot of hats that we’re wearing at any given time. So, we’re doing trainings, we’re doing programs, we’re supervising people, we’re doing advocacy work, policy work, governance, the list goes on. There’s a lot going on, which keeps our work very fresh and interesting, but isn’t without its frustrations. On the day-to-day, we’re focused on those management, those management tasks that we have, those initiatives that we’re running, and that leads to a greater need for communications infrastructure and greater capacity. And, there’s little time, because of those first two reasons, for effective communication. We’re doing things kind of piecemeal, ad-hoc, on the run, we can be very focused on event marketing, which is great, but that needs to be part of a larger strategy. And there’s lack of clarity around what are our key messages and our goals, and so that also comes with building some kind of key strategy.

Some general best practices, which there’s a sheet on the table, the registration table, that delves further into all of these. I just knew I wouldn’t have time so I encourage you to pick up the sheet on the table to take with you. It has more tips about these practices I’m going to go into.

Some general best practices: Be mindful of your audience or your audiences and the methods that you use to communicate with those audiences. So, for any of us, we might be, our audiences might be students, staff, faculty, community members, alumni, donors, visitors, and so there’s a wide range of people that we’re serving at any given time so you may have one key message, but you may need to employ different methods to communicate with each of those audiences. Carefully consider your responses to biased or offensive communication. I think Chancellor Black really gave a great example of what happened at UMD and how the campus responded to something that was offensive and hurtful to a large part of its population.

And pay attention to language. Language is a tricky thing. It’s always changing. It moves very quickly. I put this photo here for a couple of reasons. This photo is part of a project called The Identity Project and the photographer, she goes around to major cities around the country doing photography and she asks people to participate, to define themselves in terms of their gender and their sexuality using anywhere from one to five words. The picture that we have here is a, someone that I’m reading as a woman, and at the bottom of the photo, it says, “Gray ace, pansexual, Afro-Latina,” and I picked this one although there are lots of them, I encourage you to go check out the project, because often, there are words that we’re really familiar with when it comes to identities and then there are words all the time that pop up that we have no clue what they mean. I had to go look up gray ace.

Gray ace is actually a word that describes an identity on the asexuality spectrum and that was a new word for me and that happens a lot where somebody introduces a word that you have no idea what that means and you may have to do some investigating or some consulting and that’s the other reason why I brought this up. I think we always need to consult about language.

There’s a colleague of mine who is American-Indian and she often gets the question, “So, should I use “American-Indian or should we use Native American? “What word is the right word?” And she talks a lot about how there really is no, between those two anyway, no right answer. She said, “Well, if you can, or if you know it, “use the tribe or the nation of the person “that you’re referring to.” American-Indian works for our campus because we have a Department of American-Indian studies so that could be one clue about how you might want to use language. But, you can consult with a lot of different folks, but the point is to be in consultation with folks and to remember that communities and individuals have always self-defined, which makes again, our work really interesting, but not without its challenges, right?

I want to spend the bulk of my time talking about four strategies for communicating our diversity and I’ll call them the four Cs just for purpose of organization.

Strategy number one: Congruence

You want to align your communications plan, your tactics, with your organizational values. So, if as an organization, you value accessiblity but you don’t offer maybe a communications document in multiple formats, you might want to think about “How do we make our communications just as accessible “as we make other things in our organization “if that’s something that’s important to us?” Congruency informs authenticity, which is a really important thing to keep in mind. That’s what the audience is looking for. They want you to be authentic and remember your audience is very, very savvy. Much like the Race Together piece, no matter what their intentions were, it was clear to a lot of people that they hadn’t maybe done some of the intentional work around maybe doing some in-house training or how to facilitate a dialogue around race in America. Your audience usually can see through and read subtexts, so keep in mind that they’re really savvy.

There’s value in communicating about areas in need of improvement. So, it’s fine to say, “You know, we recognize “that we have some issues recruiting “and retaining faculty of color.” People appreciate that. People appreciate honesty, but if every time we talk about faculty of color, you go back to, “We recognize have an issue with this,” then people are going to start to throw tomatoes at you. I mean, they want to know, “Well, what “are you going to do about that?” If you say something you have something in place. what’s the progress?

I offer that with a caveat to follow through with some action and some progress reports. People want to know and the piece here that’s on the screen is actually from a news story from our campus paper from February. Our office, the Office for Equity and Diversity launched a new Faculty of Color Retention and Recruitment Initiative and so this was a story about this particular initiative. How are we going to use this? It’s great that it’s in the paper, but when our leadership team goes to talk in different contexts about what are we doing around faculty recruitment, this is something that we can talk about, this is something that can be included in an annual report, so just be thinking about “How can I, even when things aren’t optimal, “how can I let people know about the work “that’s being done in a certain area?”

Strategy number two: creativity

This is a big one. I would encourage us all to think beyond brochures and flyers. Those are good things to have. I’m not saying go back to your office, get all of the brochures and the flyers, and burn them, because they’re good. Brochures and flyers are good, even in the age of social media. I think especially in the age of social media, to have something that people can physically hold onto and take away with them and refer to later, but it shouldn’t be the totality of your whole communications plan or strategy.

Don’t rely on visual representation, or only on visual representation. That, too, is sort of our go-to when we think about “How do we communicate about equity and diversity? “How do we represent difference?” We tend to go with race because it’s very visible, and so how can we show this in a brochure that we’re open to all sorts of people? That’s when you get Photoshop scandals and you know, staged photos where you have the staged multicultural photo where you’re like, “None of these people ever hang out. “They’re not a part of the same group. “They’ve never seen each other, there was “just a call for some people to show up and take a photo.”

Again, your audience is savvy. They can read through that. They’ll know your culture. They’re like, “Yeah, that? No. That person would never, “I’ve never even seen this person over here in the Black Student Union. What?” People know so try to think a little bit out of the box about how you want to represent that, particularly around identities that are invisible. Disability. The temptation is there to go to someone who has mobility issues or is a chair user but there’s invisible disabilities as well. What about GOBT identities? Not necessarily visible. Think about ways you can show that. Do you have a resource library? What kind of materials do you have? Being creative about how you think about how you want to visually represent something that isn’t always just a person.

Use profile stories or news stories about points of pride or your signature initiatives, much like this one. What kind of stories will be written about this summit and what will that communicate to someone who maybe didn’t come to this year’s summit but is interested in coming to next year’s summit. That might draw new people in, new partners in. Think about the ways in which you organize your space and your collaborative relationships that you have in place.

