GREEN BAY – Diversity, equity and inclusion certificate programs have sprouted up across the country in recent years, and Green Bay can now count itself among communities that feature the training.
An eight-week course in diversity, equity and inclusion training has come to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay that promises accountability, cultural awareness and perhaps a little discomfort.
UW-Green Bay launched the noncredit-based certification program this semester taught by the Rev. Lex Cade-White, who is a contract instructor for the university as well as a reverend newly minted with a master’s in public health. The course began Aug. 30.
The takeaway of the course is to confront and gain knowledge of the language and legacy of various walks of life. The program goes beyond requisite hour-long overviews many see during job orientation. Rather, this program, which is being taught across 26 states, offers an opportunity to forge stronger and more collaborative approaches for organizational teams and other environments.
“The reality is we all hold race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class, etc. We all hold those identities,” Cade-White said. “The insight you’re gaining in a diversity-equity-inclusion certificate program is not just to understand that which is outside of ourselves, but to understand who we are.”
Cade-White plans to have her students work on prompts that challenge their perspective, as well as weekly case scenarios in which they’ll have an opportunity to respond to lived experiences that could change how an encounter unfolds. Cade-White will emphasize that diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, isn’t about “that which is other” but about a more aware and conscientious selfhood.
Weekly topics range from identifying unconscious bias, to creating skills for inclusive and exclusive conversations, to engaging with a multigenerational workforce and embedding the DEI work into organizational culture.
“Content-wise, I wanted us to cover a multitude of areas of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Cade-White. “Not just focusing or honing in on race, or gender or sexuality — but covering all of them as well as ability, veteran status, and classism.”
The program comes at an inflection point in the national conversations around race, ethnicity and access. The Green Bay city government has begun responding to calls for more representation this year by creating its first equality commission, and Brown County launched its special committee on racial equity in the last year. As conversations continue in open and safe environments, room for growth can continue, Cade-White said.
She hopes to expose students to components and terminology that will play a role in understanding social identities and, subsequently, social environments and dynamics.
It’s a sentiment that has been on the mind of Corey King, who has a doctorate in educational leadership and administration and is the vice president for university inclusivity and student affairs at UW-Green Bay.
Since he was in college, King, who identifies as African American, has been involved in Black student unions and other organizations.
“My passion started right then and there,” King said.
But safety looks different depending on whom you ask. For King, the onus is on faculty members to foster an environment at the nexus of academic freedom and academic expression.
“Participants can really share in a learning environment, about their own reflection without that getting out (of the classroom), or being ostracized,” King said. “It’s about people respecting where people are in their journey.”
“I like to call it a DEI journey,” said King. “You never stop learning, so this will be a foundation and jumpstart to your journey.”