Workshop: Building Diversity Awareness to Promote Student Success

Part of the InTeGrate University of Northern Colorado Program Model

by Cindy Shellito and Julie Sexton, University of Northern Colorado

This page describes a workshop presented to STEM faculty at the University of Northern Colorado that focuses on broadening participation and diversity of students majoring in science at UNCO . In a two-hour session, faculty members considered the factors that support diversity in the sciences. They examined institutional data regarding the current climate for diversity in science programs and learn about research showing how the social climate faculty create can support or weaken efforts to increase diversity among our students. Finally, faculty members developed a personal plans of action for small things they might do every day to facilitate an inclusive environment in their departments and in their classes.

Below we provide a sample agenda and, at the bottom of this page, some of the materials used to facilitate this workshop. We provide recommendations for groups who would like to use their own data in a similar workshop.

Workshop Goals for faculty

  1. Identify teaching behaviors (and other environmental factors) that impact interest, confidence, and skills-development for underrepresented minorities and women in your discipline.
  2. Identify a small action you can take this semester to improve student interest, confidence, and skills development for underrepresented minorities and women.

Sample Agenda

1) Set the context of workshop:

We began the workshop by introducing to participants the importance of focusing on diversity. We presented data showing the changing demographic of the US population (link to this data), and changes in the demographics of STEM students (based on AGI data - show graphs). We cited data on underrepresented minorities in the geosciences from AGI Currents, Jan 27, 2014. We also showed data on changes in numbers of women in the geosciences (AGI Currents, Jun 2, 2016.

In addition to presenting data to place the workshop in context, because the topic of diversity can be sensitive, and can bring up strong emotional responses, we established some ground rules for communication, to help participants feel safe sharing their thoughts in an open, supportive environment. In a workshop such as this, participants are exploring their own biases, and this can bring up emotions and discomfort. We made this clear at the outset, then offered the following ground rules, and asked participants to suggest others:

  • Be mindful of your points of view when sharing your perspectives or ideas.
  • Help us ensure that everyone has a chance to participate.
  • Be respectful of the ideas and opinions expressed in this room, and please don't take them beyond this room.

2) An activity to promote discussion

We asked faculty to answer two questions on notecards:

  1. As a faculty member, how do you know that the department/school cares about diversity and equity?
  2. How would a student know that your department/school cares about diversity and equity?

This was followed by an open discussion.

3) Presentation of Research Related to Broadening Diversity

To provide further context for our workshop, and to provide faculty with a summary of research highlighting factors that promote recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities and women in the sciences, we presented preliminary results of research conducted by Julie Sexton, Kevin Pugh, and Eric Riggs titled "Recruitment and Retention of Women in Geosciences -- An Investigation of Individual and Environmental Factors." (Supported by the National Science Foundation Gender in Science and Engineering Program, grants HRD 1136233 and HRD 1136238). Results of this research are presented in the Diversity Workshop Slides, and details are presented in the list of resources that accompanies workshop materials.

4) Activity: Responding to a series of vignettes

Faculty read through vignettes based on the research conducted by Sexton et al. (available in the Activity and Data Handout). In small groups, faculty considered what they found interesting or surprising about the vignettes, the impacts of the actions and beliefs presented (if left unaddressed), and ways that professors or departments might address those actions or beliefs.

5) Activity: Diversity at your own university

Prior to the workshop, we gathered and analyzed data from a survey administered to seniors at the University of Northern Colorado. The survey was developed by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. The CIRP provides results of the survey to the university and the data are available for institutional purposes (thus, we cannot make the data available on this website). The CIRP also provides comparison to other similar institutions. The survey items provided us with information on students' academic and campus experiences related to: Academic achievement and engagement, Faculty-student interaction, Cognitive and affective development, Student goals and values, Satisfaction with the college experience, Degree aspirations and career plans. We provided workshop participants with this data and used it to prompt discussion about the climate for diversity on our campus.

We encourage you to use data unique to your campus. If you do not have access to this data, you may consider revisiting the AGI diversity data presented earlier in the workshop, of you may consider moving on to a discussion of an action plan. We found that in a 2-hour workshop, we were pressed for time as the vignettes and the initial discussion on how students might know that a program or university cares about diversity prompted a lot of discussion.

6) Develop an action plan

At the end of the workshop, we asked participants to consider and discuss strategies or teaching/advising behaviors that might support their students. We also asked them to commit (in writing) to 1-3 actions that they could take immediately to provide support to their students and facilitate and inclusive environment.

Workshop Outcomes

We asked faculty to complete a short questionnaire at the end of the workshop, and then a follow-up survey six weeks later. Faculty response immediately following the workshop was very positive. Many faculty cited the use of data as very helpful, and also commented favorably regarding the opportunities for discussion. If there was anything negative in the feedback, it was the fact that our discussion time was so limited. In that sense, if there is limited time for presenting such a workshop, it may be more fruitful to eliminate some of the data analysis in favor of discussion and brainstorming.

We also asked faculty how they would apply this workshop to their teaching. The following themes came up in responses:

  • Talking to students about their own perceptions of diversity on campus
  • Sharing examples of scientists from underrepresented groups in class
  • Reflecting on teaching content and presentation style (e.g., by including examples of impacts of earth sciences in communities of underrepresented groups)
  • Taking time to understand student background, and factors that promote success


Diversity Workshop Slides used at UNCO (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1.2MB Nov27 16)

Workshop Handout: Activities and Data (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 29kB Nov27 16)

Workshop Handout: Resources (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 31kB Nov27 16)