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The Decolonizing SEAS Curriculum Initiative

The Decolonizing SEAS Curriculum Initiative emerged out of student activism and support from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and SEAS’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office. DSI aims to: (1) elevate the scholarly contributions by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) authors; (2) address the harmful impacts of colonialism and systemic racism contributing to environmental problems within historically marginalized communities; and (3) assess the implementation of BIPOC knowledge in curricula and decolonized pedagogies in the classroom. The pilot DSI program tasked students and professors to collaborate to revise course syllabi. The next iteration of DSI includes ongoing educational events, specialization breakouts and DEI metrics included in teaching evaluations. The initiative has succeeded thus far in:

  • Adding justice and equity knowledge and practices to courses
  • Creating a more inclusive and robust academic environment
  • Providing meaningful learning experiences for student researchers
  • Co-creating a class on radical urban planning and environmental equity

Unit: School of Environment and Sustainability (SEAS)

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Anishinaabek-led Partnerships: Mnomen Restoration and Seed Rematriation

Mnomen, a staple food of Anishinaabek peoples across the Great Lakes for centuries, now survives in just a fraction of its former abundance. Supported by a Graham Sustainability Institute Catalyst Grant, this project works to reconnect the Anishinaabe with native seeds by partnering tribal leaders who have time-tested experience in Mnomen socio-ecology with regional wild rice experts. Indigenous partners guided the team in assessing the feasibility of Mnomen restoration across 10 U-M properties and proposed a pilot restoration project that emphasized sustainability grounded in reconciliation principles. The group chose Willow Pond (at the U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens) as the optimal site for restoring mnomen as part of a long-term relationship with Michigan’s Anishinaabek communities. Future restoration work will continue in part of the Meet the Moment Research Initiative grant. The project will be an inclusive partnership with Michigan’s tribal communities.

Unit: Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (MBGNA)

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Equity Curriculum Reform

In summer 2020, student organizers formed Design Justice Actions and called for Taubman College’s first college-wide, collaborative review of all course syllabi, teaching methodology and course expectations. Chief among their demands: “Restructure and decolonize our design training to include Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) voices, and integrate new thought, research and scholarship on the history of spatial injustice into our core curriculum.” Over a three-week period, student volunteers convened 15 working groups and held 30 student-faculty discussions to review architecture core courses for the upcoming semester. Urban planning held a similar process in 2021 led by a DEI GSSA. Among the outcomes:

  • Students and faculty reviewed 80% of all architecture courses and 50% of urban planning courses
  • Theory and history courses include diverse precedents and authors
  • Architecture courses acknowledge new thought and examples (e.g., flipped classrooms)
  • Course syllabi use inclusive language
  • Improved classroom guidelines emphasize identity consciousness
  • Centering community in the design process has become normative

Unit: Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning

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Centering DIJE in Institutional Practices, Curriculum, and Programs

During DEI 1.0, SOE began the essential work of unpacking how diversity, inclusion, justice and equity are expressed in its curriculum, instruction and programming. That work resulted in an array of activities, including:

  • New assessment practices such as adding required DIJE-related questions to course evaluation forms
  • Leveraging the field-based internship component of SOE’s new Education for Empowerment minor to place U-M undergraduates in the community at large, along with other community learning opportunities
  • Curricular innovation that included launching the Trauma-Informed Practice Certificate Program, which promotes pedagogical practices that support students’ social, cultural and emotional well-being

When confronted with the claim that the curricula represented white values and norms, SOE also invested in workshops to examine whiteness, and faculty formed reading groups around the issue. The dual goal in all this work was to (1) reinvent the curriculum by attending to equity, diversity and justice and (2) make all instructional practices more inclusive.

Unit: School of Education (SOE)

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Seed Funding for DEI Scholarship

OVPR revamped its former faculty grants and awards program to promote more equity and transparency in distributing internal research funding, replacing it with several new initiatives that included an Anti-Racism Grants program. In partnership with over 20 campus centers and institutes, the office also launched the new Bold Challenges funding program with the explicit goal of applying an “equity lens” across strategic areas of sustainability, health and infrastructure. In addition:

  • The OVPR Anti-Racism Grants program received 41 proposals from academic units across campus and provided 8 research teams with over $500K in funding and in-kind research development services in its first year.
  • Among sub-units, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) and Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS) together provided $640K in seed funding to projects focused on DEI scholarship as part of their annual grants programs, which has led to over $10M in follow-on funding.

