In November, UNLV celebrated 120 employees who completed the Equity Institute Online pilot program, a course that provides faculty and staff guidance on inclusive, equitable and effective learning environments for the university’s diverse student body.
“We created the modules to give people a grounding in the core issues of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Suzanne Becker, an instructional technologist in Online Education, who also holds a doctorate in sociology. “These aren’t topics that just affect students or instructors. These things shape our world, and it’s important we just live into it.”
The course is a program developed as one of UNLV’s Minority-Serving Institution Task Force initiatives, and to advance its Top Tier goal of supporting social justice, equity, and inclusion.
Created by the office of Online Education in partnership with the Faculty Center, the course aims to help participants gain a greater understanding of the extent of diversity among UNLV’s student body and to find ways to address unintended biases or practices that could hamper student achievement. Participants spent two to four hours a week working through modules over four weeks, and will receive a $500 stipend for completing the course.
The next course will be offered in asynchronous sessions on WebCampus from Jan. 31 to Feb. 25. The course is open to faculty, instructors and others who work in student-facing areas, such as advising, libraries, and student affairs. To participate, please complete this form by Dec. 17. For more information, contact Faculty Center Director Melissa Bowles-Terry.
Ko Yang, a learning program coordinator for the Academic Success Center’s Math Bridge Program, participated in the pilot program this fall. She said she found the lessons related to developing a “growth mindset” were most beneficial to her work, both in terms of her own professional development and in helping students understand their potential, no matter their background.
“It’s all about helping students elevate their skills and getting better at reflecting on feedback so they’re equipped and ready for what comes next,” she said.
Bowles-Terry said the course offers four modules:
- The Institution: UNLV’s Equity Mission
- The Students: How can we support their success?
- The Instructor: What are you bringing to the classroom?
- Pedagogy: How do we apply this to our practice?
“As a Minority-Serving Institution, we need to create space for faculty and others to learn new teaching styles and practices that ensure all of our students have equitable and accessible experiences in and out of the classroom,” Bowles-Terry said. “This course provides one opportunity for that. But the Faculty Center has a number of opportunities for faculty to engage with content, mentoring and other online resources related to equitable teaching practices.”
For Sandra Candel, participating in the institute was refreshing.
“In my case, it was a great opportunity to look at a classroom from the perspective of my students,” said Candel, an assistant professor who specializes in multicultural education. She said she often was so inspired by the exercises in the course that within days she would do them in her own classroom, where she trains new and aspiring teachers. One especially poignant exercise involved a test to assess her own personal biases.
“The following week, I took the link to my students and we all took the test and it turned into a really great discussion,” she said. “These types of lessons put you in a position to see what your students are facing.”
Matt Pusko, an assistant professor-in-residence, graduated from UNLV in August, and now teaches physics, calculus, and engineering in the College of Engineering. For him, the course reinforced the research and best teaching practices he had studied in preparation for his first teaching job, but also gave him resources and techniques he could immediately implement, especially in his peer mentoring and transfer student support programs.
“Coming into UNLV, we have to realize that students don’t all have the same level of equity, whether they are coming in from another institution or community college or from high school,” he said. “They’ve all had different experiences. Keeping that in mind, the course gave me some new ways to make teaching physics more equitable and helped me train my mentors. As soon as I learned something useful, I conveyed it to my mentoring team right away. I think everyone at UNLV should take this course.”