College Leadership Embraces Diversity, Equity, and Justice Training

Saint Mary’s College leadership and administrators recently completed a very specialized training, Gaels Uniting for Inclusion Through Diversity Education (GUIDE), on how to build capacity at the College to advance its goals around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. The training was also geared toward helping Saint Mary’s leadership examine their roles as leaders, and how they can fully engage in this critical work.

Kevin Kumashiro, PhD, an internationally recognized expert on educational policy, school reform, educational equity, and social justice; and author of Surrendered: Why Progressives are Losing the Biggest Battles in Education, led the training for the Administrative Cabinet and Council of Deans. Each group attended two 90-minute sessions. “In the workshops, the attendees learned three frameworks for doing equity, inclusion and justice work,” stated Kumashiro.” He added, “One is a framework for thinking about the process that individuals go through when they’re experiencing change. The second framework is the role of discomfort and resistance when [you] don’t want to experience change. The third framework is around the key concepts, and developing a shared language so issues can be discussed and operationalized.”

Kumashiro shared that in the workshops, it was important to convey that the more there is a shared framework for thinking about institutional change, individual change, language and concepts, the more capacity Saint Mary’s will have to embark on change. “The open and honest conversations animated the idea that institutional change, in and of itself, is a social movement. Just as large social movements are responsible for transforming societies, there are elements of movements that we can draw on to think about how we change, improve, and advance justice in the institution,” said Kumashiro. “All three frameworks then build on elements of social movements as a framework for thinking about institutional change.”

The GUIDE training for College leadership and administrators was met with eagerness and anticipation. Kumashiro stated, “Saint Mary’s sees as a core part of its identity and legacy, doing work that has a positive impact on the world; so understandably, there was a willingness for honest discussions and uncomfortable conversations.” Kumashiro praised the work that Saint Mary’s is doing to address diversity, equity, and justice issues within the College community, and expressed to the leadership and administrators that when leading through change, it is expected that the institution will be somewhat uncomfortable. “The more open we are to having difficult conversations, the more likely we will grow and change for the better,” said Kumashiro. “My goal was to provide College leadership with the necessary tools to have these challenging conversations, and to move forward collaboratively so positive change can be successfully achieved.”

The workshops included small breakout sessions so attendees could delve deep into the sensitive topics being discussed. It also allowed them to experience how these conversations can be expanded throughout the campus community. “When conversations are prioritized by the leaders—who themselves are undergoing these conversations—that’s when the dialogue really begins to take on a whole new life of its own,” said Kumashiro.

The GUIDE training for the Cabinet and Council of Deans was organized by Kathy Littles, associate provost for Faculty Affairs and senior diversity officer, to complement the diversity, equity, and justice initiatives on campus, with the goal of building capacity and establishing greater pathways to achieve positive change.