The year 2020 in higher education has already proven to be unprecedented in many ways, and on July 1 the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will add another new educational milestone to the list.
A new online module focused on topics of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) will be added to the standard suite of required training experiences for incoming students each academic year. These interactive modules will be delivered through the EVERFI online education platform, which provides training and development to workplaces, K-12 schools and higher education. The new EDI training joins the previously required training in alcohol abuse prevention and sexual harassment and assault prevention.
"The launch of this training culminates a several-year process to respond to the request from our campus EDI Implementation Plan developed in 2016," says Jodi Thesing-Ritter, executive director for equity, diversity and inclusion and chair of the committee on required training development.
"This training is a bold step in the right direction for our university in creating an inclusive campus where all students can succeed.”
Student leaders across campus agree that increasing knowledge and understanding among their peers is critical for campus and student success.
One such leader is Iman Dikko, director of the Equity in Student Matters Commission of the Student Senate.
"I am so pleased that our campus has made the important decision to provide this training to all new students," Dikko says. "An increased awareness will help to improve our campus climate. Being a member of the committee that created this training has allowed me to leave an important legacy for our future."
Another student leader and training committee member, Sophia Spittlemeister, is happy to see this significant step taken by the university.
"I am very proud of UW-Eau Claire for requiring students to engage in the training," Spittlemeister says. "This proactive and strategic step demonstrates a continued commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. We are not perfect, but we have acknowledged that and are moving in the right direction. This training will not only change how students think about other students, but about everyone. Diversity is everywhere, and students will take this to their future lives and careers. This move shows UW-Eau Claire is not only standing out from the rest of the UW System, but is truly preparing students for their future careers. It is my hope that students will learn, grow and make change while at UW-Eau Claire."
The EVERFI training, which allows for campus customization, guides students through an exploration on topics of social identities, intersectionality, power, privilege and oppression. It also challenges students to recognize the "isms" and phobias of ableism, classism, ageism, antisemitism, sexism/heteronormativity, Islamophobia, racism; anti-Blackness, sizeism and transphobia/transantagonism.
The module will take new, first-year, transfer and graduate students approximately 50 minutes to complete and is required before they begin classes in September. Following a four-year cycle, all UW-Eau Claire students will have completed this first tier of training.
"This required equity, diversity and inclusion training will be a student’s first opportunity at UW-Eau Claire to engage in learning about these core competencies," says Dr. Warren Anderson, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. "When they arrive on campus, they will have the opportunity to engage in a number of additional trainings that will enhance their classroom learning. They can also choose to bolster their cultural competency through additional training, and completion of a culturally relevant capstone project. We believe this student training experience will enhance our campus climate, while preparing our students for work in a diverse workforce."
Three years ago, UW-Eau Claire began requiring all employees to complete similar professional development training targeted at improving the campus climate. In addition, faculty and staff have the opportunity to engage in a minimum of 10 additional professional development training experiences and complete a pre-approved project to earn a professional development certificate in equity, diversity and inclusion. The required training for students will be the first tier in a similar three-tiered program aimed at increasing intercultural intelligence for graduates.
"Our faculty and staff have committed to their ongoing development around EDI issues with over half of our faculty and staff engaging in the tier-two professional development and 64 completing their tier-three certificate projects," Thesing-Ritter says. "We hope students will engage in ongoing training as they join us in the fall. We are eager to be able to provide additional training experiences and help students increase their knowledge as they prepare to work in a diverse workforce. This training and certificate program will help our students be competitive in the global job market and change agents in their future communities."
"We introduced this training experience to new students and their families during our virtual Orientation platform in June and received positive feedback. We are now pleased to launch this program in July," Anderson says.