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Sustainable Inclusive Excellence Update- The Global School

DEPARTMENT(S): 
August 12, 2022

The Global School (GS) has developed a plan for Justice, Equity, and Transformation in alignment with WPI’s Sustainable Inclusive Excellence (SIE) framework. We are focusing our efforts in three main areas and will:

  1. Establish a Justice, Equity, and Transformation (JET) culture for the Global School
  2. Evaluate and re-form the Global School curriculum
  3. Integrate inclusive and equitable practices into hiring and promotion processes

Establish a JET Culture

To establish a JET culture, we are creating opportunities for self-awareness, education, and reflection for faculty and staff. This spring, GS faculty and staff participated in the campus-wide offering of Powerplay, an interactive workshop on bias awareness and intervention. We then reflected upon the experience at a Department of Integrative and Global Studies (DIGS) meeting. In D-term, GS faculty along with faculty from the Arts and Sciences participated in a reading group to discuss Reconsidering Reparations by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò.

In fall 2021, GS and Humanities and Arts faculty advised an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) on WPI’s history and relationships to land displacement and slavery. We plan to build upon this work by looking at the Global School’s past and present relationships to land displacement, slavery, structural racism, sexism, classism, and other power dynamics in our relationships and engagements at home and abroad.

The SWEET Center continues to expand its support for effective and equitable teamwork in WPI courses and projects. The SWEET Center now has an office in the Project Center, co-located with the Global Experience Office (GEO) and will be welcoming a new class of SWEET Fellows this fall.

WPI is a new member of the Public Interest Technology University Network, a partnership of colleges, universities, and foundations committed to educating students to better apply technical understanding and practice to questions of individual rights, justice, social welfare, and the public good. DIGS Department Head, Laureen Elgert, has been leading associated grant efforts and workshops with faculty in the Arts and Sciences and across campus.

The GS has also joined the Community Global Learning Collaborative, of which DIGS faculty member Sarah Stanlick is now co-director. The Collaborative advances ethical, critical, and aspirational de-colonial community-based learning and research for more just, inclusive, and sustainable communities who have self-determination. We are about to launch a student survey of outcomes of project-based learning (GPS, IQP) that relate to cultural humility, openness to diversity, cultural adaptability, and global citizenship.

Evaluate and Reform GS Curriculum:

We have been working to educate ourselves on and implement more inclusive pedagogical practices, including the following initiatives by GS faculty who have:

  • Led a department retreat session on integrating intercultural competency in the Global Projects Program and the Great Problem Seminar program.
  • Created modules for integrating intercultural competency into their courses and projects as part of a recent Global Lab Fellowship.
  • Evaluated the use of a web-based open annotation tool designed for students to engage deeply with reading assignments by taking notes, asking questions, and discussing the text with their peers. They have found that this helped center marginalized student voices and cut down on intellectual marginalization.
  • Implemented open access resources (OERs) in our courses and project work. OERs not only save student money, they also provide culturally-relevant materials in which all students can see themselves reflected.
  • Explored ungrading as inclusive pedagogy and an approach to assessment. Ungrading centers around student self-evaluation and engages students directly as experts in their own learning. It can disrupt the power dynamic between faculty and student and offers more of a mentorship model. Moving to an ungrading scheme redistributes power in the classroom, and allows students to take part in how they are assessed. This reduces student stress, empowers students, and centers them as humans in ways traditional grading schemes do not. We are planning to pilot an ungrading approach to assessment in GPS courses in AY 22/23.
  • Developed inclusive pedagogies that integrate mindfulness and meditative practices.

There are also efforts underway to improve the Global Opportunities Application Tool (GOAT) used for placing students in Project Centers for the GPP. A WPI project this past year focused on developing the capacity for students to be placed in WPI project centers aligned with certain academic pathways that will enable them to strengthen their intercultural competency and proficiency in area studies.

Inclusive and Equitable Hiring and Promotion

GS faculty worked in collaboration with Arts and Sciences Dean Jean King, faculty members of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, WPI’s human resources, and WPI’s director for diversity and inclusive excellence to create a more equitable process for recruiting applicants, evaluating participant materials, evaluating interviews, and reviewing finalists. GS faculty have used and revised these tools and processes for hires and have shared these tools and processes with faculty in other departments.

Plans for Academic Year 22/23

Projects and initiatives underway for the AY 22/23 include:

  1. DIGS and GPS faculty will lead an Office of Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Planning Grants (DEIJ PG) titled, Responsible Representation: Assessing Cultural Competency for Equity and Inclusion in Student Posters.
  2. At the next GS retreat Dean Sheller will be presenting findings from both ODIME and from the Black Student Experience research project and leading a discussion focusing especially on how we can improve equity and inclusion in teamwork and project travel.
  3. Dean Sheller and Professor Rob Krueger (SSPS) are planning to submit a grant application to the ETS/CGS “Award for Innovation in Promoting Success in Graduate Education: From Admissions through Completion” which will focus on improving WPI’s ability to recruit, retain, and promote success among our Black graduate students by creating intentional communities of belonging, connection, and purposeful learning that bridge Africa, the Caribbean, Afro-Latinx communities, and the wider African diaspora.
  4. GS faculty and staff are beginning a project around more inclusive research practices and databases. We aim to develop associated modules and tools for use in GPS, IQP, and MQP.
  5. We will be reviewing GOAT criteria for project center assignments and examining how they are evaluated and used, in order to understand and decrease the role of unconscious biases in that process.
  6. We will be forming a JET advisory council to look for opportunities, create organizational processes, help identify funding and other supports, and elicit and choose projects and initiatives to focus on, drawing on a peer learning community model.
  7. Mimi Sheller, Dean of the GS, is founding a Mobility Justice Lab to convene students, faculty, and collaborators to research, design and enact more healthy, inclusive, equitable, low-carbon and sustainable mobilities. A soft launch event was held at the WPI Seaport in June with speakers on mobility justice in Greater Boston, including a community-based organization leader from Roxbury. Dean Sheller will also be joining the Worcester City Long Range Plan Working Group on Transport and Mobility, to help foster more equitable mobility in Worcester. Our Worcester Community Project Center is also building ties with the local Latin-American community.
  8. A newly awarded NOAA-RISA research grant (PIs Sheller, Tuler, Strauss, Davis, Jiusto) will be supporting work in our Puerto Rico Project Center in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico (a Hispanic-serving institution) over the next five years. We plan to hire a Puerto Rican postdoctoral researcher and support IQP students and MS students GQP projects in Puerto Rico. This is part of our strategy to build relations that will help us recruit more Latin-American and Afro-Caribbean students to WPI in the coming years.