“Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming.”
The core of this project is an iterative series of “co-creating cycles” of work enabling the St. Olaf community to:
Articulate a vision of what a more inclusive St. Olaf would look like;
Act to bring the campus closer to that vision; and
Advance a shared understanding of where we have made progress and where we need to go next.
PROJECT DESIGN: THE CO-CREATING CYCLE
Co-creating groups – Faculty, staff, students, and academic and administrative leaders work with peers in 90-minute working sessions to articulate their vision for “inclusive community” at St. Olaf, and identify actions at every level of the college to help realize it.
Synthesis – Faculty-supervised student analysts synthesize the written reports from the co-creating groups and share the results with the campus community.
Action – The leaders of the Co-Creating initiative work with appropriate individuals, offices, departments, and student groups to respond to the collective vision and action recommendations of the co-creating groups. Some recommendations involve short-term changes that individuals and groups can readily adopt, while others concern longer-term initiatives requiring leadership, support, and coordinated implementation for systemic change.
Impact – Information about the actions taken in response to the co-creating group reports, together with early information about the impact of these changes, is reported back to the campus community.
Analysis and planning – Each successive Co-Creating cycle is planned in light of the outcomes of the previous cycle.
PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION AND IMPACT
Since January 2021, nearly 75% of St. Olaf students and 90% of faculty and staff have participated in one or more elements of the Co-Creating an Inclusive Community initiative.
Co-Creating groups – The Co-Creating initiative began with campus-wide anti-racism training in January-February 2021, engaging approximately 75% of the St. Olaf community. Over the remainder of Spring 2021, more than a quarter of currently enrolled students and 90% of faculty and staff participated in one of 85 different Co-Creating groups, meeting with peers to share their experiences, their vision, and their action recommendations for a more inclusive St. Olaf. Members of the Board of Regents and the Alumni Board held Co-Creating conversations as well. Groups were facilitated by trained faculty, staff, and student leaders, who prepared written reports on key themes articulated by the participants.
Synthesis – During Summer 2021, four student researchers led by a faculty member in Sociology/Anthropology coded and summarized the Spring 2021 Co-Creating group reports, using the DEI Theory of Transformation to classify the main themes. Their findings were shared with the St. Olaf community in a September 2021 virtual Community Forum attended by more than 50 students, staff, faculty, and alumni, followed by a written report available here:
Action and impact – A wide variety of institutional-level actions were prompted by the Spring 2021 Co-Creating group reports. Examples include:
Expanded DEI professional development for faculty and staff during 2021-22 offered by the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Expanded Heritage Months programming
Development and implementation of a flexible work policy and the re-establishment of the Benefits Advisory Committee
A faculty/staff professional development series on “Can St. Olaf be Lutheran and Inclusive?” offered in January 2022 and repeated in June 2022
The development and launch of the May 2022 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium
The establishment of faculty, staff, and student DEI awards
The creation and staffing of a new Employee Engagement and Experience Specialist position in Human Resources, focused on onboarding, professional development, and inclusion
The purchase of institutional memberships on job boards focused on recruiting BIPOC staff and faculty
Significant enhancements to the student employment experience, affecting recruitment and hiring, compensation, training, supervision and mentoring, and relationships with co-workers, together with the launch of an “Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace” workshop for student workers
Analysis and planning – In addition to prompting these institutional-level actions, the Spring 2021 group reports led to the launch of a new Co-Creating cycle at the department/office level. In Fall 2021, following training with the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, the Co-Creating facilitators began meeting with individual departments and offices to review the reports from the Spring 2021 Co-Creating groups involving their own team members and to identify next steps within their units.
Co-Creating an Inclusive Community Initiative
Actions and Accomplishments
Some of our actions and accomplishments include:
Enrollment and College Relations
Established working group of faculty and staff to build out a support network for Native students
Created College 101 YouTube series for prospective students and families developed by Marketing and Communications and Admissions
Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion is now a standing member of the Gift Acceptance Committee
Engagement in a monthly DEI discussion (Piper Center)
Collaborate with the Taylor Center to offer a series of alumni panel conversations related to identity and career
Engagement of alumni of color from the 890s during an exclusive event
Support international students from a tax and compliance standpoint
DEI topic during monthly staff meeting
Review policies and procedures to ensure the language is inclusive and that unconscious bias is not being reflected in the work that we do
Created DEI Faculty Group
Reviewed course descriptions to confirm language is inclusive
Created formal structures to gather input and listen to students (google feedback from and a student group representative who serves a faculty /student liaison
Conducted training for student employment supervisors and students on how diversity, equity, and inclusion function in the workplace
Reconstituted the membership of the Benefits Advisory Committee
Inaugurated the Staff Advisory Committee which is working on improving equity and inclusion among staff
Taking particular care in handling accommodations for colleagues with disabilities, holding thoughtful conversations to support these colleagues
Increased outreach to broaden applicant pools in tenure track searches
Added African American Song Literature course to curriculum
Redesigned the Philosophy major
Hired new faculty and empower students from underrepresented backgrounds
Smith Center for Global Engagement
Conducted DEI Training for faculty and students participating in study abroad
Revised housing placement and accommodations procedures to assure inclusion
Participated in Team professional development training on DEI
Performed a climate survey for student employees (Recreation Department)
Created a newsletter to increase transparency (Public Safety)
Organized bus trips to the Global Market to help students buy food from different cultures
Increased diverse representation on hiring teams for staff