KOKOMO, Ind. —Two Indiana University Kokomo faculty members were in the inaugural class of graduates from IU’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leadership certification program.
Lalatendu Acharya, assistant professor of health sciences, and J.R. Pico, teaching professor in Spanish and humanities, completed the 10-week program, developed for professionals interested in leading their organizations toward more diverse, equitable, and inclusive futures.
Sarah Sarber, chief of staff and chief diversity officer, expressed appreciation and gratitude to Acharya and Pico for their commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“Their completion of the IU DEI Leadership Certificate program is so important to our efforts to make our campus welcoming to all individuals, and the work that we do to prepare our students to work in a diverse world,” she said.
Acharya said as an immigrant from India, he’s focused on diversity in his career.
“We have a lot of diversity among our students,” he said. “They come from different places and have different orientations. I thought this program would help me be a better instructor for all our students. It helps to learn more about it.”
Pico said the program prepared participants to be advocates for diversity.
“We are all empowered to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on our campuses and in the community, and show the importance of it,” he said. “When we talk about DEI, we should not exclude anyone, we should include everyone.”
Program topics covered the impact of inequities in terms of the overall quality of life within society, as evident in divisions of labor, class structures, power relationships, group marginalization, cultural imagery, residential patterns, health, family life, employment, education, values, and more.
In addition, they studied key analytical constructs (such as race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status), focusing on their impact on instruction, assessment, and leadership.
Acharya said he learned how to pick more inclusive content in his classes, which helps all students.
“We’re making them more prepared when they graduate to be able to work in the diverse society in which we live,” he said. “People have not been that focused on diversity, but it’s front and center now. They don’t understand what diversity is, and how it can improve their lives and their functioning in society. That’s where education comes in.”
Pico said it allowed him to build a support group of others he can work with in the future.
“This program is one of the best trainings I have received, and taught us so many different things,” he said. “We are prepared to be advocates for the ones that need a voice or presence.”
He noted that many campuses have one person who leads diversity efforts, like Rosalyn Davis, clinical associate professor of psychology, has done at IU Kokomo. Having additional people certified makes a larger impact.
“Rosalyn Davis has been the heart and soul of diversity for us, but one person is not enough,” he said. “We need more to make sure everything is in compliance and there are different ears to listen. Having more people certified gives us credibility and qualified people to step up as needed.”