There’s a picture here, we have a little notecard that talks about guidelines for accessible meetings and events and it’s a really great resource that we share pretty broadly around campus. How do you make your meetings and your events accessible, from how you structure your PowerPoint presentation to the space itself. Is there enough room for someone who is a chair user to get up and down the aisles? When someone comes to your reception area, in your office, is the reception desk accessible for someone who’s in a chair? There’s all these things that you may want to think about.

I was just in an event and the speaker was a very fast talker and there was a participant, an audience member down in the front, and he had two interpreters that were helping him understand what was going on and there was a point where they all just gave up. Even the interpreters were like, “You’re talking so fast that we can’t keep up “with you and interpret at the same speed.” It’s one thing to offer accommodations, but also think about are people actually going to be able to still get the gist of what you want them to get even with the accommodations. Think about ways that you might show that commitment to equity and diversity.

Strategy number three: Collaboration

Collaboration, no seriously, collaboration. If you come away with nothing, collaboration is huge. I think the work that we do in higher ed is all about relationships and that extends to communications. How do you build communications partnerships? You want to develop some relationships with key stakeholders, so that could be VP Johnson as your sort of central communications office. At our institution, we have University Relations, which is our central PR, media relations office. Think about departments that you could also partner with, your Communications Studies Department, Journalism, Media Studies.

The picture that’s here is a story that ran in our alumni magazine and it’s about our multicultural and our Black Greeks. I had a meeting with the editor of the alumni magazine, and I said, “You know, as an alum of our institution, “I never see any equity and diversity-related stories. “I’m just going to go out on a limb “that other people like me, who are from diverse communities “want to see some of their stories reflected back to them.” So, I pitched her a number of idea, this being one of them and this is the one that she decided to go with for that issue, for the upcoming issue and we got great response on this from current staff and students and faculty, but also from alums who wrote in and said, “Oh my God, this was my initiating chapter, “It’s great to see someone talk about “the Greek revival on campus.” That all began with just a meeting and “Here are some ideas, can you run with it? “Do you have the capacity to run with that?”

Leverage your in-house expertise. Usually, in almost every office or every division, there’s somebody who’s secretly on the low really great with social media, is a photographer on the side, is great with design, and so how do you figure out who those people are in environments where we’re asked to do more with less, so keeping in mind you may not be able to hire an actual person, but how do you leverage that in-house expertise and identify but also create systems so that you can reward some of that expertise?

Then, work collaboratively to address issues or crises. I’m sure none of you have ever had one of these issues or crises that just pop up and take over your life, but when they do, it’s really great to be able to touch base with the partners that you’ve already cultivated; campus police, student affairs, your sexual assault office, athletics, and be able to say, “Okay this is happening, lend me your expertise “for how we might address this.” Also, partners help you proactively identify emerging issues, so if something is on the horizon, it’s great to have someone you can call and say, “Hey, I know there’s about to be a protest “over in your area, you might want to think about doing this “or we need to have a meeting to think about “what our strategy is going to be.” Definitely think about who those key partners and stakeholders are.

Check in

Last strategy is to check in. You’ve done all of these things. You’ve built the partnerships. you’ve met with media personnel. Is it working? You have to assess your strategies to see if they’re doing what you wanted them to do in the first place. That could be really quantitative. You could track number of stories placed and then differentiate how many of those stories are positive stories and how many are erroneous, not so positive stories. Again, I’m sure something none of you have any experience with at all. But positive stories, negative stories, social media followers is a popular one to track, program attendees, website hits.

There’s lots of quantitative metrics that you can track. It doesn’t have to be really complicated. Open up Excel, make some columns, fit some time in, 30 minutes or so at the end of each month, to track what’s been happening. Those are also useful things that you can use later or re-purpose in other reports or programs or things like that. It can also be really qualitative.

Maybe your issue is you feel like people don’t know enough about what your office does. I used to get that a lot when I worked in the Women’s Center. We would be at new student orientation and someone and their parent would come by and they would be like, “So, what do you do? “Why are you important?” That’s exactly the question I used to get. We actually came up with a form that went into all of our orientation packets that was called Why We Need a Women’s Center, and talked about all the things that we do and sort of our added value and that’s the way we chose to address some of that opinions about what we do and who we are and is there awareness. That could be something that you also track in terms of metrics.

You could track strategic collaborations. Collaborations, again, are super important, and help enhance what you do. Are there some new collaborations that happen as a result of a communications campaign that you have or some other work that you’re doing? Of course, policy and program changes and what role your communications played in that.

Next Steps

In review, those four Cs, being congruent with your organizational values and mission is super important. Explore creative ways to tell your diversity story. Build those relationships with collaborators. Try to factor in some time to nurture those and not just go to those folks when something has exploded, but in the sort of lulls when nothing huge or out of control is going on, because they really do enhance the way that you communicate and bring new things and perspectives to your communications.

Check in regularly to see if your communications strategies are actually meeting your goals. Is there something that you need to change midstream that you thought would work but it’s not working? Having some kind of mechanism, even if it’s really bare bones, to check in with yourself, your plan, your organization.

Then, next steps, typically when I do this, I have people in small groups if they’re sitting at tables sort of get together and talk about, “Okay, so we’ve heard all of this information, “What are we going to do with this? “How are we going to take this back to our environments?” I’ll just leave these here as questions that I would encourage you to think about as we wrap up and then also as the summit ends today, how can you take this beyond the summit? Consider a context where you might be involved in communicating about equity and diversity. It could be in your own unit or department. It could be for your institution, broadly. It could be an initiative that you’re involved in, maybe a large event like this that you’re involved in planning, or your own personal commitment. Maybe there’s an area that you feel like, “I’d really like to learn more about social media.”

I’ll have you think about two questions. Number one: What are and should be the next steps around communicating a commitment to equity and diversity? Again, what does that look like? Is that about, “I think I’d like to explore “a partnership with someone, I think I’d like “our leadership team to get some media training, “I’d like to take a training about something,” et cetera, et cetera? Then, what role can you specifically play in that work? Depending on where you’re located in the institution, that could look a lot of different ways. Sometimes, it’s as simple as there’s this book or there’s this article, I’m going to go read about Race Together, I’m going to pick up this book or take this training about graphic design. It could be lots of different things but think about something manageable and realistic that you, yourself, as an individual can do to move the work forward.

That is a very quick version of a much longer conversation, and an ongoing conversation and I know we need to have some time for questions and answers and I’m also the person that’s standing between you and lunch. I know what it is to just, “I’m hungry “and would this person just stop talking now?” So that I don’t get trampled by hungry people and there is enough time for discussion, I have left my contact information here in case you have questions and I’ll be around all day so if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them. My Twitter handle, I tweet pretty infrequently, but if you do tweet, I will respond. I want to thank you for your time and attention and that was as lot of information and I’m happy to answer whatever questions you might have. Thank you.

