University leaders highlight campus initiatives to address racial equity

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement hosted “A Conversation: Advancing Racial Equity” Dec. 1 to highlight UIC’s advancing racial equity work and to continue the anti-racism campus conversation.

Panelists included Javier Reyes, interim chancellor; Amalia Pallares, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and engagement; Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs, Karen Colley, acting provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; Fred McCall, associate vice chancellor for student engagement and interim dean of students; Caryn Bills, associate chancellor for the Office for Access and Equity; and Dr. Mark Rosenblatt, executive dean and professor in the College of Medicine.

In 2020, UIC launched the Advancing Racial Equity Initiative, a comprehensive action plan that has five goals: Centering Student Equity and Inclusion, Advancing Faculty and Staff Inclusive Excellence, Collaborating with Chicago Communities, Reimagining Public Safety, and Achieving Transparency and Accountability.

UIC is committed to equity and inclusion, Reyes said.

“UIC champions a culture in which there is no room for racism of any form in our classrooms, in our hallways, in our UIC community,” he said. “To move and solidify this as the campuswide culture, we must all commit to oppose racism and address it in all its forms in order to ensure that all members of our UIC community feel welcome, included, and are able to achieve their full potential.”

Pallares said the guiding framework for her office in terms of how to achieve change has included four considerations: having a plan, having a baseline, engaging in action and having accountability.

“We have been, for the last two years, since the mobilization for Black lives in 2020, engaged in a process of looking at ourselves, looking at our institution and knowing race is not an interpersonal thing but is embedded in an institution sometimes,” Pallares said.

“So, the issue being more that something happened or somebody discriminated against somebody is a question that becomes: What happens then? Is there silence? Is there fear? Or does something happen? Does the institution respond? And I want UIC to be the kind of institution that responds everywhere. And that’s what we’re working towards.”

Part of becoming more inclusive and equitable is “always having fair, transparent and accountable due processes but looking to be more responsive, more efficient, more effective in our policies, protocols and actions and practices to respond to the incidents that emerge on our campus,” Reyes said.

Colley highlighted campus efforts promote inclusive teaching. For example, the UIC Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence has developed a teaching guides on inclusive equity and equity-minded teaching practices, and they will offer an inclusive education scholars certificate program starting in the spring.

Other teaching efforts, Colley said, include redesigning course materials to enhance the academic success to underrepresented and nontraditional students, providing faculty development to encourage culturally sensitive teaching and build equity-minded future faculty through the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning.

“We are responding on the road to a culture of true equity and inclusion,” Colley said. “UIC leadership is eager to engage in conversations about what we can do better, how we can be more inclusive, how we can achieve more equitable results for all our students and how we can support faculty who understand this is a key part of our mission.”

Efforts to building future faculty from underrepresented groups include the Bridge to the Baccalaureate Program, the UIC Portal to Biomedical Research Careers Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program, and undergraduate research programs such as the Summer Research Opportunities Program, the L@S GANAS Program and the DuSable Scholars Program, Colley said.

Reyes highlighted a goal of increasing the number of UIC undergraduates from underrepresented groups by 50% by 2030. He also pointed out efforts to start creating a pipeline to UIC for underrepresented students beginning as early as seventh grade.

Other programs have helped diversity the faculty at UIC, including the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award Program, which aims to develop a diverse group of highly trained scientists to join the academic work force, and the Bridge to Faculty program, which aims to attract promising scholars from underrepresented groups to UIC.

“It has allowed us to make tremendous headway in diversifying our faculty and especially in departments with no or few faculty from underrepresented groups,” Colley said.

McCall highlighted resources available to the campus community, such as the UIC Counseling Center, for anyone experiencing trauma around racism and bias. He also highlighted the Bias Reporting and Prevention Tool, which allows students, faculty and staff to anonymously report incidents of bias.

“I want to acknowledge the toll that racism and bias play on communities, especially in our communities of color,” he said. “That’s a psychological toll, physiological toll, emotional, physical toll.”

Bills also highlighted the Office of Access and Equity as another campus resource to support the UIC community in issues related to discrimination and harassment.

Barish spoke about UI Health’s commitment to equity, which includes convening an anti-racism task force that is preparing short- and long-term recommendations. One recommendation that has been put into action is the creation of a  new position, director of health affairs, diversity, equity and inclusion. Adriana Black from the University of Chicago recently joined UIC in this role, Barish said.

