Deans of LAS, CCOM and COPHS are working to create more diversity in their colleges. Collegian file photo.
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Jordan College of the Arts held a diversity and inclusion talk for all JCA faculty and students on Jan. 24, organized by Lisa Brooks, dean of the college. Brooks wondered if the event would be reciprocated by other colleges on Butler’s campus. While many are not copying JCA’s exact formula, they are dealing with inclusion in other manners.
The dean of every college at Butler was contacted for this story, but the deans of the College of Education and the Lacy School of Business did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
College of Communication
Brooke Barnett, the dean of College of Communication, said the college is looking at the hiring process to ensure a diverse faculty to design curriculum and mold the student experience.
To attract and retain high-quality faculty and staff, CCOM is making its hiring and onboarding processes more inclusive, Barnett said. In the fall, the university offered inclusion advocate training to all faculty and staff, and Barnett said close to half of CCOM’s full-time faculty and staff participated in those.
“The racial and ethnic and gender diversity, and even the international diversity, of the candidates that were brought to campus were much higher than it had ever been in the college before,” Barnett said. “So we think that was a very successful approach in how we thought about hiring.”
Barnett said CCOM is committed to creating an action plan focused on diversity and inclusion. Part of her action plan includes inclusive teaching and advising workshops for CCOM faculty in both fall and spring semesters. To move this plan along, Barnett is meeting with Gina Forrest, executive director of the Diversity Center, this week. Forrest also led the talk for JCA students and faculty.
During the week of Feb. 17, Barnett will bring in Jean Hee, from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, to talk about appreciative advising, which is a strategy that uses students’ own unique skills and strengths in the advising process.
“Appreciative advising is great for all students, but it has great success with students of color on predominantly white campuses and first-generation college students,” Barnett said.
Another aspect of Barnett’s plan is to bring in diverse speakers and lecturers sponsored by CCOM. She previously focused on women of color for a series of sports media speakers, and Wendi C. Thomas, a Butler alum who now runs the MLK50 Justice Journalism Center in Memphis, Tennessee, spoke at Butler on Feb. 17.
In terms of getting student opinions on inclusion within CCOM, Barnett is looking towards the Institutional Research Office to gather student data. The Institutional Research Office gathers data annually based on participation rates in programs, sense of belonging and overall reports of a student’s Butler experience.
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Robert Soltis, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, said the college is also focused on hiring diverse faculty members.
Soltis said there are currently six countries represented in COPHS faculty. He also said cultural competency — knowing how to treat people of different backgrounds — is a pillar of healthcare education.
“Everyone is entitled to education and respect,” Soltis said.
Soltis said that the associate dean of COPHS, Angela Ockerman, is meeting with students of color to see how inclusive and welcoming the environment within the college is.
“Being smaller in number, they are sometimes overlooked,” Soltis said. “But there needs to be a balance, not shining the spotlight on them or making them uncomfortable.”
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Jay Howard, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said inclusive teaching is one of the college’s main diversity initiatives. Howard created an Inclusive Teaching Taskforce in LAS in October 2019, led by John Cornell, associate professor of history, and India Johnson, assistant professor of psychology.
“We recognize there have been a number of incidents on Butler’s campus over the last few years,” Howard said, referring to racial slurs that have been written in some spaces on campus. “Primarily, they’ve been outside of the classroom, in student housing, things that we don’t directly control. What we do directly control is what happens in the classroom.”
Cornell and Johnson said their first step is to gather faculty surveys to see what LAS faculty need to feel more empowered to create an inclusive classroom environment. Survey results will be analyzed next week and an action plan will then be created based on the information gathered.
“So many people are involved with the social justice and diversity initiative, the core positions are there — we’re not inventing the wheel here,” Cornell said. “There are many people who are already moving in this direction and we’re just asking the faculty what can we do to make a better experience for students.”
Johnson said LAS is looking at multiple sources of information to gauge how students feel about inclusion in the college as well. Johnson and Cornell also plan to meet with Forrest.
“I mean, I ask students in my lab what are the things that happen in the classroom that make you feel isolated and what are the things that happen in the classroom that make you feel included?” Johnson said. “And so we are trying to get that sense of information, I know John does those things too. We definitely feel it’s important to go to the students and get their perceptions as well. So pulling feedback from multiple sources so we can identify the best solutions.”
Leadership from all three colleges emphasized the importance that all students feel welcome.
“We want people on the campus, while they’re on the campus, to have the best possible experience that they can,” Barnett said. “And sometimes we’re unintentionally not making a good experience for someone else because we just don’t know that that’s what we’re doing.”
While JCA is handling diversity in its own way, LAS, CCOM and COPHS all present specific action plans to improve inclusion within each college.