Monday May 8, 2017

Mutual Respect in Dialogue

By Karen Updyke, School of Engineering

“Some dialogues are difficult,” says Dr. Kenya Crosson, as she reflects on her first year as the University of Dayton LTC Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion.

This fall, Crosson and her LTC faculty development fellow colleague, Suki Kwon, plan to unroll an innovative program that will help guide faculty and initiate respectful conversations.

Last summer, Kenya Crosson, associate professor in civil engineering, was named a Ryan C. Harris Learning Teaching Center (LTC) Faculty Development Fellow.

“This past year was a concept year,” says Crosson. “I listened to faculty and academic units and recognized the need for tailored programming that engages people with different perspectives, experiences and interests with regard to inclusive pedagogy.”

Afterwards, she and Suki Kwon, associate professor in art and design and the newly appointed LTC Faculty Development Fellow for Teaching a Global Student Community, teamed up to create Have a Seat at the Table: Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Development, to assist faculty with diversity and inclusion conversations.

According to Deb Bickford, associate provost for academic affairs and learning initiatives, “Crosson and Kwon are the LTC’s first Faculty Development Fellows, selected through a competitive process in 2016. They have been working closely with Larry Burnley, vice president for diversity and inclusion, to ensure that their work supports the work of his office. While his office’s mandate is much broader, they are focused on the professional development of faculty, especially with respect to faculty pedagogical practice, to help them create inclusive learning environments in and beyond the classroom.”

Their fall program will offer two unique faculty development models to learn about diversity and inclusion in the context of teaching, academic coaching, mentoring, advising and learning.

The Have a Seat at the Table model offers customized workshops by request, while the Be Our Guest model consists of stand-alone workshops regularly offered throughout a semester at the LTC.

Both models are presented as menus consisting of “base” workshops with reflective exercises and options for faculty to add “ingredients” focused on faculty learning and best practices. The program encourages mutual respect and collaboration for forward movement in the areas of diversity and inclusion.

Because food often brings people together, promotes dialogue and encourages sharing, Crosson and Kwon discovered that food references were a fun, creative way to engage conversations from a novel angle.

During the workshops, “Faculty will review their biases and become aware of their cultural markers. Overall diversity and inclusion will be discussed in a meaningful way,” says Crosson.

“Unconscious biases and preferences with regard to cultural markers are in every culture,” explains Crosson. "For example, the University has a professional standard with regards to plagiarism, but in some cultures, using the exact written word of other scholars shows respect to the scholar. How, then, do we help international students understand our professional standards and best practices? How do our course policies, teaching methods and assignment designs cultivate an inclusive classroom that suitably mentors students for professional endeavors?"

Always active, Crosson also contributed to the University’s Strategic Visioning Working Group: University Education in 20 Years; continues to mentor six graduate students involved in environmental engineering research; is a Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) Fellow; and is a member of the School of Engineering’s Strategic Plan implementation team for promotion and tenure.

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