DiversityEdu Helps Faculty, Staff and Students Build Inclusion Skills

In January and February, all Whitman School of Management faculty, staff and students completed a DiversityEdu series of asynchronous learning modules that focus on building inclusion skills. The Whitman School piloted this initiative, which will become a University-wide requirement.

Due to the pandemic, the first modules were asynchronous, with participants going at their own pace. When pandemic restrictions end, inclusion skills-building sessions will start, according to Diane Crawford, the school’s executive director of institutional culture, who is overseeing the program. Through experiential learning exercises, participants will be exposed to new perspectives, as they reflect on their own lived experiences and beliefs.

“Most importantly, the participants will begin to develop a new lens by which to better manage bias and assumption,” she says.

DiversityEdu—a suite of research-based, online courses—describes its programs as learning, not training, that will expand people’s options for engaging with diversity and informing their decisions. It covers diversity competencies, communication skills, responding to microaggression and reducing unconscious bias in decision-making. The focus is on countering biases against people of color, women, people with disabilities and LGBTQ people.

“Building and sustaining an inclusive culture will improve engagement, retention and recruitment of students, staff, faculty and alumni,” Crawford says. “From a business perspective, it will increase revenue, as Whitman will be a business school of choice for potential students as the School demonstrates an inclusive culture where all students have the ability to thrive.

“From a staff and faculty perspective, Whitman will be a great place to work by drawing the best talent to teach and support our students,” she adds.

Faculty and staff completed three modules totaling 120 minutes, as did graduate students. The modules for undergraduates ran 60 minutes. The modules began for faculty and staff in January and for students in February. To complete rollout of the modules, Crawford worked with the School’s information technology and marketing and communications departments, associate deans and advisors.

Crawford came to Whitman after serving as president of Diversity & Inclusion Professionals of Central Pennsylvania and as diversity and inclusion global manager for the Hershey Company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in applied behavioral science and a master’s of education, both from Pennsylvania State University.

Also this winter, Crawford conducted an Inclusive Leadership Through Dialogue Session with 11 top leaders at the School, running two hours a day for five days. The reflective dialogue sessions challenged the leaders to think about race in ways they had never done before, providing them with additional skills to manage unconscious bias and privilege, she says.

“I like to refer to this type of skill-building as developing a new leadership muscle,” Crawford says. “The session’s goal was to raise their awareness of their own biases and to ensure they can manage these biases when creating policy, programs and during hiring/tenure decisions.”

Dean Gene Anderson agrees and noted last year that using DiversityEdu is part of the School’s strategic goal to become a leader among the top business schools to “produce ideas that help businesses unlock the power of diversity in driving innovation and produce leaders able to recognize and address inequities in organizations or markets.”