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Did You Know: Student Affairs implements social justice and inclusion retreat for divisional staff

Many national and local events over the past year, including a campus visit by Milo Yiannopolous, have caused many at the university to take a fresh look at the racial climate on campus. Most were quick to realize that it was not only our students of color who were grappling with unjust treatment and fear, but many students of various marginalized identities, as well as many faculty and staff. The university took a multi-pronged approach to identifying and addressing the various issues on campus, and Student Affairs was no different. 

One aspect of the division’s approach was to design and deliver social justice and inclusion competency training to all staff in the division. A small group of divisional staff started meeting in fall 2016, and in spring 2017 implemented a one-day cultural competency training for Student Affairs staff.

Rico Tyler, associate vice president for Student Affairs, lead the group that designed the training. Here, he shares some information about the process of developing it, and what Student Affairs hopes to accomplish.

Why is cultural competency training in Student Affairs necessary?

This is a mission and core value conversation. When we talk who and how our mission calls us to serve, social justice and inclusion competency training allows us to live out our mission and do the work that must be done. 

Beginning our personal journey as it relates to identity, intersectionality, power and privilege allows us to more knowledgeably engage in conversations about justice and inclusion, and ask ourselves, what more can I do to grow and learn, for students, my colleagues and the greater community? If we are willing to do this work, we truly become agents of change and are truly congruent with the spirit of St. Vincent DePaul.  

Who was involved in developing the training and why?

The development of the training started with a small core of Student Affairs staff who were already working at the university level with the President’s Diversity Council. Charee Holloway, assistant director and Michael Riley, program coordinator in the Center for Identity, Inclusion and Social Change and I made up that core group. After a division-wide meeting in September 2016, we added Emily Kraus of the Dean of Students Office, Joey Leone of Residential Education, Nydia Stewart of the Office of Multicultural Student Success, Shenay Bridges of the Dean of Students Office and Dorothy Griggs of the Center for Students with Disabilities (note: Griggs is now with Advancement).

How was the curriculum direction developed?

We used our national associations’ (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education—NASPA—and College Student Educators International—ACPA) professional competencies, specifically the social justice and inclusion competency, as a base for the training, to make sure that all staff in the division meet the basic, professional standards for this competency.

Student Affairs’ own professional facilitators developed the structure for the training, which has a sound theoretical base and focuses on self-awareness and self-assessment. We then shared that curriculum with the external facilitator that we identified, and he made a few additional changes to the curriculum.

So, Student Affairs is using an external facilitator. Who is he, and how did you select him?

Once we decided we would go with an external facilitator, a list was generated with a range of options.  At the top of our wish list was Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington. His over 30-year background in social justice and inclusion work in higher education and his role as a trustee for ACPA made him our number one. In October 2015, The Economist named Washington Consulting Group, which Dr. Washington founded and is president, one of the Top 10 Global Diversity Consultants in the world. Because of the relationship he had with DePaul, he accommodated our request and helped us develop a curriculum consistent with the NASPA/ACPA Social Justice and Inclusion Competency.

When/where will the training will be conducted?

We scheduled three retreat dates during the spring and summer. These sessions are intended to be just the start of the conversation, with follow-up sessions being planned for the summer and additional trainings introduced during 2017-18. The idea is that we will learn at the spring and summer retreat, but also identify issues and subjects that we can continue to discuss in the division throughout the summer and coming academic year, with social justice and inclusion training being ongoing, purposeful and structured. 

For more information about Student Affairs’ cultural competency training, contact Rico Tyler​.