Unit: Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR)

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Anti-Racism Initiatives

Launched in 2020, the Office of the Provost has engaged work on several anti-racism initiatives designed to address some of the deep-rooted structural inequities within the academy and serve as a role model for other areas of the university. This effort has included:

  • Funding for 21 new tenured or tenure-track faculty members with scholarly expertise in racial inequality and structural racism
  • A public safety task force to address policing on the Ann Arbor campus
  • Expanded resources to support new and current U-M scholars working in the area of anti-racism
  • Reevaluation of race and ethnicity curriculum requirements across the university’s 19 schools and colleges
  • Enhanced faculty and staff professional development opportunities related to anti-racism

To learn more about these initiatives, including recent progress, please visit: https://www.provost.umich.edu/nav/anti-racism.html

Unit: Office of the Provost

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Solicitor General “Diversity of Thought” Event

OGC sought to promote DEI awareness in the broader university community via a remarkable 2018 event featuring five former members of the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office discussing how that office’s approach to civility might also inform campus discussions and debates. Sponsored by OGC and co-sponsored by the Law School and the Ford School of Public Policy, “Diversity of Thought and Respecting the Other Side of the Argument” focused on how to engage in civil advocacy, even in the context of the most contentious issues. In an unscripted and unprecedented discussion, the panelists—who had differing political and personal identities—engaged with one another about how to interact respectfully with those who have different perspectives, identities and life experiences, with the goal of seeking to understand and work across those differences. Audience members included students, faculty and staff from across the university community. Feedback from participants and panelists alike was excellent.

Unit: Office of General Counsel (OGC)

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Federal Funding to Support Students During COVID-19

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) was implemented by the federal government to support students and universities with financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, U-M distributed three rounds of HEERF funding for student emergency grants. Expediting and tracking the grant process in a timely way required a significant amount of resources, flexibility and cross-campus collaboration. The Office of Financial Aid (OFA) was responsible for distributing the funds, based on an application process created in collaboration with the university’s ITS department. Working in partnership with the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, Sponsored Programs, Treasury and the Office of Budget and Planning, OFA distributed a total of $57.6M in grants to more than 28,500 students. Students enrolled in Spring/Summer 2021 also received block grants. The goal was to assist as many students as possible. Thus, when international students were deemed ineligible, OFA used other institutional funding to provide support.

Unit: Office of Enrollment Management (OEM)

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Curricular Change: Infusing DEI into Training and Practice

The U-M Medical School has enacted major changes to better address DEI in its curriculum. Driven in part by student activism and launched in September 2021, a new class on The History of Race and Racism in Medicine explores how the past continues to shape present medical and health care norms, behaviors and practices. In its second iteration, the class has attracted students from other health care fields as well as OHEI leaders and doctoring faculty.

The Healthcare Equity and Quality Scholars Program (HEQSP) is based on a longitudinal health care disparities curriculum incorporating cultural humility, social determinants of health and quality improvement. This 10-month certificate program is designed to develop leaders and change agents for health care equity.

Other DEI-course related enhancements include:

  • Adding genetics and health disparities to the core curriculum
  • Addressing the importance of diversity in study populations and research teams in Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics courses
  • Utilizing case discussions on culture and identity in formal training within the Department of Psychiatry

Unit: Michigan Medicine

An image of a protest with a person holding up an "End Systemic Racism" Sign. Over the image there is text superimposed reading "Practicing Anti-Racist Pedagogy"

Inclusive Teaching Website: Practicing Anti-Racist Pedagogy

Hosted by LSA and maintained by the Inclusive Pedagogies Subcommittee of the Inclusive Campus Collaborative, the Inclusive Teaching website is intended to be a resource for all faculty. Focus areas include large courses, online courses and STEM classes. In 2021, following the LSA Anti-Racism Report, the site was expanded to include Practicing Anti-Racist Pedagogy. This new focus area includes a wealth of tools, definitions and campus spaces engaging in anti-racist practices. Results from a U-M survey and Google analytics reveal that:

  • Between September 2021 and April 2022, the website averaged over 15,000 monthly visitors
  • Nearly 9,000 individuals, from all parts of the world, accessed activities and resources during every visit
  • Since the updated website launch in March 2021, the bounce rate has decreased by 26%
  • Most visitors are from outside universities and the K-12 fields
  • The percentage of visitors from the U-M campus is small

Future objectives include increasing utilization among U-M visitors from all three campuses.

