Penn State University: University to launch new diversity education pilot program

As part of the University’s commitment to combatting bias and intolerance, Penn State is launching a pilot program for a new University-wide diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) education initiative for all Penn State employees.

The new program — “BUILD @ Penn State,” which stands for “Broadening Understanding and Inclusion through Learning and Dialogue” — is a direct result of Penn State President Eric J. Barron’s message to the University community in June 2020, in which he outlined the creation of a new University-wide DEIB education program for employees as one of several key items for creating a more inclusive and welcoming University. The creation of a new University-wide DEIB education program also supports Penn State’s Strategic Plan, which outlines “Advancing Inclusion, Equity and Diversity” as one of its foundations.

“Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is at the heart of what we do at Penn State — from our commitment to access and affordability, to our land-grant mission, these principles are core to our mission as a University,” Barron said. “Building a diverse and equitable institution is something that every Penn Stater plays an active role in, and this new initiative will help support how every member of our community can contribute to creating a diverse, welcoming and inclusive Penn State.”

Following Barron’s message to the Penn State community, an advisory committee was convened in fall 2020 to develop a proposal for delivering comprehensive DEIB education to all University employees. Penn State’s President’s Council, which is comprised of top administrators from across the University, recommended moving forward with the proposal in March 2021, selecting Suzanne Adair, associate vice president for Affirmative Action; Lisette Garcia, assistant vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; and Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity, to co-chair the implementation team that would develop the program’s final structure and curriculum.

The implementation team includes representatives from across the University, including administrators, Human Resources, DEIB and multicultural program leaders, faculty members and academic leadership. The team also sought feedback from a range of stakeholders, including Penn State’s Academic Leadership Council, the Penn State Faculty Senate, the Academic Leadership Forum and the University Staff Advisory Council.

The pilot program will run from May 16 through July 8 with participation from a selection of units across the University, including President’s Council. The other units that will take part in the pilot include Penn State’s Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Hazleton and Brandywine campuses; academic colleges including Earth and Mineral Sciences, Health and Human Development, and Arts and Architecture; and additional units including Student Affairs, Outreach, World Campus, Strategic Communications, University Police and Public Safety, Auxiliary and Business Services, and Housing and Food Services. Five percent of employees within each of these units have been randomly selected to participate.

“Units across the University — including President’s Council — volunteered directly to take part in the pilot program,” said implementation team co-chairs Adair, Garcia and Whitehurst. “This signals wide leadership support, enthusiasm and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and an understanding that we all need to put that commitment into action.”

BUILD @ Penn State is the result of extensive research and benchmarking, including a thorough review of DEIB-related programs offered by other Big Ten universities and a review of all DEIB content currently offered by the University’s vendors. The implementation team worked to develop a curriculum that covers a breadth of DEIB topics while serving and supporting the entire University community, including employees who are already familiar with DEIB concepts and practices as well as employees who have not previously undergone any similar training.

Based on results and feedback from the pilot program, the BUILD implementation team plans to further refine the program’s curriculum and format, in advance of an anticipated University-wide launch for the fall 2022 semester. When it launches across the University, the program will become a new element of the comprehensive training already required for all employees. Additional details about implementation will be shared in the coming months.

Plans call for the program to include three tracks, all of which will be delivered through the Learning Resource Network (LRN), each one totaling no more than 90 minutes and to be focused on the following topics:

Track one: Recognizing the importance of inclusion in the workplace, which will focus on building awareness and empathy toward issues of difference, creating a common understanding of what diversity is, and setting expectations for future installments;

Track two: Adopting an inclusion mindset at work, which will offer the tools to help participants recognize the impact of their own beliefs and biases on interactions, relationships and responsibilities in the workplace, and demonstrate individual actions that create welcoming, affirming and inclusive spaces; and

Track three: Skills for building a culture of inclusion, which is geared toward helping participants integrate inclusion into their everyday work, continue to develop personal strengths and build on related knowledge, recognize behaviors that promote making connections with people, and find solutions to common challenges to advance a culture of inclusion.

Each successive annual installment will build on the skills learned in the previous track’s curriculum, and will include optional supplemental materials and readings for employees who want to learn more.

“This is an important step forward as we continue to work toward building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive University,” said the co-chairs. “We’d like to thank every Penn Stater in advance for participating in this important initiative, as each of us plays a vital role in creating an inclusive and welcoming community for Penn Staters from all backgrounds and all walks of life.”

Comments are closed.