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IU South Bend event seeks to deepen understanding of educational inclusion

Jan 10, 2022

IU South Bend’s School of Education hosted a two-day Symposium on Educational Inclusion in November engaging the campus and community in discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Participants explored reducing barriers for underrepresented populations from kindergarten through graduate school and engaged in a panel discussion with nationally recognized experts on critical race theory. More than 300 people registered for Symposium events.

I was encouraged to see such a variety of people there students, staff, community, faculty and such a diversity of perspectives, said Hope Smith Davis, dean of the School of Education and co-chair of the Symposium steering committee. It was clear that people agree these are conversations we need to be having.

According to Charlotte Pfeifer, an IU South Bend instructor, alumna and Symposium co-chair, the events were productive and well received. One man drove all the way from Cleveland to participate for both days, she said. People were excited. The symposium gave them hope that progress will be made. People felt a part of something of substance.

The Symposium began Friday morning with a campus DEI workshop for IU South Bend faculty, staff, and students. That afternoon a bus tour led by IU South Bend history faculty offered participants information on the city’s civil rights heritage and a view of key locations to better understand the constant struggle that underrepresented populations have undergone in our area for equitable services and treatment.

Friday evening’s panel sought to answer the question of what critical race theory in education is and featured nationally recognized scholars who focus on equity in schools. Dr. Marvin Lynn, co-editor of The Handbook of Critical Race Theory in Education and professor in the College of Education at Portland State University in Oregon, provided an overview of CRT to set the context for the panel discussion. Then panelists Dr. Bryan Brayboy (Lumbee), President’s Professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University, Dr. Teresa Sosa, associate professor of Urban Teacher Education at IUPUI, and Dr. Nicholas Hartlep, the Robert Charles Billings Endowed Chair of Education Studies at Berea College, joined Dr. Lynn for a wide-ranging conversation about what CRT is, and isn’t, and their views on the current national conversations about race and the study of race in schools today. Afterward, attendees surveyed reported better understanding of CRT, and affirmed that these kinds of discussions need to occur more often in more places.

Saturday morning an IU South Bend faculty panel including Dr. Theo Randall, Dr. De Bryant, Dr. Darryl Heller, and Dr. Marsha L. Heck, shared the research and work they are doing in the local community to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. The conversation spanned topics that included teaching authentic history, restorative justice, and community empowerment through dialogue on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Charlotte Pfeifer moderated the panel.

That afternoon area teachers, administrators, school counselors, social workers, and other K-12 educators participated in a professional development workshop on trauma-informed educational practices and meeting the socio-emotional learning needs of K-12 students. This practical workshop offered educators professional growth points and continuing education units for professional development.

IU South Bend, as this region’s public university, plays an important role as a convener for these important discussions, said Susan Elrod, chancellor of IU South Bend. Nearly 30 people from almost every unit on campus served on the Symposium steering committee, demonstrating wide-spread support for this conversation. In addition, IU’s anti-racist agenda offers an important framework for this work. We thank the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs for their support of this initiative.

The campus is committed to continuing the momentum started with this symposium.

We have to keep our eye on what’s next, said Dean Davis. We’re planning a spring follow up with constituent groups and doing a DEI inventory in campus departments. I would like to see a follow-up lecture from another nationally recognized DEI expert next fall. Participants clearly stated they would like to see us keep the conversation going.

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