The Psychology of Diversity

Joe Miles, Assistant Professor of Psychology, UT Knoxville

Closed captioning available in the video player. A written transcript is provided below.




[Rickey Hall]– My name is Rickey Hall and I am the vice chancellor for diversity at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and I’m indeed pleased to be here with you all this afternoon. It is my honor to introduce our next speaker.

Dr. Joe Miles joined the University of Tennessee Knoxville faculty in 2010 as an assistant professor of counseling psychology. His research program focuses on multiculturalism and social justice with two related branches, inter-group dialogue and other group in multicultural interventions and lesbian gay and bisexual issues. He is an editorial board member of the Journal of Counseling Psychology and received the 2014 LGBT Advocate Award from the University of Tennessee Knoxville Chancellor’s Commission for LGBT people.

Dr. Miles earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He earned a master’s degree and doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Maryland College Park.

I can personally attest that Dr. Miles works to create brave spaces, spaces where students can struggle with issues of difference. He has been supportive of me, the outreach center on our campus, and most important students. So join me in welcoming Dr. Miles.

[Joe Miles] – Hello, thank you Vice Chancellor Hall for that really nice introduction. I’m really happy to be here today and I want to thank the Diversity Advisory Council for inviting me and just to have the opportunity to come and speak to you all and also to hear all the great speakers who have already spoken today and who will speak this afternoon.

I was asked to speak about the psychology of diversity which at first I thought I don’t know exactly what that is, as a psychology professor. It could be a lot of things. So I’ve kind of narrowed it down to things that are kind of in my areas of expertise that I’m going to talk about today. And so I thought to give you a little bit of background about where I’m going to be coming from as Vice Chancellor Hall said I am a counseling psychologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Our counseling psychology training program is unique among counseling psychology training programs in the country in that we have a training model that is scientist practitioner advocate. And so the advocate piece is the piece that is unique to our training program and it really emphasizes the need to address social justice issues and I’m going to talk a little bit about that today in my presentation. But we believe that we train individual and group therapists but then not all problems that people who come to see us face are intra-personal problems that we need to be able to address the context in which our clients are existing and living and growing and a lot of those contexts have racism, sexism, hetero-sexism and other forms of oppression that we need to be able to address on systemic levels. So that’s kind of where I’m coming at this talk from.

So to give you an overview, first I’m going to give a quick overview of diversity and what I think we mean by that and the campus climate research. So one of the subtitles that has been — been used in some of the materials for my talk is about the psychological dimensions that we need to consider in creating an inclusive campus climate. So I’m going to talk a little bit about what campus climate is and what some of the themes are that we know from the campus climate literature. I’m going to discuss very briefly some minority stressors that are contributing, that contribute to differential experiences of campus climate. Some of the research that I do as Vice Chancellor Hall mentioned is around LGB and somewhat T issues, transgender, but primarily LGB issues and internalized heterosexism which is a specific form of minority stressor. Other people in our department study different forms of minority stressors like microaggressions, so I’m going to talk briefly about those and how they relate to our campus climate. Then I’m going to focus a little bit more on my area of expertise which is inter-group dialogue and as a means for addressing inter-group relations on campus and developing a better campus climate and then finally I’m going to share with you some data that we have from inter-group dialogues that we’ve been running at the University of Tennessee. I’ve got some both qualitative and quantitative data that shows some of the impacts of dialogues that we’ve had over the past five years.

Diveristy in Higher Education

So in terms of diversity in higher education basically what we mean by that in psychology is social differences among people. I think that some of our speakers this morning, Dr. Kelly especially, gave a really good overview of what we — what diversity might be. I share a lot of her thoughts on that but social differences and differences among people is basically what we’re talking about.

Within both psychology and education there’s a large and growing body of literature that shows the importance of diversity in higher education. Specifically in terms of learning outcome, so things like intellectual engagement or motivation or academic skills including things like critical thinking can be tied to the amount of diversity at a school or campus and also democracy outcome. So things like civic engagement or perspective taking. Those are some other positive outcomes of diversity on campus. The benefits of diversity can be seen both in including material into our curriculum but also how to — fostering interactions among diverse individuals on a campus. And so what my argument today basically is going to be that we need to find ways to really foster meaningful engagement between individuals on our campus from diverse social identity groups including students, faculty and staff of different races, classes, genders, sexual orientations, religions, ability statuses, veteran statuses, in order to make the most of the diversity we have on our campus.

In the campus climate literature Silvia Furtado has some models of campus climate in which she includes what she calls structural diversity which is kind of the numerical representation of different groups on our campus. But there are other psychological dimensions of campus climate that we can leverage that are complimentary to structural diversity which is necessary but not sufficient in order to really make use of the resource of diversity that we have on our campuses. So the focus of my talk will be on really fostering campus climate that promotes diversity and social justice through meaningful inter-group interactions.

Campus Climate

So just quickly what I — I’ve already used the word campus climate a few times and I know that some of our other presenters did as well but to give a definition of kind of how I’m conceptualizing this, we can think of campus climate as part of the institutional context that includes community members’ attitudes, perceptions, behaviors and expectations around issues of diversity.

It’s a multidimensional construct so there’s lots of different aspects to it and it’s subject to and shaped by the policies, practices, and behaviors of those within and external to colleges and universities. So that’s kind of what we’re thinking of. It’s a fairly broad definition of campus climate but I think that the work that I’m going to be talking about fits within that context.

So the research on campus climate in the past few years there have been a couple of — there have been many studies that have published different measures of campus climate, so we might even look a little bit more concretely what some of these things might be, so we can include things like faculty support or university commitments to diversity, so do you have a diversity statement and other resources that you put behind your diversity commitment.

Race and gender based relations. This is from one particular measure by Hutchinson et all, we could say relations among other groups as well. Climate for diverse groups. So we might ask people what is the climate like for LGBT people on your campus or what is the climate like for women. Unfair treatment, so asking people about whether or not they feel that their college or university fairly treats people from different social identity groups, experiencing insensitive remarks in resources or materials, so I think that the talk we just heard about communications touches on this, as well as thinking about the ways in which people are included or excluded or represented or misrepresented in the curricula and other sources that we have.

And the last one here is fair treatment. So what we might think about by this as being a little bit different from unfair treatment is we might ask people how fairly do you think people in housing treat you or how fairly do you think people in the library treat you. So we might look at specific populations of people that work at the university and ask how fairly do you think you’re treated by these different populations.

