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Fostering Dialogue on Campus

Tuesday, January 7, 2020
murchison tower on sunny day

University invited to Diversity, Civility, and the Liberal Arts Institute

by Margaret Miller

In June 2019, Trinity was honored to be one of 25 colleges and universities among 700 member organizations of The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) selected to participate in the four-day Diversity, Civility, and the Liberal Arts Institute in Atlanta, Ga. The cohort of four representatives from Trinity included Deneese Jones, Ph.D., vice president for Academic Affairs; Alli Roman, director for Diversity and Inclusion; Thomas E. Jenkins, Ph.D., director for the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching; and Duane Coltharp, Ph.D., associate vice president for Academic Affairs.

Faculty and administrators from CIC member institutions gathered with Institute participants and a group of scholars distinguished in their fields to explore demographic trends that are reshaping the 21st-century campus. Trinity’s student diversity reflects this national shift, with 44 percent of this year’s undergraduates identifying as a race other than White, marking a seven percent growth in students of color over the last decade. Sessions at the Institute addressed the implications of changing demographics, such as the need to evolve classroom pedagogy and to preserve free speech around divisive issues.

“It was a real honor for Trinity to participate in the CIC Institute, and we have already used much of what we learned to inform our programming and goals for the year,” Jones says. “Like so many liberal arts colleges, we are wading through uncharted waters when we consider new ways to promote free speech while enhancing inclusivity.”

Trinity applied what it learned from the Institute to start dialogue on campus. A symposium on inclusion helped faculty and staff identify new approaches in teaching students of all backgrounds, while workshops held by the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning equipped faculty and staff with resources to support transgendered and first-generation students. Additionally, the Diversity and Inclusion Office is developing a series of resources to guide faculty in diversifying their syllabi to include a greater number of scholars of color. And in preparation for the 2020 presidential election, the University is taking early steps to develop approaches and formats to promote civil political dialogue in an age of national partisan division.

“Using what we learned at the Institute,” Jones adds, “will allow Trinity to be a model of inclusive excellence by having hard conversations and learning from one another.”