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Reflections on DEISA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Social Justice, and Anti-Racism) Grass Roots Efforts in the Title V Grant

By Lisa Rodriguez

November 12, 2021 - 02:58 PM

[Opinion piece]

As we enter year 3 of the grant, October 1, 2021, I pause to look back at both an exciting and challenging two years of grant implementation: initially in March 2020, we speculated that the pandemic would take a negative toll on the projects within the grant but instead, we saw our campus successfully pivot to online professional development despite the occasional Zoom blips and fatigue with online work.

The murder of George Floyd on May 25th of 2020, Mt. SAC has pivoted to answer the call to action on several fronts.   The fires of justice heated in many hearts here. We not only reacted, we acted. 

Campus equity leaders who were not new to this work deeply understanding not only the need, but also the proven methods to achieve our goals. Our collective efforts for students and staff alike coalesced among teams connecting to one another like never before. We recognized the need to avoid duplicate efforts when it poses problems and align efforts when it solves them if only to move the needle a bit at a time.  The process is a long game with some short fixes such as space, visibility, and hiring which is all happening.  For equity champions, this is a crucial time at Mt. SAC that we have hope will lead to a cultural shift. It will take us all, every employee, to make that shift. Our Board of Trustees have made resolutions, or senior leadership has partnered us with experts in the field of DEI, and several committees continue to work towards these efforts.

The Title V is one such effort. It's core purpose is professional development for DEI(SA). Below are some highlights of Title V efforts towards creating a campus culture beyond equity-mindedness and towards making good trouble (to quote the late Congressman John Lewis):

Faculty DEI Communities of Practice (COP):Dr.’s Mica Stewart (Sociology and Title V Equity Certification Coordinator and Tiffany Kuo (Music Professor and Title V/Guided Pathways Data Coach Coordinator) have teamed up recently to create a faculty DEI pathway to becoming equity champions. Dr. Stewart has created DEISA T for Teaching whereby faculty who complete one or more CORA (Racial Microaggressions or Unconscious Bias) e-courses can enter the course re-design process with herself and a cohort of peers to apply their learning to their own courses. Dr. Kuo and Dr. Stewart have presented at division departments on the work of combining “Becoming a Data Literate Educator” to include concurrent engagement with DEISA T. Faculty would examine the equity data available for their courses, work with a data coach, and enter into the DEISA COP. Similarly, faculty who complete the American Association of University Educator’s (ACUE) Effective Teaching Practices year-long course are eligible to join DEISA T and Data Literacy Efforts. 

Faculty Equity-Minded Professional Development Pathways

DEISA Faculty Development Pathways include the ACUE Association of Colleges and University Educators, Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement CORA, Community colleges,

Caption: ACUE's ITEL & EP Completers, Data Literacy Completers, CORA Completers, Best Practices for Teaching in the CC's Completers, transition to Data Coaching and/or DEISA In Teaching Coaching, then transition to DEISA Community of Practice.

Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler | Book CoverWhile Faculty had access to the CORA modules between 2019 and 2021, the Title will sunset that project and work towards bringing a cohort of 32 faculty and the Senior Research Analyst to join the new ACUE cohort, ITEL: Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning in Spring 2022. Those faculty would then join the DEISA COP.

Finally, Dr. Mica Stewart has currently launched the GREAT Reading Group using the One Book, One Campus text, Kindred, by Octavia Butler. This text was chosen by a campus wide vote and Dr. Stewart is hosting eight discussion groups this Fall for faculty. She plans to launch a similar reading group in the Winter for Staff.

Student Engagement:

Under the guidance of the Student Development Coordinator, Diana Felix (TRIO Counselor), the Title V Ambassadors, having hosted a successful Latinx Professional Development Institute in August of 2021, are now busy planning the first Student Equity Conference to take place in March of 2022. This conference will provide students with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and experiences while simultaneously discussing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Ambassadors’ projects all have DEI-based goals: The Latinx Graduation Celebration, Data and Research projects, El Pulso podcast, The First Generation Latinx Success Handbook, and others.

Staff Engagement:

Michael Benitez Ph.DOver the first two years of the grant, 183 CORA certificates were completed by Classified Professionals, Short-Term Hourly, and Managers. While this project was just a starting point to learn DEISA basics, the Managers took two avenues to address DEISA progress: first, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team was formed as a group of volunteers from across all divisions at the college and came together to offer learning opportunities on DEISA at the monthly management meetings.

Next, Management Professional Development Committee chose two expert DEISA presenters to host learning at the 2021 annual Peak Leadership Retreat which was virtual. Next, DEIT met over 5 months to design content for a course similar to Dr. Stewart’s DEISA T, called DEISA – M for Managers. The e-learning modules, designed by Dr. Gina Coburn, the Title V and POD Instructional Designer, are meant to take the learner through the phases of DEI basics to advanced topics in “Talking the Talk” which covers the language of equity, “Walking the Talk” which includes definitions of the problem of isms and discrimination, to “Sustaining the Talk” whereby learners can find out how to move from passive ally to "co-conspirator" in the DEI journey.

They will discuss the context in which DEI affects their workplace culture and choose their own call to action and get involved at Mt. SAC in being part of positive changes. Once the Campus Equity and Diversity Committee releases data from the Campus Climate Survey, DEIT will incorporate this into the course for discussion and review. 

DEISA Toolkit

Caption: DEISA Toolkits from DEIT, Compact Theory, Group Discussions, Suggestions for Practice, Private Journals, Call to Action, Case Studies & Scenarios.

The DEIT Team will present some of their learning materials to various equity-focused campus groups and committees in an effort to build momentum for learning to uphold DEISA as a cornerstone of all the work we do at Mt. SAC.

The USC Community College Leadership Equity Alliance is another way in which staff and faculty across the grant are engaging in action planning for restorative justice and change. So many venues exist now than before and it is time to explore, implement, and make a difference for the better on our campus.

The Title V's Goals are broad and meant to either strengthen what the campus was already doing well or bring new ideas and methods to those areas in need of further support through professional development:

 Title V Five-year Institutional Goals (2019-2024 and beyond):
1. . Support faculty in exploration of new research and teaching models that enhance student learning
and improve educational outcomes for students from diverse backgrounds.
2.Improve practices that integrate technology with academic excellence to create an enhanced
learning environment for a diverse student body.
3.Build the capacity of faculty to access, understand, and use data to measure the impact of
pedagogies on student outcomes.
4.Provide staff with the knowledge and skills required for effectively engaging students in meaningful
and culturally responsive ways.
5.Enhance students’ cultural awareness, personal development, and leadership skills.
6.Increase students’ financial literacy, including awareness of financial aid options, financial planning,
and debt management. [Competitive Preference Priority (CPP) 2]
7.Improve campus-wide cultural competence and cross-cultural dialogue.

As our team enters year 3 of the grant projects, we are thrilled to see the synchronicity of so many constituent groups moving in a direction to benefit our campus community.