John Follaco | August 30, 2021

Diversity Training Spurs New Initiatives

Nine week training course expected to have a lasting impact on campus.

A group of faculty, staff, and administrators gathered each Friday afternoon last spring for a period of nine weeks. Their goal was to strengthen SUNY Brockport’s campus climate and realize tangible benefits from diversity-focused efforts.

Their efforts are now beginning to yield results.

The group consisted of members of the Faculty and Staff of Color Group, members of the International Faculty and Staff Association, and President’s Cabinet. Together, they participated in a new program offered by the Dale Carnegie organization that focused on cultural awareness and competency.

Brockport President Heidi Macpherson first approached Gena Willis, the Career Advisement Coordinator in the School of Business and Management and chair of the Faculty and Staff of Color Interest Group, about the prospect of partnering in this training in the spring of 2020. Willis was intrigued, but wanted to learn more.

“I had a long conversation with the (Dale Carnegie) trainer about his organization. We talked about Brockport and its challenges. I was very open and honest because if we were going to do this, it needed to be real so that it could produce results. I really felt that the intentions of Dale Carnegie were to come in and help make a difference. I then reached out to President Macpherson and said we’d love to participate.”

Willis says that the training helped participants get to know themselves and each other on a deeper level. Then they focused on how they could move equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts forward – together.

Jie Zhang, a professor in the Department of Education and Human Development and a member of the International Faculty and Staff Association, felt similarly.

“I was encouraged to see how colleagues took the risk to be vulnerable in the learning process,” Zhang said. “We shared our experiences, listened to others’ perspectives, engaged in conversations, and reflected on learning.”

But participants also wanted to make a tangible difference.

“This training had impact and outcomes: not only did the members of this group get to know each other more and better, creating that sense of community that is so important to our college, but we created four projects that will have a lasting impact on SUNY Brockport and our EDI efforts,” Macpherson said.

The projects the group is working to bring to fruition are:

  • Brown Bag Lunch and Learn Series: Willis says they plan to offer three to four sessions per semester, during which they’ll bring in individuals who will spark discussion on equity, diversity, and inclusion issues. “We’re an institution of learning,” Willis said. “The more we learn about any subject, the better.”
  • Comprehensive Onboarding for International Faculty and Staff: This effort will focus on a range of issues – from housing and accessing local services, to banking and healthcare questions, as well as teaching skills and mentoring opportunities.
  • Global Spotlight: A learning objective of the course was to become “more culturally aware by developing the ability to recognize and appreciate the nuances of culture and backgrounds in our organizations and personal life.” To help accomplish this, a communications project is being launched to highlight Brockport’s global diversity and to raise awareness of cross-cultural initiatives by our faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
  • Employee Success Center: The center will focus on improving employee success and retention, providing professional development and guidance, and formalizing the onboarding, mentoring, and succession planning processes. It will support and promote people, diversity, inclusion, and engagement. Macpherson says that the college is looking to develop a physical space to support the center.

“I believe the projects that emerged from the training will contribute to a more diverse and inclusive campus,” said Zhang.

Willis thought the experience was a positive one.

“People opened up and got deep down to the root of things and really connected with others,” she said. “If we do more of this, it can really have a big impact.”