It’s a powerful statement, and a challenge to achieve, yet DePaul committed to it unequivocally in the Vision 2018 strategic plan:
“We understand that greater diversity of race and ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, faith, place of origin, life experience, political perspective and economic condition deepens the educational experience of every student and enriches the worklife of every faculty and staff member.”
The Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity (OIDE) took up the task of putting these visionary words into practice by creating a professional development diversity certificate for DePaul faculty and staff. Elizabeth Ortiz, vice president for OIDE, says the goal is engagement. “We want to get everyone involved in living our values.”
The certificate is voluntary. “Mandatory doesn’t work,” she has found. “We wanted a dynamic, proactive learning process that would take what we do well at DePaul and move people forward. We want to get a critical mass of people who have diversity competence and have a ripple effect. We want to be diversity practitioners at DePaul.”
B.U.I.L.D., as the program is officially named, provides faculty and staff with the tools to nurture an inclusive campus by:
Building multicultural competencies
Understanding differences and how they impact the workplace
Inclusive excellence by fostering engagement
Leveraging diversity and building leadership capacity, and
Developing measures of success.
The approach is active and applied, and one in which the instructors are co-facilitators and co-learners with attendees. There are 10 topics available, from the legal foundation of diversity to what it means to create a safe zone.
“Employers are asking for emotional intelligence skills that help employees deal with difficult generational, ethical, racial and religious issues,” Ortiz says. “Different interpretations of worldviews can lead to workplace conflict.” But cultural misunderstandings can be reduced or prevented when people are aware that they see the world through different lenses.
So what has motivated people to pursue the certificate? According to Ortiz, it is “practical skills they can apply in their workplace and professional development.”
That’s exactly why Darryl Arrington, director of Admission Operations and TeleServices Center, chose to do it. “I hope to gain a skill set and perspective that will allow me to better handle or influence sensitive situations,” he says. In particular, he wants to “gain understanding and strategies to better manage our assumptions, biases and prejudices.”
With his newfound skills, Arrington says he will “share what I have learned with others and try to role model enlightened behavior in appropriate situations.”
Information sessions on the certificate and the first offering on disability etiquette attracted a much larger response than expected. OIDE knew it had hit the sweet spot when without any marketing efforts directed at these groups, it had instructors asking to bring classes to the sessions, alumni calling to participate and people from outside organizations wanting to enroll.
“This program is the jewel of OIDE’s strategic initiatives and builds on our ongoing efforts to develop workplace learning seminars and programs. It has engaged more people in the diversity discussion more intimately than anything we’ve ever done,” says Ortiz.
Diversity Education in Business & Communication
To serve professionals outside the university, DePaul offers two opportunities to pursue diversity education: one in the MBA program and one in the College of Communication.
The Driehaus College of Business introduced a three-course concentration in organizational diversity to its MBA program in 2011. It teaches students about the roles of management, leadership and communication in capitalizing on a multicultural or global work force. Don Martin and Michaela Winchatz, associate dean and associate professor of Communication respectively, developed the MBA concentration based on classes long-available in the College of Communication.
“We have always taught diversity as an existing dimension of organizational life that leaders need to be tuned into and aware of,” Martin says, citing the cutting-edge research agendas of Communication faculty including Lucy Lu and Barbara Speicher that have enabled the college to stay on top of diversity trends.
The College of Communication has offered a graduate degree in Organizational Multicultural Communication since 1994. Today, its master of arts degree program on this topic has about 50 students. The college also requires undergraduates to take a course in multicultural communication.
Whether one is a faculty or staff member eligible for the B.U.I.L.D. diversity certificate, or a student of the world, DePaul is offering new opportunities to deepen diversity understanding to enrich personal and professional lives.