Another recommendation of the task force was to review space for inclusion opportunities, Barish said, and from this task force, a multicultural space in the Library of the Health Sciences will open in February to host multicultural programming as well as provide lounge, study and meeting space for the UIC health sciences community.

“We are committed to the pursuit of health equity, to the connection and training of a wide spectrum of diverse health care professions, designing accessible health care solutions and making important discoveries that benefit the health and wellness of our communities,” Barish said.

UI Health also expanding its reach throughout the city, Barish said, including recently opening the 55th & Pulaski Health Collaborative and the new Specialty Care Building.

The College of Medicine, which is one of the most diverse medical schools in the country, is committed to anti-racism, including revising curriculum, addressing bias and engaging in an anti-racism urgent action committee, Rosenblatt said.

“We know that when we train physicians that reflect the diverse communities and apply to the diverse communities that we serve, health is better, and it’s part of our social responsibility that’s woven into the core mission of our college to ensure that that happens,” he said.

Reyes highlighted the importance of campuswide coordination of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“If they continue to be seen as individual efforts, then they’re not sufficient for us to achieve our goal,” he said. “All of these are great examples of how we’re making UIC one of the most diverse institutions.  But we now work to also making it one of the most equitable and inclusive institutions. 

“To do so, we need a campuswide coordinated practices, and aligned messaging and platforms that showcase and fuel our culture, the culture I know exists at UIC, a culture that empowers equity and inclusion and rejects racism of any kind.”

Pallares echoed Reyes’ sentiment.

“It can’t just be from the top,” she said. “It has to be in every department, in every space, in every college.”

A video of the Q&A session can be viewed online. Additional questions that were not addressed during the session are answered below.

Q&A

Q: “There are many initiatives and programs to help UIC members achieve greater racial equity. I’m wondering what type of training might be offered to the UIC community (faculty, staff and students) to help us reach our Advancing Racial Equity goals?”

A: In an effort to expand campus knowledge of important DEI-related topics and practices, several units on campus offer ongoing trainings, workshops and seminars. Below is a list of opportunities for members of UIC campus to learn information and skills; some opportunities also incorporate practical application as a primary component. In lifting up these collective efforts, we also want to stress that lasting DEI-focused change requires that we go beyond trainings to affect structural change. Consistent evidence supports the idea that trainings are not effective as a stand-alone strategy. We recognize that training needs to be part of a larger effort (e.g., diversity initiative/plan and implementation) with multiple actionable policy, process and programming components, as has been demonstrated by studies of workplace training.

Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement webpages/workshops:

  • Implicit bias education. A campuswide workshop, “Understanding Implicit Bias and Exploring Mitigation Strategies,” dates and registration links for spring will be posted soon.
  • Faculty Search Committee Training (offered by Office of Office of Diversity, Equity, and Engagement, Office of Access, Equity, and Engagement, and Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs).
  • Inclusive Classroom Initiative
  • Cultural Center events (spring events to be posted soon).
  • A list of courses across campus that have a DEI and/or social justice focus is being created; estimated to be available to campus in spring 2023.

UIC Dialogue Initiative:

Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence events

Bias Reduction in Internal Medicine:

  • The Department of Medicine is hosting Bias understand inclusive teaching practices and Reduction in Internal Medicine workshops for the purpose of providing training for recognizing and understanding implicit bias. These workshops will be held via Zoom and are open to anyone wishing to attend. You need only to sign up for one workshop as they are all the same. Registration to the sessions is required. For questions, contact linda1@uic.edu.

Q: “One of the major barriers for minority students is financial support. What are some things that UIC is doing right now to help colleges financially support students when resources are limited in the college?”

A: Supporting historically underrepresented students through financial aid and scholarships has been one of UIC’s most defining characteristics as an institution. The majority of our student population is Pell Grant eligible and offered additional support through both the MAP and UIC grants. Our largest scholarship program for incoming students, the President’s Award Program, also prioritizes historically underrepresented students in selection criteria. Current students also have access to the U & I Care program with emergency grants and the UIC SnAP portal for scholarship opportunities. The University of Illinois Chicago offers financial support to undergraduates through scholarships, DACA/Advanced Parole processing and 97% job placement prior to graduation for our DACA/Non-DACA students. In addition, the Graduate College offers grants, awards and emergency funding to UIC graduate students. The UIC Wellness Center also offers assistance to students who are experiencing food or housing insecurity.