Unit: College of Literature, Science, & the Arts (LSA)

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Inclusive Research Matters Seminar Series

ISR’s DEI Educational Programs Working Group created the Inclusive Research Matters (IRM) Seminar series to examine the role of inclusion in research and research methodologies. Through presentations, researchers from ISR, U-M and other institutions discuss the links between inclusion and research methodologies and why inclusion matters to the research enterprise. A host of questions have been examined, among them: which research questions are asked, who is included, how findings are interpreted, and what assumptions are made in the research process. To date, the IRM seminar series has hosted seven Zoom presentations, with each session garnering over 100 participants. A survey distributed to ISR faculty, staff and students revealed that 61% of respondents agreed that the IRM series is an impactful way to promote awareness about DEI issues in research at ISR, and 64% found the series presentations to be valuable. The first manuscript resulting from an IRM presentation has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Family Theory and Review.

Unit: Institute for Social Research (ISR)

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Center for Racial Justice

Launched in Fall 2021, the Ford School’s Center for Racial Justice (CRJ) is a cross-disciplinary hub that provides a space for all who advance racial equity. In addition to helping the U-M community understand persisting racial inequalities and their relationship to public policy, CRJ advances research, dialogue, pedagogy and creative projects that support racial justice movements. Highlights from the CRJ’s first two years:

  • The Racial Foundations of Public Policy speaker series and the Master Class in Activism feature noted scholars, activists and thought leaders.
  • Reading circles for graduate students, faculty and postdoc fellows expand the ways in which the university community discusses racial equity across disciplines.
  • The Racial Justice Student Initiative Fund supports student-led efforts to advance a more critical understanding of the social and political conditions that impact Black, Native and Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American and Pacific Islander peoples.
  • In 2022-23, three Visiting Fellows will produce projects that have the potential to transform and inform public debate, policy and scholarly analysis.

Unit: Ford School of Public Policy (FSPP)

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Increase Access & Visibility of Library Holdings on Underrepresented Groups and DEI Topics

Over the past five years, as the Clements Library has shifted its outreach and communication efforts to virtual and online resources, participation levels have increased significantly. During that time, CL has sponsored 295 events spanning Bookworm Programs, Conversations with the Curators, the Discover Series, lectures and tours. The net result has been:

  • 38,237 registrants
  • 12,299 attendees
  • 97,522 Zoom views
  • 952 MiVideo views
  • A total audience of 110,767

Given the holdings of the Clements Library and the nature of current scholarly research, nearly all programs touch on Native American, African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, women’s and/or disability history. Two recent online exhibits curated by CL interns and focused on DEI topics resulted in 16,000 views of exhibits highlighting the history of underrepresented groups—a number vastly larger than an in-person audience for the same exhibits would have generated. These exhibits are rooted in the larger ongoing project of digitizing Clements Library collections.

Unit: Clements Library (CL)

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LEO Lecturers Equity-focused Teaching Program (EfT)

EfT was created to provide training, tools and feedback for lecturers to develop and sharpen skills focused on inclusive and equitable teaching practices for long-term and sustainable change. This collaboration between CRLT and LEO is particularly significant given that lecturers often teach entry-level and foundational courses for undergraduates, which can enroll upwards of 200 students. These courses are gateways for diverse groups of learners, making them a key educational juncture for the university, its academic units and the students themselves. EfT requires lecturers to review and revise an actual course they will be teaching in the coming semester. They then teach that revised course while receiving feedback and support from their program cohort and CRLT’s DEI-focused consultant. Subsequent changes in individual teaching practices will impact students who work with these instructors for years to come. Feedback indicates that students taught by the 73 lecturers who participated in the EfT program experienced a transparent, inclusive learning environment in which they felt respected and supported.

Unit: Center for Research on Learning & Teaching (CRLT)