Campus Racial Climate

One recent study found several themes in terms of campus racial climate, so I’m going to show a couple of slides here that give some themes about racial climate for different groups. So the first one here is racial climate. I’ve highlighted — or I’ve bolded a couple things here that I think are particularly relevant to what I’m going to be talking about today and that includes that when we’re talking about campus racial climate a study in 2007 found that cross race — there was a cross-race consensus by both people of color and white people that institutions don’t generally foster meaningful interactions around — around diversity and multiculturalism so students felt that there was little support from the institution in engaging in meaningful conversations across race and particularly about difficult issues like privilege and oppression. And if you think about it, we have particularly for students coming here who may be coming from places within the state or within the country that have had very little diversity that they’ve been exposed to and to expect them to come into a place that is more diverse and know how to do that is potentially problematic, so we need to as institutions give them some of their resources and skills to be able to have those interactions.

Along the same lines of race remains largely untalked about, that’s another theme, and when they ask these people in this study to talk about campus racial climate a lot of them said “you’re the first person to ask me about this.” So a lot of institutions don’t even talk about what the racial climate is like.

Campus Climate for LGBT People

In terms of the campus climate for LGBT people there was a very large scale study that was published in 2010 that looked at over 5000 students, faculty and staff from across the country and asked them about campus racial climate for LGBT individuals. What they found was that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were more likely than heterosexual people to report harassment or discrimination that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals were more likely than cisgender women and men to report harassment and discrimination.

And then not surprisingly, LGBQ and transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals reported that the campus climate was more negative than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts and it’s important to note, in all of these campus climate literatures, even though I’m breaking them down by race and sexual orientation that there is inter-sectionality in play and so LGB and trans people of color reported even worse perceptions of campus climate than white and LGB and trans people.

Campus Climate for Women

In terms of campus climate for women a qualitative study in 2010 of over 14,000 people at a single institution found that women reported institutional sexism, things including inequities in pay, feeling like there are unsafe climates in places like fraternities or other places on or near campus. Feeling like there are comments made that are unsupportive of women in particular mothers or parenting as well.

They also found that women tended to want to have deeper conversations about diversity and diversity-related programming on university campuses where the men tended to focus — feel that the focus on diversity was either sufficient or even maybe too much. So we have some evidence for a little bit of gender difference and perceptions of that. They also found that some men expressed hostility about diversity efforts or a feeling that this particular university had a liberal bias. So these are some of the things to be thinking about as we’re trying to address our campus climate.

So to pull out some themes from all of these different areas of literature on campus climate Harper and Hurtado who were specifically talking about racial campus climate, but I think that these themes that they pull out are relevant to any sort of campus climate that we’re referring to. Perceptions of campus climate differ based on whether people are members of the privileged or dominant groups versus whether they’re members of the oppressed or marginalized groups. Students of color or people in the marginalized groups report experiences of oppression and oppressive campus climates and then I think the thing that’s the most relevant to what I’m going to talk about today is that there are benefits to campus climates that support cross race or just cross group interactions, so this is one of the things that the campus climate literature finds as a theme.

Contributing Factors: Minority Stressors

There are some benefits to fostering interactions between groups of people. I said I would mention some of the contributing factors to campus climate and I’m going to largely focus on inter-group relations, but I think that there are a few things that myself and some of my colleagues study that are important to kind of acknowledge. The first being minority stress. so there’s a theory called minority stress theory that states that minority stress is excess stress to which individuals from stigmatized social categories are exposed to as a result of their social, often minority position.

Like any other form of stress than an individual might experience it has the potential to contribute to negative physical and mental health outcomes. There are several processes involved in minority stress and those include external objective events and conditions so things like maybe external and explicit forms of racism or sexism or classism, and expectations of such events, so if you have had a history of experiencing oppression and then you’ve had the expectation that’s going to happen that’s another form of stress that you carry around with you that someone who doesn’t expect to have those experiences does not have. And then internalization of negative societal attitudes, so some of the research that I do with my graduate students is around internalized heterosexism, so the ways in which LGB people take the messages that they’ve been socialized about — about sexual orientation, specifically sexual minorities and turn them inward and direct those negative messages at themselves because they’ve been getting them all their lives. So these are different processes that — that occur as minority stresses happening to people.

As I mentioned, like other forms of stress it will wear over — wear at our body and wear at our emotions and wear at our psychological well being over time. And then even broader than — or even more specific than minority stress in the general sense we can look at specific forms of oppression, so we could say that oppression can be overt or covert so things that are obvious and in the open, they can happen at individual levels, so potentially calling someone a slur based on a social identity category. It can happen at the cultural level, so exclusion or misrepresentation in the media. It can happen on an institutional level, so for example LGBT people not having federal protections from being fired at the federal level in the private sector.

Beyond these overt forms of oppression there’s also within psychology a lot of people who study now micro-aggression, so these are things that are more covert, more subtle, and Darawyn Su who does a lot of work on micro-aggression calls them the every day verbal, non-verbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults whether intentional or unintentional that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely on their marginalized group membership. So for example we might say that a person who says I’m colorblind, a white person who says I’m colorblind to a person of color, is invalidating that person’s experience as a person of color, so we could say that that is an invalidating form of micro-aggression. We could also say someone who — potentially on our campus we might hear a student who is heterosexual say that something is gay, when they really mean it’s weird or bad, so that’s another sort of invalidating form of micro-aggression. So these are just things to be keeping in mind that these are the sorts of processes that are happening on our campus and we have different forms of oppression at different level, and they’re overt and covert, and so we need to develop some awareness around these as we start to engage with one another around issues related to diversity and social justice.

We Need to be Proactive

I think that what we really need to do is develop a critical awareness that these things are happening and that we exist in this structure that allows these forms of oppression to exist and we need to be able to — by critical I mean be able to become aware of these things that often happen unconsciously, so that we can challenge them and try to change the systems that we’re existing in. Specifically I think that we need to be proactive about this. There was a psychologist named Nancy Betts who talked about a null environment hypothesis, so this is a hypothesis that — an environment that neither encourages or discourages individuals. It simply ignores them. It is a null environment and that’s inherently oppressive. And so if we think about for example, Nancy Betts gives some examples with her own career development as a woman who becomes a psychologist and a scientist, if a young woman gets messages throughout her life that women are going to be bad at math and science and then she gets to college, if the university’s environment is not doing anything to help foster her sense of self-efficacy and help her to thrive, the null environment hypothesis says that if you’re doing nothing that actually is perpetuating the system of oppression of women from STEM fields.

We need to work to counteract these messages of socialization that we get about how to be different social identities and one of the ways that I’m going to talk about doing that is through our inter-group dialogue stuff that we do at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. We need to help people to think about where do I fit in to these systems of oppression? How might I be perpetuating some of these oppressive systems? In developing this sort of knowledge I’m arguing as does Paulo Freire inPedagogy of the Oppressed, can be actually liberating. That if we realize that we’re parts of these oppressive systems rather than inherently bad or pathological this can be a liberating act in depathologizing. We need interventions that will, as a counseling psychologist, I would say we need to focus on people’s strengths.

