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Imagine a time when you felt excluded in an academic environment. Now imagine telling a group of strangers about it in a public forum.

The feeling of discomfort that this exercise evokes is what presenters Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy asked Faculty Council members to experience so they could understand what many first-generation, gender non-conforming, and minority students confront in some classroom settings.

Professor Hogan, senior STEM lecturer in biology, and Professor Sathy, senior lecturer in psychology and neuroscience, presented information that they collected at a recent Carolina Conversations event to the Faculty Council on October 7. That event focused on how faculty, staff and students could work together to create a more inclusive climate for students.

The presenters emphasized that one of the most important ways of creating an inclusive classroom is moving away from assumptions that students are lacking the ability to achieve and toward rethinking learning environments and course design. Course design includes how the syllabus is written, how often assessment is used to gauge performance and how projects are assigned.

According to students who attended the Carolina Conversations event in September, many reported feeling included and engaged in the classroom when faculty allowed time and space for discussion among peers, when faculty included readings by authors with diverse backgrounds and when faculty used preferred gender pronouns to refer to students.  

Students also reported feeling excluded in classes when faculty made biased remarks, lectured without creating room for discussion or made assumptions about their identity and background based on their appearance.

Faculty and staff who attended the Carolina Conversations event suggested that faculty seek departmental support for course redesign using the inclusive classrooms model. They also said it is important for faculty to encourage participation in many different forms, including using technology to solicit feedback. 

The inclusive classroom presentation is part of a multi-year effort by Professor Rumay Alexander and the Community and Diversity Committee to bring diversity programming to Faculty Council.

A video of the event is available above. Presentation materials are available on the Office of Faculty Governance website.

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