Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fellows Facilitate Workshops, Open Dialogues

DEI Fellows after a workshop they hosted

After 11 LVC students served as inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Teaching Fellows during the 2021–2022 academic year, this immersive experience is growing in scope in its second year.

The role of the Fellows includes developing and implementing lessons for the College’s required First-Year Experience companion course as well as facilitating workshops for students and faculty. Some of the students also hosted afternoon breakout sessions during this year’s Symposium on Inclusive Excellence. The Fellows program is part of the Humanities Social Justice and Civic Engagement major and minor.

Some of the lessons the Fellows shared in the First-Year Experience classrooms focused on social identities, said Hannah Alvarnaz ’23. “There was definitely some awkward silence and difficult conversations, but I think that the students learned a lot, and I know that I did, too,” said the political science and global studies double major.

The Fellows collaborated to build their lesson plans from scratch and learned the importance of understanding that others’ backgrounds and experiences affect their outlook on life as much as our own experiences and backgrounds affect us.

“By taking time to think more critically about my own privileges, and the different ‘legs up’ that I’ve had in my life, I am able to be more compassionate, and I think that my people skills have improved,” said Brie Lattanzi ’24. “Additionally, I think that, especially in English classes and education classes, instead of automatically jumping to unfair biases, when responding critically to texts or situational exercises, I take more time to think about the situation, and how I may respond in the same way if I’d had similar life experiences.

Dr. Cathy Romagnolo, professor of English and director of the social justice and civic engagement major and minor, mentored the students through training in basic classroom management strategies, inclusive classroom pedagogy, generating civil dialogue, and the specific lesson plans offered on diversity, equity and inclusion. The training included mock discussions and hypothetical scenarios.

Gillian Wenhold ’24, who became involved with the Fellows after taking a Dialogue for Social Justice Class in the fall, served as a co-facilitator for a recent faculty workshop.

“We talked about dialogue blockers and microagressions because they are not only the most common challenge to come up in a classroom, but leaving them unaddressed can be detrimental to the environment of the classroom,” said Wenhold, who is planning a career in education. “We recognize that it is stressful to address microaggressions/dialogue blockers in class, so we wanted to make sure that the faculty and staff were given an idea of how they can respond to those situations and to recognize that doing something is better than doing nothing.”

Along with raising awareness and opening discussions on campus, Maria Perez ’23, appreciates the self-discovery she has experienced through this immersive course.

“I believe it has empowered me to have a different mindset and outlook on my peers,” she said. “This program also taught me how to be more of a leader. It has helped me become more comfortable speaking in front of other people and giving presentations on difficult discussion topics.”

Students are eligible to participate in the DEI Fellows Program through the Dialogue for Social Justice class. Questions can be directed to Dr. Cathy Romagnolo at romagnol@lvc.edu.

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