A lot of the things I’ve talked about are negative things that happen, but the majority of students on our campus, faculty, staff, people in our communities thrive, and so we need to focus on helping to build those strengths that they have so things like — there’s a concept that has gained some recent attention, psychology called bicultural competence, — the idea that someone who is a member of a non-dominant cultural group who is able to both survive and thrive in the mainstream dominant culture as well as their own kind of heritage culture and there’s new research that shows that that can be a protective factor against negative mental health outcomes when people are faced with oppression.

There’s also a concept called crisis competence that’s been talked about with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, particularly older adults and this is the idea that over a lifespan of facing oppression people develop resilience and so in this example in particular when you’re an older adult and you start facing discrimination based on age you already have some resources that you’ve developed and strengths, that can help you cope with it, so that’s the idea of crisis competence that a lifetime of managing stigma helps you to develop some resources.

Building Relationships across Groups

We also need to figure out how to build relationships across groups and prepare students with the skills to be able to productively interact with each other, even through conflict. I’ve mentioned this already also, just developing a critical consciousness about the social systems that we are all part of. And developing capacities and commitments to work individually and together towards social justice. These ones that are in bold here are most relevant to the inter-group dialogue work that I’m going to do. As a counseling psychologist, as I said, I do want to talk about the — or I did want to mention at least the focusing on some of the strengths and resiliency that the individuals have. So specifically if we’re trying to build relationships across groups and prepare students with skills to communicate productively through conflict actually I think that this can apply to anyone, even within our department of psychology we do some of this dialogue work increasingly so, in order to make sure that we have the skills ourselves to communicate through conflict.

There’s a famous hypothesis called the contact hypothesis in social psychology that basically says that inter-group contact, if we can bring together people from across different social identify groups, under certain conditions it can help to reduce prejudice. So specifically Gordon Allport said we have to have equal status within the contact situation, common goals, inter-dependence to meet those goals, and the support of some law or authority or custom. In the 90s, Pettigrew, a social psychologist added another condition which is friendship potential — the conditions in which we can create optimal inter-group contact to reduce prejudice. A huge body of literature at this point supports this hypothesis.

There has been a couple of meta-analyses, so studies of studies, in the past couple of years that have shown with samples of 500 or 700 different studies that the contact hypothesis does hold true and interestingly it generalizes too members of an entire out group, so if we were going to have inter-group contact with — if we created a dialogue with people of different races, the effects of that inter-group contact would generalize to not just the exact people in that group, but to the larger out-group even outside that group. And sometimes even those effects can generalize to people from other out groups as well. One of the things that they hypothesize mediates or facilitates that effective inter-group contact is the development of affect or emotion, so inter-group contact can help us to develop empathy for other people and it can also help us to reduce anxiety about interacting with people who are different from us.


One specific way that we can create inter-group contact is through dialogue and what dialogue is, is a form of communication. It’s different from kind of conventional discussion or debate in which the object is often to win or to show someone that you are right. In dialogue rather, the goal is to develop some shared meaning. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree about what we’re talking about, but that I understand you from your perspective and you understand me from my perspective, even if we don’t agree. So we can develop some new shared meaning of each other.

It’s important to note, and I am a counseling psychologist who studies group psychotherapy, but this is non-psychotherapy, there is an author who does a lot of writing on dialogue who calls it sociotherapy because the goal is not to bring about individual personality change, although sometimes that does happen, but it’s to bring about change on a larger societal level. In practice what this looks like is might engage with people and say help me to understand that or tell me more about that or ask clarifying questions about what people are asking.

Inquire how the person arrived at that perspective. Listen more than we’re talking. Check for understanding. So saying things like what I hear is this and doing a restatement. Asking open-ended questions. Asking what or how and not why, and these actually — if you have ever taken — or ever taken in your life a basic counseling skills class a lot of these are actually basic counseling skills, so using open-ended questions rather than closed questions keeps the dialogue moving rather than you say no, I ask you another question, you say no, so we try to ask open-ended questions. We tend to stay away from using why questions because they can sound judgmental, so why did you do that? versus like how did you come to that decision or something.

I guess I didn’t include it on here but there’s a specific method of dialogue called the LARA technique, which is L-A-R-A, which stands for listen, affirm, respond, and add information and this is one that is used a lot at the University of Michigan and their program on inter-group relations where you listen to what someone has said to you, you affirm which doesn’t mean necessarily agree, but you find a point of connection, so even if you disagree very strongly with someone that point of connection might be I can see that we both feel very strongly about this. Then you respond to their question or their comment and then you might add some information, so here’s my response and this is why I feel that way or maybe we need to get a little bit more information to continue to have this dialogue.

Developing a Critical Consciousness

The second thing that I think that we need to do that dialogue can help us do is to develop a critical consciousness about social issues. This draws on critical multi-cultural education in which the word critical implies a conscientious effort to examine how individual and group life are meaningfully connected to group identity and how those identities exist within structures of stratification that afford members of different groups privileges and disadvantages resulting in continued group based inequalities.

“Critical” in this sense doesn’t mean we’re critical of each other or we’re — it’s not intended to be a negative thing, but we’re being critical of social systems. Critical multicultural education moves students beyond mere appreciation of diversity and holds central the analysis of social inequalities and the role members of both privileged and disadvantaged groups can take in creating change. So we want people who engage in dialogue to kind of critically look at the systems that they’re a part of, seeing how they’re perpetuating them and also how they might stop perpetuating them. And what this involves is becoming aware of overt and covert forms of oppression at multiple levels as I mentioned a few slides ago.

Not Just Diversity, Social Justice

The last goal here is to develop capacities and commitments to work individually and together towards social justice. So I say here not just diversity, social justice and I think that some of our speakers today have already talked about social justice and I know that Dr. Black’s university’s commitment was really along the lines of a lot of things I’m going to talk about here with social justice. But it’s more than celebrating diversity or multiculturalism it’s really about the equitable distribution of resources and risks that all individuals are physically and psychologically safe and secure. That all individuals are self-determining and inter-dependent, feeling both a sense of personal agency and responsibility to one another. That there’s full and equal participation of all members of society, regardless of ability status, age, ethnicity, gender, gender identify, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class or veteran status.

