How can we increase faculty involvement in intercultural learning, or diversity, equity, and inclusion work? This is a question I’m frequently asked and have been exploring over the past few months in this blog. In this post, I share how investing in one faculty member’s intercultural capacity has had significant ripple effects at Carroll Community College, a two-year school in Westminster, Maryland.
I recently received an email from Becki Maurio, Professor of Spanish at Carroll Community College, and a graduate of the professional development program I run, Facilitating Intercultural Learning. Below is an excerpt from that email:
Four years ago (after taking your course), I established an Intercultural Teaching and Learning Fellows program on our campus; we've had over 35 faculty and student affairs staff participate in ongoing learning experiences using a Community of Practice model during that time. We are preparing to welcome Cohort Five and the program was also just recognized as our college recipient for the League for Innovation in the Community College Innovation of the Year award. Additionally, after my experience with the IDI, we began using it to help faculty teaching diversity-designated General Education courses to better understand and continue their own intercultural development. I wanted to thank you for helping create that foundation for me and let you know about the ripples that it has sent out - far beyond those 6 or 8 weeks that we spent together online!
Of course, I had to follow up and learn more about what Professor Maurio and her colleagues are doing at Carroll Community College! I’m sharing their story here in the hopes that it might inspire ideas or inspiration among other institutions and educators.
In 2017, Carroll Community College appointed a new Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs, Dr. Rosalie Mince. The new VP felt the institution needed to be doing more in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space, and created a released time faculty coordinator position to lead the way. Professor Maurio was recruited for the job.
When Maurio started exploring what would need to be done, she realized she had a lot to learn. So she spent the first year doing just that—learning. She enrolled in True North Intercultural’s very first cohort of Facilitating Intercultural Learning (then called Foundations of Intercultural Learning & Teaching) and attended a number of relevant conferences.
Toward the end of that first year and into the second, Professor Maurio started inviting colleagues to join her at those conferences. It was on the way home from a conference, carpooling with a colleague and stuck in traffic, that the idea for the Intercultural Teaching and Learning Fellows Program was born. Maurio and her colleague spent that time comparing notes and starting to envision what this work could look like at their institution. “Even though the conference was excellent, that time to and from made it that much richer,” Maurio explains. Shortly thereafter, she proposed the idea for the Fellows Program to the VP.
Structure of the Fellows Program
The Intercultural Teaching and Learning Fellows Program welcomes a new cohort of approximately 7-10 educators each academic year. The program was originally conceptualized for faculty. However, upon hearing about the idea, student affairs professionals expressed interest, so the program was opened to them as well.
The Fellows Program follows a Community of Practice (CoP) model, meaning it’s largely participant-directed. Every other month, Fellows attend a local DEI-related conference together. They share and discuss their learning and take-aways while carpooling to and from the conferences, as well as during debriefing sessions scheduled in the off months.
The program will soon welcome its fifth cohort. Most of the past participants have continued to be involved, however, so the group now numbers 27 active faculty and staff.
Financing the Program
Program costs are kept low by the fact that all of the conferences are local (close enough to drive and not incur hotel fees) and either free or relatively low-cost. The five conferences or events they attend each year include:
- A Culture Expo hosted by the local public schools (free and open to the public)
- Maryland Cultural Proficiency Conference, hosted by a consortium of K12 and higher education entities
- Association of Faculties for Advancement of Community College Teaching (AFACCT) Conference (which typically offers a number of DEI-related sessions)
- Culturally Responsive Teaching & Learning Conference, hosted by the Community College of Baltimore County
- Carroll Citizens for Racial Equity Conference (free and open to the pubic)
Faculty and staff at Carroll each have access to an individual professional development account, which in the past has typically funded attendance at one national conference approximately every three years. COVID has obviously prevented this in recent years, leading to some cost savings. Participants in the current cohort of the Fellows Program use their individual professional development funds for one of the two paid conferences, and the other is covered by a diversity budget line item.
The recruiting process, according to Professor Maurio, has been relatively organic. The first year she mostly pulled in people she knew. Since then, she’s been surprised and delighted at the increasing interest each year. And now that more key leaders have participated, they can identify individuals they supervise who might be good candidates, propose it to them, and discuss how to build it into their goals for the upcoming year.
When it comes to DEI and intercultural work, it can sometimes feel we’re “preaching to the choir,” and it can be difficult to expand the circle of participants. Maurio says they’ve started thinking about: “Who’s choir-adjacent?” That is, “Who are those people who, if we just invite them, they will show up? They might need an invitation; they might not show up on their own. Those choir-adjacent people have been, I think, our most enthusiastic, energetic supporters. They’re the ones who show up unfailingly. They’re the ones who surprise me that they volunteer, that they’ve stepped out of what I would see as their comfort zone. And that’s been really exciting to watch.”
Reaping the Rewards
Although Fellows do not receive any type of monetary compensation for their participation, there are significant less tangible benefits. One has been the sense of community and support amongst the group. Participants say they appreciate being able to spend time and build community with colleagues who share their interest in this type of work.
Maurio mentioned research demonstrating such communities can contribute to a greater sense of belonging, especially among faculty and staff who identify as BIPOC or hold other marginalized identities. She points to the fact almost everyone has continued to participate even after their initial year in the program, saying, “I think that’s a testament to what they’re getting from their participation. Fellows have been supporting one another and collaborating on issues they care about outside of campus as well, in the local community.
In addition to enjoying the sense of community, Fellows also recognize how their learning is impacting their work as educators. For example, they’re able to create more inclusive classrooms. Many of them serve on committees doing work around assessment, general education, and similar, and feel their learning is helping them shift the conversation in those spaces to include more consideration of issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Connecting Efforts to Institutional Goals & Structures
Professor Maurio has found ways to connect this work to the structures within which she and her colleagues are working, and feels this brings even more power to the work. Specifically, faculty at Carroll Community College have the opportunity to propose and implement a “promotion project.” Maurio used the creation of the Fellows Program as her own promotion project, and she sees the possibility for others to create promotion projects connected to what they’re doing as Fellows.
In addition, Professor Maurio’s experience taking the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) assessment and participating in an individual debrief, as part of the Facilitating Intercultural Learning program, has played a role in the process of updating the General Education requirements at the institution.
Over the past several years, Carroll Community College has been working on updating their General Education requirements, based on the AAC&U VALUE Rubrics. One of those requirements has to do with intercultural and global awareness. Maurio explains, “As this rolled out, we saw that there was an opportunity to provide additional training for faculty teaching diversity-designated courses as well as for administrators and staff who support those faculty.”
Based on Maurio’s experience with the IDI, they decided to partner with an IDI Qualified Administrator to administer the assessment and provide one-on-one debriefs to approximately 40 faculty and staff members. In other words, Carroll is supporting their student learning objectives by building intercultural capacity among faculty and staff. Many of the faculty and staff participating in that initiative are also Intercultural Teaching & Learning Fellows.
Professor Maurio highlights how the intercultural efforts at Carroll started and have evolved relatively organically, yet it’s also been possible and important to tie them into institutional structures: “This capacity-building work has been both grassroots and embedded in some of the structures of our institution. I think that’s helped create and sustain energy around it—and also helped people at all levels see the importance and value and the connections it has to student success.”
Expanding Institutional Efforts
Beyond the efforts mentioned here, the commitment to DEI work at Carroll continues to grow. Another faculty member has been granted released time to develop and oversee related employee training, and in January of 2021 the college hired an Executive Director of DEI.
Advice for Other Educators Looking to Do Something Similar
When asked what advice she’d offer other educators wanting to build intercultural capacity at their institution, Maurio’s response is simple, although not necessarily easy: “In a way, you just have to start. Sometimes we may feel a little frozen, like we want a blueprint. Like, ‘Tell me what that first step should be.’ But that first step is probably whatever step you take that gets the energy going.” Then you can see where it leads you and what feels like the next best step. “I could have never imagined that we’d be where we are now.”
A huge kudos and thank you to Professor Becki Maurio and her colleagues at Carroll Community College for the work they are doing to develop intercultural capacity—their own and their students’! What ideas or inspiration can you take from this example? What’s one possible first step you could take to get the energy going on your campus? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Photo credit: Justin Owens, Unsplash
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