Five students study together at a table in a library study room

LEARNING COMMUNITIES

Starting in fall 2017, the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative at Oberlin mobilized a number of learning communities comprised of faculty and staff from across campus. These communities of practice are designed to encourage and enhance the emergence of new ideas and cultural approaches to tackle some of Oberlin's most-pressing questions of equity.

 

Participation in learning communities engages and empowers Oberlin employees in the change process, deepens their understanding of strategies for leading organizational transformation, and provides an avenue for cross-fertilization and mutual support across the College.

 

Work in the learning communities during years one, two and three of the HHMI grant has primed STEM faculty to take on change processes in their own departments through the Departmental Action and Reflection Teams (DARTs).

Marcelo Vinces, former Director of CLEAR, presents to a gathering of HHMI learning community members in Oberlin's StudiOC during the 2017-18 academic year.

Faculty and staff from Oberlin College, Kenyon College, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Lawrence Technological University meet in Oberlin's StudiOC for the spring 2018 peer implementation cluster meeting.

Faculty and staff participating in the HHMI learning communities at Oberlin College gather in StudiOC for an update on the HHMI Inclusive Excellence Initiative's ongoing projects at Oberlin. 

Nicollette Mitchell, Director of CLEAR, and Marta Laskowski, Professor of Biology and Director of the HHMI Inclusive Excellence Grant at Oberlin, present to the HHMI learning communities in StudiOC.

Five faculty and staff participating in HHMI learning communities at Oberlin College present to the rest of the learning community members in StudiOC.

Faculty and staff from Oberlin College and Kenyon College gather at Oberlin's StudiOC in August 2018 for the first Mobile Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching held in Oberlin.

Year Three, 2019-2020

SPRING 2020

The Intergroup Dialogue for faculty and staff, led by the Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences and the Multicultural Resource Centerseries with participation from the HHMI Leadership Team, continued on a bi-weekly basis to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion at Oberlin College, this time focusing on Derald Wing Sue's Race Talk. Meetings were planned and facilitated by Nicollette Mitchell of the Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences , Zahida Sherman and Iliana Velez of the Multicultural Resource Center, and Ave Bisesi, the HHMI STEM Fellow.

As part of initiatives to begin priming Departmental Action and Reflection Team (DART) members for DART work starting in the fall of 2020, the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative at Oberlin hosted a reading group for a group of approximately twelve faculty and staff from ten departments that met five times over the semester, centered on student sense of belonging on college campuses. The goal of the learning community was to provide an opportunity for employees to reflect upon the role of belonging in persistence and retention in STEM departments and offer concrete resources and support to improve student sense of belonging at Oberlin. The group utilized Terrell Strayhorn's College Students' Sense of Belonging as a guide for discussion. Meetings were planned and facilitated by Nicollette Mitchell of the Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences and Ave Bisesi, the HHMI STEM Fellow. 

FALL 2019

During August 2019, faculty and staff from Kenyon College and Oberlin College participated in the second Mobile Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching held at Oberlin College.

Following submission of the revised tenure and promotion forms by the HHMI Advisory Board, College Faculty Council (CFC) added a new question that prompts candidates to describe pedagogical innovations they've undertaken, including ones related to inclusive learning, and gives candidates the opportunity to provide evidence of teaching effectiveness beyond end-of-semester student evaluations. CFC also changed an existing question about candidates' service to the College to include efforts to promote inclusion and serve underrepresented students. Related changes were made on other forms, including the instructions to departments about reviewing candidates' materials. The revised forms were approved by College Faculty Council in August 2019 and went into effect for 2019-20 academic year.

Spearheaded by the Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences and the Multicultural Resource Center, HHMI co-sponsored an Intergroup Dialogue series for twenty-five faculty and staff across twenty departments to meet bi-weekly throughout the semester to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion at Oberlin College. Members of the community used Claude Steele's Whistling Vivaldi as a launch point for discussion. The goals of the group included building trust across departments, employment classes and social identities and increase the retention and persistence of historically unserved populations. Meetings were planned and facilitated by Nicollette Mitchell of the Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences and Zahida Sherman of the Multicultural Resource Center.

 

Simultaneously, the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative at Oberlin held a low-barrier faculty and staff reading group centered on research literature pertaining to diversity and inclusion in higher education. Five meetings were held over the course of the semester; participants, comprised of faculty from each STEM department and several other offices on campus, were provided time at the beginning of each meeting to complete the reading. Meetings were planned and facilitated by members of the HHMI Leadership Team. 

The HHMI Leadership Team read and discussed Derald Wing Sue's Race Talk to ground group understanding of racism in the Oberlin STEM context. This served as a pilot for the inclusion of Race Talk in the Intergroup Dialogue Series in the spring.

Year Two, 2018-2019

SPRING 2019

During the spring semester, all three learning communities continued to meet once-monthly. A key aim for year two was revising faculty personnel forms relating to tenure and promotion, to recognize faculty undertaking inclusive-excellence efforts and give greater institutional visibility and value to inclusive excellence. Building on their separate work in 2017-18 and fall 2018, the learning communities on Incentivizing Inclusive Practices and Inclusive Pedagogies met jointly in early 2019 to discuss proposed changes. The HHMI leadership team drafted language reflecting their work. The revised materials were vetted by the larger HHMI Advisory Board and sent to the College Faculty Council (CFC), the elected faculty body chaired by the Dean of Arts and Sciences that oversees tenure and promotion.

In the last two months of the spring 2019 semester, the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative piloted a new learning community focused on equitable education. Four participants across three departments read and meet three times to discuss Claude Steele's Whistling Vivaldi. The group's success served as a framework for the implementation of the Intergroup Dialogue series in the fall of 2019. 

FALL 2018

During August 2018, faculty and staff from Kenyon College and Oberlin College, including many members of the Departmental Action and Reflection Teams, participated in the first Mobile Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching held at Oberlin College.

 

Three learning communities from spring 2018 were sustained during the fall 2019 semester: Incentivizing Inclusive Practices, Collaboration and Communication Across Departments, and Inclusive Pedagogies. All learning communities met bi-weekly to discuss issues and topics of relevance to their group focus. 

Year One, 2017-2018

SPRING 2018

During the spring semester, the six initial learning communities split into seven with the division of Alumni and Community Connections into the Alumni Engagement and Community Engagement as a High Impact Inclusive Practice groups. By the end of the spring semester, a number of concrete interventions and accomplishments had emerged. The Inclusive Pedagogies group developed a reading list of evidence-based inclusive practices in STEM. The Listening to and Advising Students group established and received direct feedback from a STEM student leadership committee, gathered anonymous data concerning implicit bias and stereotype threat from ~400 students, and hosted a workshop on impostor syndrome. Members of the group on Building Community and Sense of Belonging added incentives to the Lab Crawl STEM community event and met with the director of the Student Union to learn about longstanding traditions and the possibility of a STEM orientation event. 

FALL 2017

With the launch of the HHMI Inclusive Excellence grant at Oberlin College, six initial learning communities were established. These included: Building Community and Sense of Belonging; Collaboration and Communication Across Departments; Alumni and Community Connections; Incentivizing Inclusive Practices; Listening to and Advising Students; and Inclusive Pedagogies. All six groups met bi-weekly throughout the semester. 

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