Rachel Niemer, Director, Outreach and Access @rkniemer
Summer is an excellent time for reflection, especially for those of us in education. Recently, all of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) implementation leads across campus had an opportunity to reflect, as we wrote our annual reports on the progress of our own units toward meeting the strategic objectives put forward three years ago at the launch of the Presidential DEI initiative, while also checking in on the progress of U-M’s campus as a whole towards these goals. As I wrapped up drafting our report and our strategic plan for the coming year, it was notable that, true to our charge to reimagine higher education, this past year included a number of new ventures in the DEI space. We worked to more directly connect our DEI work with the innovation work we do with the broader university community.
To begin experimenting with what that alignment could look like, we co-hosted an event during the diversity summit in October:Social Transformation through Public Engagement. In partnership with the Alumni Association, the National Center for Institutional Diversity, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a panel discussion and a set of roundtable conversations explored issues at the intersections of academic innovation, diversity, equity and inclusion, and public engagement.
After such a successful experience with Social Transformation through Public Engagement, our DEI strategy group planned a pilot speaker series, Academic Innovation at Michigan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (AIM for DEI). We hosted two events that wereopen to the campus in May 2019 to explore issues at the intersections of DEI, technology, and teaching and learning. Our first event in the series was a presentation from theDetroit Community Technology Project (DCTP). The presenters from DCTP shared striking facts about the lack of access to usable internet access in Detroit, the strategies they have employed to activate community organizations as trusted partners for building an appropriate technical infrastructure in four pilot neighborhoods, and information about how access to information is critical for individuals and neighborhoods to develop and thrive.
The second event featuredBayete Ross-Smith, an artist, filmmaker and educator out of New York City. Mr. Ross-Smith spoke to us about a number of his digital works that were created to help viewers experience, to the best of their abilities, the range of experiences individuals different than the viewer have, across contexts, because of the color and shapes of their bodies, the sounds of their voices, and the stereotypes associated with those features. Art and technology, when combined, give us the possibility of developing empathy through realistic experiences.
Another experiment from this past year was issuing a call for proposals to our Academic Innovation Fund for projects that were motivated by a mission to support diverse learners and create inclusive and equitable learning experiences for pre-college, residential and life-long learners. In an upcoming set of blog posts, I’ll share descriptions of the projects that received support from Academic Innovation as well as reveal some of our plans for the 2019-20 academic year.
https://ai.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/Blog-image.png338600Trevor Parnellhttp://ai.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/AI_logo_header.pngTrevor Parnell2019-08-16 11:58:562019-08-16 11:58:56Highlights from Academic Innovation’s DEI work in 2018-2019
Elyse Aurbach, Public Engagement Lead (Office of Academic Innovation) @ElyseTheGeek
Laura Sánchez-Parkinson, Assistant Director for Programs and Development & Program Manager for Research (National Center for Institutional Diversity) @lsparkinson
Diversity, Public Engagement, and Innovation are – and should be – aligned.
Bottom-up enthusiasm, top-down leadership, and external pressures are mobilizing colleges and universities to prepare students and faculty in engaging with broader publics to solve complex social issues in our society. At some institutions, groups of students and faculty have organized to promote and prepare civically engaged leaders and scholars. Some institutional leaders have led the way in launching campuswide commitments to public engagement and diversity and devoted resources to mobilize their campus communities. While these efforts have often been announced and designed in isolation, institutions have an opportunity to address social issues of our time and utilize its academic resources and power to advocate for democracy, equity, and social justice.
Our University of Michigan campuses have worked to meet these missions by supporting a very rich history in engaging with ideas and people beyond our academic walls and establishing a commitment to innovation and diversity, equity and inclusion. President Schlissel renewed these commitments and launched a strategic area of focus on public engagement and impact to scale our campus community’s efforts and reimagine engagement for the 21st century. This effort has great potential to transform complicated social justice challenges if we approach them inclusively and equitably.
We see these important mission-driven areas of focus to be aligned and connected.
Our university aims to build mutually beneficial partnerships both within and beyond the academy. In so doing, we can create opportunities for our campuses and public communities to partner and learn from each other, enriching our work and its impact. People with different educational backgrounds and professions, with different life experiences, and with different outlooks and perspectives all bring to bear important insights into understanding complex problems and building solutions. In this way, engaging equitably and inclusively beyond our University walls can become a driver of innovative discussions and solutions.
Approaching these challenges requires reflection and care. We must name our challenges and look to our histories to recognize and address how historical inequities have caused or exacerbated problems within and between communities – both within and beyond our campus. And we must commit to addressing these issues collaboratively, inclusively, and equitably.
The panel was introduced by President Mark Schlissel and moderated by Earl Lewis, professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies and director of the Center for Social Solutions. The panel discussion featured Mary Jo Callan (Director of the University of Michigan Edward Ginsberg Center), Abdul El-Sayed (Former Democratic Candidate for Michigan Governor and Former Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department and Health Officer for the City of Detroit), Angela Reyes (Executive Director and Founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation), Jim Leija (Director of Education and Community Engagement at the University Musical Society), and Luis Trelles (Producer of Radio Ambulante at NPR and 2018 Knight-Wallace Fellow). The panelists explored a number of themes, including:
The history of diversity and public scholarship at the University of Michigan – including both powerful positive examples like the work of James Jackson and Patricia Gurin as well as times when our efforts fell short or caused harm
The opportunities visioned, realized, and missed to invite and welcome communities to our campus, including creating avenues for youth of color to access and thrive at the University
The role of equity, mutual benefit, and reciprocity in impactful and inclusive engagement work – like the efforts at the Detroit Urban Research Center, which impact and were co-developed with publics through community-based participatory research
The role of public engagement in addressing complex social justice issues by bringing together scholars and members of our local and national communities to highlight and explore community experiences and histories
How social media and a non-stop news cycle has influenced dialogue and public discourse: simultaneously creating community organizing power and new avenues for public expression while also limiting time to process and respond thoughtfully to current events and contributing to hyper-polarization
Inclusion as an avenue for innovation – when we leverage the rich, deep power of diverse perspectives, we can think more creatively to disrupt the status quo
In addition to the panel discussion, faculty, alumni, staff, and students met in small groups to explore critical issues and barriers in DEI-focused engagement work. Some of the topics discussed include:
The risks and rewards of doing diversity public scholarship;
Acknowledging and expanding participation of scholars with marginalized identities, students, and staff in pursuing this work.;
Exploring the skills and training opportunities needed for effective engagement; and
How public engagement and diversity are valued and incentivised in academic institutions, especially in hiring, merit review, and promotion.
Mobilizing for Action
Social Transformation through Public Engagement began a conversation on our campus that we hope will mobilize our communities to address complex issues at the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion, innovation, and public engagement. What kinds of opportunities and actions might catalyze this movement?
We commit to furthering these efforts by continuing to create spaces to bring together our campuses and communities in conversation and planning, to advocate for changes in our university system which will reduce barriers to access and incentivize the value of these efforts, and to create new and innovative ways for our communities to engage ethically and justly with our publics.
https://ai.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/Blog-Featured-Image-600x338.jpg338600Trevor Parnellhttp://ai.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/AI_logo_header.pngTrevor Parnell2018-11-09 11:14:182018-11-09 11:19:05Aligning Missions and Efforts to Support Innovation in Public Engagement and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion