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College of STEM announces plan to ‘prepare our students to thrive in a diverse and inclusive workplace’

College of STEM announces plan to ‘prepare our students to thrive in a diverse and inclusive workplace’

(Posted Oct. 27, 2020)

The College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Austin Peay State University on Friday released a diversity and inclusion statement and pledged to fight “any form of racism, discrimination or prejudice.”

As part of that pledge, the college announced an action plan to lower barriers that hinder equality and access to resources for underrepresented groups.

“We stand with all groups and individuals working to condemn all forms of oppression,” the statement reads. “We recognize we need to do better.”

College of STEM faculty and staff have launched the action plan and will continue to do so through the spring semester, said Dr. Kallina Dunkle, associate dean of the college. They have been working on the statement and action plan since June.

“A lot of us in the college are passionate about trying to make things more equitable and getting students of color and women more involved with these fields, and making it easier for all students,” Dunkle said.

A Diversity and Inclusion Committee called for in the plan formed earlier this semester and has been meeting routinely, Dunkle said. The committee comprises representatives from every department in the college.

The college also has:

“The big thing is we didn’t want to just have a static statement, this wasn’t about just putting something on the website and saying, ‘Oh, yeah, we care about this,’” Dunkle said. “The point was to create a plan for action. We wanted something we can update and modify every year as a community.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee will evaluate the successes and failures of the action plan each year, she said.

“We can make changes in some of our teaching and in some of the ways that we run things in the college,” Dunkle said. “We’re not going to change all of the systemic issues in the United States overnight, but if we can start to work for those changes in our own community, we can make a difference.”

The college’s Department of Agriculture also is offering a one-credit hour class in the spring called “Diversity in Agriculture and Natural Resources” that will explore self-awareness, cultural awareness, multiculturism, privilege and discrimination.

What does the action plan call for? 

The diversity and inclusion statement recognizes that the faculty and staff of the college do not reflect the student community.

“In 2019-2020, 41% of students across campus (43% in the college) self-identified as persons of color, while only 21% of our faculty and staff identified as persons of color,” the statement reads. “Forty percent of faculty and staff in the college identified as female, while across campus 59% of students (44% in the college) identified as female.”

The college vows to correct these imbalances in representation – which can raise barriers for students and how they identify with mentors in their fields – by instituting several action items. In the action plan, the college vows to:

“I care about this, and I care about the students,” Dunkle said. “I know I might not understand everything yet, but I know there are changes that need to be made. So, I think just having that spirit overall in the college and continuing to work on this to make sure we’re making progress is important.”

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