What this necessitates really is that we look at systemic and institutional levels rather than just at the level of the individual. So I have an example here of as a therapist, if I had a client that came in to see me at the university counseling center, this woman here who is a black woman, who may present with depression or anxiety, or one of the common presenting concerns you might see in a counseling center, it would be important to assess what things are like for her in the classroom, so does she see representations of herself in the curricula, is she treated fairly and justly and appropriately by teachers and fellow students? What is her life like outside of the classroom?

[Shows a picture of the strip in Knoxville]

I am actually facilitating right now and inter-group dialogue on sexual orientation and we had this interesting discussion about — the other day about where people feel safe on campus and someone said I don’t feel safe anywhere on the strip and so I had that in mind when I put this on here that I think that different members of our community feel more or less safe in different places and then just kind of generally looking at experiences of racism or oppression or sexism that this person might be experiencing, so if this person came in and was presenting with anxiety or depression and I just work with her individually in the room and ask her about herself, I think I’d be missing all of those contextual factors that might be contributing and understandable responsive depression or anxiety.

Intergroup Dialogue

I’m going to get to talking more specifically about inter-group dialogue and what this looks like. So the model of inter-group dialogue that I use at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville I also used at the University of Illinois when I was an intern there, and at the University of Maryland is where I first learned about it and it originally comes from the University of Michigan. It was developed in the mid 80s in response to racial tension on that campus. Since then it has really become kind of the go-to standard for inter-group dialogue and higher education.

What this does is that it brings together individuals from social identity groups that have had a history of tension or conflict between them so for example we might bring together people of color and white people or LGBT and heterosexual people or women and men, so it’s a lot of different combinations. At our university we also do inter-group dialogues that are around social class. We bring people from varying social classes together and religion and spirituality.

Some of the design elements of inter-group dialogue that are important are that it creates opportunities for sustained communication across group and across differences. So this is where I mentioned earlier that we can have structural diversity at our university or college and not be making full use of that if we don’t have opportunities for sustained and meaningful interactions and inter-group dialogue is one way to create that. It also adds an affective component to cognitive learning. So earlier I mentioned that one of the mechanisms through which we think inter-group contact is effective is that it helps us to develop empathy for other people it helps us to reduce anxiety when we’re in inter-group contact situations. And inter-group dialogue allows us the opportunity to have that sort of affective component rather than just having someone lecture at you.

The last design element is that it balances process and content. And so I mentioned here the idea of the group as a social microcosm. Someone mentioned earlier today that we can think of our universities as being a social microcosm in which whatever happens at the university is reflective of the large society and this is even on a smaller scale. We might say that what happens in a smaller group of individuals interacting would be also reflective of the social system.

The critical dialogic model that comes from Michigan has four different stages and the first stage is coming together, forming relationships, then dialoging about commonalities and differences which includes dialoging about This might be for example in sexual orientation dialogue, dialoging about same sex marriage. Oftentimes I think in social class dialogues people want to talk about different forms of welfare or food stamps. They’re hot topics that involve inter-group relations that we don’t often talk about in inter-group settings and actually get into some of the conflictual stuff that’s there. And then the last stage is alliance building and action planning.

In psychology there’s a model of group development that is “forming, storming, norming, performing”, so it kind of goes through different phases of coming together and building relationships and figuring out how you’re going to do this and this mirrors that as well, so we come together and we don’t jump right in to say okay today we’re here to talk about privilege but we spend a couple of weeks developing relationships and talking about what dialogue is and how we’re going to do this to kind of set the ground work for getting to those more difficult parts of the dialogue later on and those hot topics. The idea here also is that we’re not trying to avoid conflict and you’ll remember that I said the idea is also not to come to agreement, so we want to really talk about these sort of conflictual hot topics and privilege and oppression in ways that we don’t often do and really not avoid the conflict that’s a part of it but work through it. So that’s kind of the model that we have here.

Intergroup Dialogue at UT Knoxville

There’s two shifts that happen over a period of weeks so at our university we do these dialogues over eight weeks and the shift that happens is from kind of lower risk to higher risk, so as we build relationships and feel more comfortable with each other then we start talking about privilege and oppression and then we start talking about the societal level hot topics. The other thing that happens is that there is a shift in focus from the individual to a focus on institutions and systems so when we start out we’re doing things looking at socialization and I’ve got some examples, I’m going to share what that looks like, and then we get into these hot topic issues which are more systemic.

There’s a growing body of research on the inter-group dialogue as well that shows positive outcomes and so things like affective positivity, so positive affect when you’re interacting with others, cognitive involvement and this is where we get into things like analytical thinking about society and critical thinking. Development of inter-group empathy. Development of inter-group collaboration and action. Reduced stereotypes. Perspective taking. And so there’s a wide variety of positive outcomes that we see from this and I’m going to share with you some data from the dialogues that we’re running that also show some positive outcomes that are a little bit different.

At UTK, since 2012, we facilitated 24 different inter-group dialogues as part of the multicultural psychology class that I teach. The topics have been religion, social class, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, if you’re curious about exactly how we develop these groups, I can give you more information, kind of back channel, but — out of these 24 groups, we’ve had 202 undergraduate students who participated and these groups have been facilitated by 34 different graduate students who take an advanced group class with me.

The undergraduate multicultural class that I teach the objectives of it are all around building multicultural competency which in psychology we view as developing knowledge skills and awareness. I view the part of the class that has the textbook and has the tests and has the lectures as really facilitating some of the content knowledge, but also we take some of the values from Pedagogy of the Oppressed that the students are coming with some valuable knowledge that I don’t have as someone with my own particular social identities. We value the knowledge that they’re bringing as well. Skills — so we develop a skill set in how to dialogue with each other and then attitudes or awareness.

A lot of what we do — especially in the early stages of dialogue is to help people develop some self-awareness around their own socialization, their own social identities and what that means. In the graduate course, it’s an advanced group methods course, so all of these students have taken an introductory class in group counseling or some sort of group methods class, but this class is focused on also developing their multicultural competence but specifically as it applies to doing group work in psychology.

Our class meets on Tuesday and Thursdays across the entire semester. For the first eight weeks or so, or maybe seven, we meet all together — the undergraduates all meet together, so about 40 to 60 students, depending on the semester, on Tuesday and Thursday, and then starting halfway through the semester they meet in one of these inter-group dialogue groups, but we still meet on Tuesday all together. As I mentioned before, the goals of these inter-group dialogues are developing cross group relationships, skills and inter-group communication, developing critical consciousness, and developing a commitment to social justice.

