Launching a DEI certification experience

By René Arnold and Janie Filoteo

How the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certification program came about at a Texas college.

In the fall of 2019, Lone Star College-Tomball (Texas) launched a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Certification program through a partnership with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion as well as the Center for Organizational and Teaching Excellence (COTE).  The original idea evolved into a full-fledged six-session program experience currently in its second cohort with plans for future sessions.

Often, one of the shortcomings of many trainings is that they are not tailored to the unique space occupied by community colleges.  Recognizing this program would be more meaningful if created by those working within for those working within, we set to work. We crafted this one-of-a-kind curriculum with contributions from Melissa Iracheta, the Office of Strategic Initiatives executive intern, and Jackie Thomas, LSC-Tomball chief strategist.

The process

One of the unique aspects of this program is that it brings together individuals who play various roles on campus. The result is that not only are faculty and staff learning more about the importance of DEI work, they’re also learning how different areas within the college interact with our students.

The format for each session is designed to include vital information focused on connecting individual-level action with structural issues.  The program covers the following topics:

Session 1:  Understanding Diversity and Equity

Session 2:  Practicing Inclusive Language

Session 3:  Analyzing Implicit Bias and Privilege

Session 4:  Investigating Cultural and Social Class Differences

Session 5:  Contemplating Race and Ethnicity

Session 6:  Exploring Social Justice

We aimed to make the program highly reflective and interactive by offering experiential activities followed by debriefing. We, the facilitators, view our role as just that: facilitating rather than delivering curriculum.  The goal is to create an “organic” environment where people feel comfortable sharing and listening.

Participant response

An assessment administered before and after the certification experience serves as a touchstone to gather feedback from participants.  Additionally, an exit ticket is collected after each session.  The Fall 2019 participants a 68% response rate of survey responses – one of the highest seen for LSC-Tomball professional development.  Many respondents cited the reflective and interactive design of the program as most effective.  The second cohort began this fall and the applications for participation doubled.

One of our favorite things to hear from participants is that at times when they are double-booked, they choose to attend our session.  In terms of success, there can be no greater reward than when a professional development opportunity ends with participants sad that it is over, with pilot participants eager for an extended program, and above all, with several participants inspired to create programming as a result of participating in the DEI certification experience.

Of course, the core ambition of the DEI certification experience is to create “diversity agents” to continue this work. So, each session ends with a call to action for our participants and that this overarching question remains at the forefront of all that we do:  How do we translate all that we are learning through discussions, readings, and activities into action that will all help us provide a better experience for our students – one that is more equitable and inclusive to all?

Responses thus far have included plans to incorporate materials and discussion into classes, intentions to communicate with team members using principles of equity and inclusion, and commitments to being ambassadors of DEI in all environments.  For both series, qualitatively, there was an overwhelmingly positive response despite some difficult conversations.  Often, the conversations continued long after the sessions were over which we take as affirmation that the program will ultimately result in a better environment for everyone, but, above all, the students we serve.

René Arnold

is the Center for Organizational and Teaching Excellence professional development coordinator for diversity initiatives at Lone Star College-Tomball in Texas.

Janie Filoteo

is a professor of sociology and former Center for Organizational and Teaching Excellence faculty fellow at Lone Star College-Tomball in Texas.