Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

December 12, 2016

Workshops and Trainings at the UW: Answering the call for change

Conversations sparked by the launch of the Race and Equity Initiative in April 2015 found faculty and staff across the three campuses looking for ways to learn more and make positive change. As part of its objective to “confront individual bias and racism,” the initiative has worked to provide opportunities for self-reflection and personal learning.

Jeanette James

Jeanette James, project manager, Race & Equity Initiative

A working group was tasked to develop a training program that would provide education and tools around cultural fluency, crosscultural communications, systemic racism and bias. A pilot launched in spring 2016, and right away the demand exceeded capacity, with more than 450 staff and faculty participants. The planning group for the pilot then incorporated feedback and lessons learned into the next phase of workshops and trainings, designed to serve a greater number of faculty and staff in 2017.

“Our goal is to support staff in enacting changes in their own behaviors and in their own units, such as developing outreach and hiring practices that use this work, and to really be able to use this knowledge to make change wherever they are,” says Jeanette James, Race & Equity Initiative project manager.

Over 700 attendees this year

“We listened to a lot of students, faculty and staff who expressed a need for more education on these issues,” says James. “We want to be responsive to the needs of people who want to deepen individual learning.”

Student-support units that work most closely with students were offered the pilot program first. The trainings were created in partnership with Professional & Organizational Development, a unit of Human Resources, to tap into their training expertise. This allowed the program to offer more workshops at scale with an eye towards ensuring this expanded professional development work can be sustained through future Human Resources courses and offerings.

In total, 24 workshops were held across all three campuses between April and July 2016, and 22 more were conducted throughout winter and spring of 2017. Nearly 1,100 faculty staff will have been served by these trainings since the launch of the program in 2016.

All of the workshops are led by local experts in equity, diversity and inclusion. The trainers bring experience in working with the education and public sectors on topics such as cross-cultural communication, cognitive dissonance and implicit bias.

Meeting participants where they are — and inspiring action

The trainings were designed to appeal to those who are just entering the conversation while offering everyone, no matter their level of expertise, different opportunities to engage in fresh ways.

A variety of trainings are being offered for faculty and staff. Workshops are designed to appeal to those who are just entering the conversation while offering everyone, no matter their level of expertise, different opportunities to engage in discussions of equity, diversity and inclusion in fresh ways.

A variety of trainings are being offered for faculty and staff. Workshops are designed to appeal to those who are just entering the conversation while offering everyone, no matter their level of expertise, different opportunities to engage in discussions of equity, diversity and inclusion in fresh ways.

“Rosetta Lee’s session on cross-cultural communication was excellent,” says Justin Wadland, head of Media and Digital Collections at the UW Tacoma Library. “The training blended together research and scholarly literature, drew on various conceptual models and incorporated her personal experience.” Participants were introduced to key frameworks, terminology and concepts in order to evaluate their own biases and engage with honest personal reflection.

To help people open up, trainer Caprice Hollins wove personal narratives with history. This inspired thoughtful reflection through the lenses of race, class and other factors that shape our perspectives and biases. “If we aren’t identifying the ideas and unconscious biases we bring from the dominant culture’s norms and beliefs, we are not guiding students in ways that help them be effective in their field,” says Hollins. By the end of the training, faculty and staff reported feeling more confident in being able to recognize implicit bias, an important first step. “We have to begin to interact differently,” says Hollins.

Wadland took Hollins’ call to action to heart as he reflected on his experiences working with students in the UW Tacoma libraries. “I feel like the training helped me continue to see how, in my own position, I have an opportunity to learn from other people of backgrounds that are not my own,” he says. “The trainings work through misunderstandings and even conflict.”

More training options in person and on demand

  • Bias in systems: The planners behind the pilot program developed the next iteration of trainings and resources that was launched in February 2017, this time expanding the focus to explore how bias operates in larger systems as well as at the individual level.

    “We’ve received requests to focus not just on interpersonal issues, but on understanding institutional and systemic bias as well. So now in this next series we are bringing in trainers who are skilled at addressing the broad institutional issues,” says James.

  • On-demand resources: The new series was built upon the pilot’s earlier learning objectives by providing a deeper understanding of interpersonal and structural bias and emphasizing a shared language about bias and racism. Plans are also underway to expand the delivery methods to meet demand without being limited to the scheduling and physical constraints of an in-person workshop: videos, brown bag discussions and other accessible online resources will be added to help faculty and staff understand the issues.

Campus leaders learning from trainings

Jeanette James (right) meets with members of the Race & Equity Initiative subcommittee that coordinates workshops. Photo: Filiz Efe McKinney.

Jeanette James (right) meets with members of the Race & Equity Initiative subcommittee that coordinates workshops. Photo: Filiz Efe McKinney.

Recognizing the impact of individual leaders on institution-wide decisions, UW leaders are pursuing a broad range of trainings to deepen their knowledge at both the individual and structural level and reinforce the values of a diverse, inclusive university. Among those who have attended trainings are the Race & Equity Initiative steering committee, faculty leaders and facilitators, as well as University Advancement leadership. Plans are underway for more leaders and staff to participate in the coming months.

Considering the ultimate goals of the trainings, James says, “Individuals can’t change what they don’t know. The goal is to help people take the blinders off and let them see that they do have the power to make change. Then the question becomes, ‘how do we take what we know as leaders within organizations and make change that’s impactful across our three campuses?’”

The workshop and training organizers developed the series to empower staff and faculty. People can use this knowledge to make positive change wherever they are affecting outreach and hiring practices, reviewing policy, understanding our diverse student body or resolving interpersonal issues.

Learn more about trainings and additional learning resources on the leadership workshops page. Contact equity@uw.edu to request information about hosting a unit or departmental leadership workshop.