A typical session outline, I’m going to give you just an idea of some specific things that we might do in a session. So this one here is — we use an outline, a very general sort of outline that is written by people from the University of Michigan but then we kind of fill in some of our own activities, but we do an introduction and a check in, so for example we might say share what you’ve been reflecting on since your last session. Then we would use some kind of common language or organizers so one of the earliest sessions I have the students read Bobbie Harro’s Cycle of Socialization which introduces them to the idea of what socialization means. If you haven’t seen it and this is probably very hard to read, it shows we’re kind of born as more — Can you read it? No? If you’re interested I can share it with you. But it shows that you’re born and you don’t have an idea of what social identities mean until you start to get influence from your parents and your religious organization, and the media and your peers and your school, and so as you’re a part of this you start to understand how society categorizes you and what it means to be a boy or a girl or whatever sort of social identity. So that would be our conceptual organizer. We talk about socialization and they would’ve read something like that.

Then we do an activity where — where we have them do a family tree. So we’ll sit in class and we’ll say we want you to draw your family tree. They can be as creative as they want to be. Some of them get very creative and some of them are less creative. But what we want them to do is for each person that they include, and it can be as many people as they want, however they consider their family, we want them to include the messages that they learned from that person either implicitly or explicitly about gender for example. Sort of the gender dialogue. So if I’ve done this in my — with my family tree, and I’m doing a gender dialogue, I might put I learned from my dad that like men drive the car and men do the yard work and I learned from my mom that women go shopping and do the shopping. And those aren’t things that my parents ever told me but that’s what I picked up on from them in observing their behavior as a child. So we go through this family tree sort of activity and we do some processing.

Then we do a collective reflection in dialogue on the learning activity, so students share what they’ve thought about. And we look at commonalities and differences of experience and then we start thinking about so what does this all mean. These are the messages that we receive from very important people in our lives about how we do gender. So what does this mean? And we try to put it in a larger context. And then finally we dialogue about the dialogue. So we’ll do kind of collector of reflection on the learning from the entire session. We might talk about how we’re doing as a group, how the dialogue is going. And then we’ll do just kind of a checkout and looking forward toward the next session.

The other activity that I’m going to mention quickly is what our students have come to know is the jelly bean activity. I’m guessing that many people in here have done things like a privilege walk where you read a list of privileges and you take a step forward if you have that privilege so you can get kind of a differential view of privilege in the room. Because of a lack of space some of my creative grad students decided to do this jelly bean activity where they got clear plastic cups and a big bowl of jelly beans and every student has a cup in front of them and they read the list of privileges and if the privilege applies to you, you take a jelly bean from the bowl and you put it in your cup. And then you can kind of see some people’s cups filling up and others not and I have been very surprised at how strong the reactions get and I have students write critical reflections after each session and I’ve had people write about things like not wanting to take the jelly bean and hear the sound of it drop in their cup because it makes them feel so — they get such a visceral reaction to it. So that’s another example of an activity that we do. With our conceptual organizer for this might be reading Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, so to give them an idea of what privilege means and what that looks like, and then we would do this activity.

So is this working? We’re doing these dialogue groups at UT. I finally have enough data to do pre- and post dialogue studies and one of my graduate students defended his thesis and these are some of the results that he got and we have submitted this and we’re revising it hopefully to get it published. We have found significant positive changes and I mean positive in the good sense, not a correlation. We’ve found significant positive changes in empathic perspective taking. From pre- to post our students show increases in their ability to take the perspective of people from other groups and we’ve also found decreases in — or increases in awareness of racial privilege and institutional discrimination. We give a measure of colorblind racial attitudes and we see that after participating in these dialogue groups they have a greater awareness of privilege and of institutional discrimination.

The things that we haven’t found changes in are things that are more I think basic attitudes toward diversity, so we give them a universality diversity scale which is having this attitude that you can value both similarity and difference and we’ve also given them an openness to diversity scale and we don’t find significant changes in that. I interpret this, and obviously I am bias in this, but I interpret this as being positive because I think that some of the more critical outcomes like this awareness of institutional discrimination and awareness of privilege are — that’s what we’re seeing changes in and that’s part of our goal is to develop this critical consciousness and we probably have a selection bias that these students have chosen to take a multicultural psychology class so maybe they’re already open to diversity by the time they come into the class.

We also find increases in — we’ll give them measures after each session to look at things like the climate of the group, the types of affects they were feeling during the group, their perceptions of how deep the session was or how smooth or rough it was. We find increases in engagement over time and engagement — the way that we measure this, we use a measure that’s actually from group psychotherapy is really looking at the extent to which they find the group important. They think that what is happening is meaningful. They like and care about each other. So those are the types of questions that we ask and over time that goes up.

We also find decreases in avoidance (avoiding of interpersonal problems). They say that they are actually avoiding each other less over time and we don’t find changes in conflict, so we look at interpersonal conflict and that tends to stay pretty steady. And if you’ll recall I said earlier that in dialogue we’re not trying to avoid conflict. I actually think that if we’re having a dialogue on something like race that is a contentious issue in the United States and has been and will be for a long time and there’s not any level of conflict, you’re probably not really talking about it very deeply. So we don’t actually see changes in the level of conflict but we still see people becoming more engaged and avoiding less over time.

In terms of affect, so at the same time while people are becoming more engaged and avoiding less, we see that there’s — on the left there I’ve got a graph of negative affect over time, so you can see negative affect actually goes up and positive affect goes down. So even though they’re feeling more negative things happening, they’re still becoming engaged in it, and they’re still really engaging in actual interpersonal and inter-group issues with each other.

We also see that over time they think the top ones are the same with affect but the bottom have ratings of session depth and session smoothness, so over time they think that they’re getting deeper into what they’re talking about and that it’s less smooth, so the questions that we ask them are was the session comfortable. We have them rate on a scale from uncomfortable to comfortable or rough to smooth. Over time they think it’s getting rougher. But they think it’s getting deeper and they’re more engaged in it.

Building Skills

I have qualitative data that I actually think is probably maybe a little bit more — maybe a little bit more interesting or easier to grasp for this, but after each session I ask students both the group members and the leaders to write about what was the most important thing that happened in this session, and why was it important to you. At this point, I’ve had eight sessions times 202 group members and so we have a lot of these data now to start looking at. But I think in terms of the — the goals that we have for the groups we see evidence of building inter-group communication skills so one group member said:

“the members of my group dialogue started off being reserved and gave little personal information. As the session progressed we became more comfortable around each other and began to share personal opinions. I believe that the leaders of the group dialogue played a huge role in making us feel comfortable and safe to open up. We played an icebreaker and set ground rules that must be enforced during all dialogue sessions. The establishment of ground rules was the most important part of last week’s inter-group dialogue. Some of our rules included respecting others beliefs, think before you react, do not attack another member, and ask questions if you do not understand someone’s perspective. The ground rules made everyone feel free to express their beliefs without being judged or ridiculed. The ground rules were important for me because I sometimes feel insecure speaking my perspectives in a large class. I know that there are extremely opinionated individuals in our class and I do not want to be attacked in front of everyone. I already feel comfortable and relaxed in my dialogue group and I know I will be able to actively participate in our discussions because of the environment we have already established.”

