Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is leading the way toward new methods of instruction that engage all students, regardless of their background, learning preference or educational goals, and lead them to thrive.

DEI initiatives progress in departments’ five-year plans

College departments completed their five-year planning process this academic year, emphasizing themes of the Boldly Elon strategic plan: Learn, Thrive, Connect and Rise.

Faculty paid particular attention to Thrive and strengthening efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion. Their plans deepen work already being done, spearhead exciting new initiatives and engage the broader community in creating academic spaces where every student thrives.

Among plans underway across the College are:

  • Reviewing curricular and course content for areas related to DEI
  • Establishing peer-mentoring programs throughout disciplines and programs
  • Implementing antiracist pedagogies
  • Bridging courses and sections with interrelated DEI subjects
  • Including more speakers, panelists, authors, artists and local community representatives who are members of marginalized or underrepresented groups
  • Planning more extracurricular and team-building events to create belonging
  • Expanding partnerships with colleagues at historically Black colleges and universities
  • Creating an inclusivity task force in the arts and humanities that would include student representatives and develop action plans for each major

College invited into HHMI Inclusive Excellence Learning Community

The College was invited to participate in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence Learning Communities in fall 2020, joining 107 other institutions from an initial pool of over 300 applicants.

Faculty and leadership from those campuses were organized into learning communities in the spring. College faculty will collaborate around inclusive teaching in STEM, particularly in first-year experiences. Teams of faculty from each of Elon’s STEM majors are participating in the learning groups. They will share ideas and information with colleagues as the process continues through fall 2021. Broad results from each learning community are expected to be shared in winter 2022.

The College continues to gather data needed to advance inclusive excellence in STEM focusing on the introductory course experience.

Inclusive Excellence in STEM Institute held in summer 2021

More than half of Elon’s STEM faculty participated in a four-day workshop around diversity, equity and inclusion June 14-17.

This summer’s virtual forum was funded by a $20,000 Faculty Forums Grant by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The institute was planned for summer 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The institute was led by Kelly Mack, Association of American Colleges and Universities vice president for undergraduate STEM education and executive director of Project Kaleidoscope. Several Elon faculty also led sessions. Buffie Longmire-Avital, associate professor of psychology and coordinator of the African and African-American Studies program, spoke about implicit bias. Kelsey Bitting, associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and assistant professor of environmental studies, delivered a lecture on inclusive pedagogy. Carla Fullwood, director of inclusive excellence, education and development, spoke about power and privilege.

Faculty spent time reflecting on their personal motivations and experiences and left the institute with at least three action items to deepen inclusion in STEM and teaching. The College will host focus groups later in the summer to gather further reflections and outcomes from the institute.

English department redesigns Core course to focus on diversity

The Department of English redesigned ENG 255: Topics in Literature to incorporate diverse perspectives and themes of human difference into all course sections. It serves as an example of how departments within the College are addressing diversity, equity and inclusion across and within curricula.

The course is recommended to all non-literature majors as an introduction to the discipline, meeting the literature requirement in the Core Curriculum. Already, numerous ENG 255 sections centralized these themes —highlighting works from Black, Native American, Latinx, Asian and LGBTQIA authors, various religious or cultural perspectives, and other identities. The revision deepens that work and ensures the study of diversity, equity and inclusion is part of each student’s undergraduate experience at Elon, said Associate Professor of English and Department Chair Kevin Bourque.

Recent studies show that reading literature about other cultural experiences and identities develops the brain’s capacity for empathy. Fostering the understanding of and caring for diverse people will strengthen students’ undergraduate experience and prepare them to be global citizens who will appreciate and welcome different points of view.

Faculty across departments awarded grants to advance pedagogy

Teams of College faculty from five departments were among the recipients of the highly competitive Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning’s 10th annual Diversity and Inclusion Grants. The grants support faculty teams in developing projects focused on inclusive pedagogy, assignments, content and strategies to foster learning about human diversity.

Recipients included teams from:

  • The Department of Psychology: Anne-Marie Iselin and Buffie Longmire-Avital, for their Racial Equity for Students in Psychology: Emending our Curriculum and Teaching (RESPECT). The project will include three students in the department’s Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity task force working group in gathering, analyzing and interpreting data; providing feedback to action plans; and other tasks. The project is aimed at leveraging student voices for sustainable curricular and pedagogical changes to create enduring racial equity.
  • The Department of Performing Arts: Julio Agustin Matos Jr., Deborah Leamy and Brian Kremer, to collaborate on curricular revisions across courses in the voice and dance sequence of the music theatre degree program. Revisions will incorporate curricula that explore vocal and dance styles from a range of cultures, essential in preparing well-rounded and adept music theatre practitioners who will transform the field.
  • The Poverty and Social Justice program: Toddie Peters, Jessica Carew, Vanessa Drew-Branch, Ketevan Kupatadze and Rob Perdue, to redesign the interdisciplinary syllabus and create new teaching modules for the program that are in line with the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty’s updated learning goals. The project will also support faculty development.
  • The Department of Political Science and Policy Studies: Liza Taylor, Damion Blake, Kaye Usry, Joel Shelton and Jessica Carew, to survey courses they teach in relationship to systems of power and DEI and research the best practices for teaching DEI in the social sciences. Their results will be shared across the department.
  • The Department of Exercise Science: Lauren Walker, Eric Hall, Aaron Piepmeier, Matthew Wittstein and Takudswa Madzima were awarded a second stage DIG grant to expand on a 2020 project that assessed departmental climate and assessing curricula. The second phase will implement and evaluate changes already established and expand the reviews to more areas and explore learning opportunities outside the classroom.