Q: “How do we promote racial equity and make students from diverse backgrounds feel welcoming and comfortable in a classroom?”

A: Research has demonstrated how important the link is between students’ sense of belonging and their success and the extent to which students’ identities are associated with very different experiences and overall sense of belonging. The diversity of our campus is a strength, and yet we know that not all students feel the same sense of belonging in our and other institutions of higher education. This makes the question asked here all the more important to address because we want to be a campus where all students feel welcome and that they belong. Everything from syllabus design (e.g., class policies, diversity of scholars represented in readings and teaching materials) structure of course assignments and grading criteria, how conversations in the classroom are facilitated, students’ experiences at UIC more broadly, and the diversity reflected by faculty on campus can affect students’ sense of belonging.

Instruction

Recognizing our responsibility as an institution to provide welcoming classroom environments, UIC created the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence, which provides resources to instructors in the form of information about best practices, toolkits, workshops, consultation and connections within and beyond UIC to support effective teaching. CATE support centers students’ belonging in the classroom as a primary area of focus for instructors.

The Inclusive Education Scholars Certificate Program is a new program that has been developed by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement and CATE for UIC instructors, designed to help build inclusive teaching knowledge and skills. With a combination of self-guided online learning and participation in interdisciplinary learning communities and workshops, instructors will explore the what, why and how of inclusive teaching. IESCP is an investment in both student success and faculty well-being, designed to improve the experience and support excellence in teaching and learning.

The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning is a national network of about 40 research universities across the U.S. and Canada that collaborate to provide professional development opportunities for graduate students and postdocs interested in academic careers. CIRTL@UIC is a partnership between UIC’s Graduate College and CATE to establish UIC as a member of the CIRTL network and is committed to training scholars from all disciplines to be excellent evidence-based instructors and researchers.

In addition, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Engagement and CATE are working to develop several e-learning modules as part of the Inclusive Classroom Initiative. These modules provide information about student issues related to underrepresented or marginalized identities and strategies to increase student belonging.

UIC campus climate resources

The UIC Student Success Units include services ranging from advising, leadership and research opportunities, coaching, tutoring, academic support services for students to be successful during their educational experience at UIC.

Additionally, the seven Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change are a collaborative
group that aims to make UIC a welcoming and inclusive place for all students (and our staff and faculty) through their commitment to student success, intercultural engagement, vibrant scholarship and dynamic community partnerships that offer extensive support and programming throughout the year.

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement houses two campuswide initiatives aimed to increase support for underrepresented students. Resources for undocumented students are offered for faculty and staff to support students through a range of educational trainings, including the Illinois Dream Fund, to ensure institutions know how to work and support undocumented and mixed-status students toward degree completion, workshops, webinars and resources on topics (e.g., DACA). Nationally, we collaborate with the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration to support best practices across the nation. UIC’s Fearless Undocumented Alliance and other student organizations in Illinois collaborated to pass three legislative bills that impact higher education. The Task Force on Immigration Issues reviews policy and procedures to ensure equitable access across campus resources.

Native American and Indigenous Inclusion and Belonging is a newly launched initiative aimed to increase campus visibility and awareness of Native American and Indigenous students issues by providing education to campus leaders, colleges and departments, as well as recommendations for policies and communications related to Native American and Indigenous issues. This initiative recently launched the “‘Acknowledge’ is a Verb” education campaign, which utilizes the growing interest in Land Acknowledgement as an entry point for increasing knowledge of the process of working with Native communities to create a respectful Land Acknowledgement statement and policies that ensure the statement serves as a meaningful commitment to partnering with and supporting Native American people and communities.

Increasing diversity on campus

Efforts to increase faculty diversity on campus are also underway. At the campus level, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Engagement oversees the Bridge to Faculty program, a recruitment program designed to attract underrepresented scholars with the goal of a direct transition to a tenure-track junior faculty position after two years. UIC departments apply for the ability to participate in B2F, which places particular emphasis on departments with low or no presence of faculty who are underrepresented in their field. B2F scholars receive extensive mentorship within their departments and participate together in meetings and tailored workshops through the Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement. Additional efforts exist across campus that aim to diversify UIC and higher education more generally by creating pathways for underrepresented students to advance through graduate training. Current and prospective students should reach out to their individual departments and colleges for more information about available opportunities.

 

 

 

 

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