We have some evidence of developing critical consciousness so things like:

“the most important thing that happened for me was the cultural chest activity”, — so one of the first things we do is have people bring in items that represent to their culture to them and then share them with the group. “Each member of my group had to bring in three objects that represented their race and/or ethnicity. We were instructed to decorate the outside with words or pictures that described how we felt, that the other people saw us. Through sharing our cultural chest we got to learn more about each others group. It was interesting to see the objects group members had brought and why they were significant to their identity. I really enjoyed this activity because it forced me to think deeply about myself. I feel that I’ve never actually sat down and thought about what defines me and what aspects of my life display my race and ethnicity because it seems like my race and ethnicity are innate and I’m just myself. After the activity I look at people and myself differently. We all have family histories and certain things that are unique to our backgrounds. These qualities that — these qualities are what make us diverse and you can’t tell a person’s race and ethnicity just by looking at them alone.”

So I won’t continue with that, because I’m aware of the time, and I want to leave a couple minutes for questions. But when we do post these, I’ve got a few other examples that I think are pretty great to read some of the things that the students were experiencing in some of these groups. So when we post these, you’ll be able to read them more if you’re interested.

There are also some students that talk about developing a commitment to social justice and what I like about those is they say “I didn’t think about these things at all before and now everywhere I go it’s all I can see is oppression.” I mean like that’s not a great thing that that is what they see, but they’re seeing it, so it is. So conclusions and moving forward, I think that the inter-group dialogue has been a meaningful way for us to create some cross-group interactions at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and I hope that we can find ways to continue to develop and grow that capacity for us. Thanks.

Creating Diversity: The Commodification of Race in College Recruitment Materials

Timothy Pippert, Associate Professor of Sociology, Augsburg College

Learn more about his research

Diversity and Accountability

Alvin Evans, Higher Education Practice Leader, HigherEd Talent




Closing Remarks: Noma Anderson

Noma Anderson, DAC chair delivers closing remarks and suggests some next steps for moving forward.

Closed captioning available in the video player. A written transcript is provided below.

[Dr. Noma Anderson] – We want to welcome Group One back in the room. And as we are getting started, I’m going to begin the close of the session as lots of people began their presentations, telling you all a little bit about themselves. I’m gonna do it in two sentences, or three. I’m a child from Durham, North Carolina. Grew up in the 50’s, in a segregated South. And I was reflecting on that so much today when we learned about psychologically safe environments. And so interestingly, I grew up in a time where there were psychologically safe environments. I have been at the University of Tennessee for four and a half years. I graduated from Hampton University, HBCU. I taught at Hampton University for 11 years, taught at Howard University for 16 years, taught at Florida International University for nine years and dean there, a Hispanic-serving university.

University of Tennessee is my first employment at a predominantly majority institution. It has been wonderful for me to be here and to chair the DAC. So I would like for the members of the DAC to please come forward as we’re closing, because this group has just been stellar in planning this event for you, for the University of Tennessee. So please, DAC members, you are never bashful when we meet, so please come forward. And I would like the room to please thank them for their work. This is the University’s first, first summit on diversity, and I want to thank this group for making this happen. To just think that all of us have come from all of our campuses and our institutes. Just as we see here with the DAC, we represent divergent roles across the university on the DAC. And we’ve got divergent roles here, from our president to chancellors to deans to faculty, we’re just so happy that you’re here. We’ve done a lot of work for you guys today, and now it’s your turn to do some work.

[Audience Member] – They want a picture back there.

[Anderson] – They want a picture? Oh, okay.

– You gotta get in here, Norma.

[Anderson] – I wasn’t sure what we’re doing. Thank you guys. This group has worked so hard, and I think today, or by tomorrow, but probably by today, you’re going to receive an electronic evaluation. So please, please let us know what you’ve thought about today and what you’ve learned about today. That’s one of your assignments. Another assignment is we would like to pledge to you that the DAC is going to continue to meet, the DAC is going to continue to represent you in terms of recommendations and strategies for our president. And what we would like to do would be to let us hear from you. So you will be hearing from us in terms of soliciting input, because we are not going to be a closed system. We’re gonna be an open communication system, because today has shown us, as we already knew, that there are great minds and great ideas at the University of Tennessee, we wanna take advantage of that.

Couple of things I wanna share with you, in terms of accomplishments of diversity at the University of Tennessee. As chair of the DAC, I’m really, really proud to say that in June 2014, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees approved a new university-wide diversity statement. This statement was written by the DAC and our advisors. And we were affirmed by the president accepting our diversity statement, and for the board of trustees adopting and approving that diversity statement. Please go to the DAC’s website to read the entire diversity statement, but let me just quote a section of it. “The Board of Trustees affirms the educational value “of a diverse and fully inclusive campus community, “one that is enriched by persons of different backgrounds, “points of view, cultures, socio-economic status, “and other diverse characteristics. “The Board expects the university “to engage in a variety of initiatives to advance diversity “in all aspects of university life.”

So how are we going to advance diversity in all aspects of university life? Diversity councils have been established, and are being established, at all of our campuses and all of our institutes. What we’re going to see is now progress and attention to this matter at the local level. All politics is local. So these local diversity councils will be operating, and we’re so excited about what will come from this. And here’s another charge for you. Please take from today and turn it into a valuable, measurable action.

Look at Chancellor Black’s mottos for effective diversity action teams. Adopt them, adapt them, apply them to your diversity councils and make them stronger. A second charge is to reflect back on the ideas that we’ve heard about interventions today. Mull them over and turn them into action. Number three, polish up your campus diversity plans, take the dust off of them. Make those diversity plans come to life. And lastly, and then we’ll ask you to report back to the DAC on your accomplishments. Every June the DAC reports to the board of trustees on our diversity accomplishments and achievements. We would like to ask that the diversity councils at each campus and each institute report to the DAC what your plans are, what accomplishments you’ve made. And if you can do that by June, that would be so helpful. A, to say that you’ve established your diversity council, B, to say these are the goals that we have set for our council this year.

The board of trustees really is invested in the accomplishment of diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee. It would be wonderful to share with them all the good works that we’ve done with the DAC across the state, and now at each local campus and institute. We are so grateful that you have spent this day with us today. I tell you, the energy, that is palpable from all of you, is so encouraging. Thank you so much, and please respond to our evaluations, your input will be extremely helpful. Drive safely, and let us stay in communication with each of you. Thank you so much.