The Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity supports and affirms efforts across the University that demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Association of American Colleges and Universities to which the University of North Texas belongs has created a framework for this commitment called Inclusive Excellence. Defined as the active process through which colleges and universities achieve excellence in learning, teaching, student development, institutional functioning, and engagement in local and global communities, this approach has become a model of connecting educational quality and inclusion efforts for universities across the country. As such, our Division created this year an Inclusive Excellence Award to recognize units who exemplify these qualities. This year’s inaugural Inclusive Excellence Award recipient is the College of Education’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration and Educational Leadership Program.
The Department of Teacher Education and Administration’s equity and diversity journey formally began in academic year 2014 - 2015 with the approval of a departmental standing committee on diversity and equity, and the inclusion of a diversity and equity representative on the departmental Executive Committee. That same academic year, departmental faculty representatives began pursuing external professional development opportunities to increase their cultural proficiency.
With the Department of Teacher Education and Administration’s Diversity and Equity Committee in full swing by the following year, a professional development plan was created for all of their faculty and graduate assistants to become proficient in culturally responsive instruction. As part of this effort, a book study was implemented using the text Culturally Proficient Instruction: A Guide for People Who Teach by Drs. Kikanza Nuri Robins, Randall and Delores Lindsey, and Raymond Terrell. Incorporated into the promotion and tenure process for faculty, the study included 11 workshop sessions and a culminating one-day departmental retreat focused upon the standards of assessing diversity, managing the dynamics of difference, valuing diversity, adapting to diversity, valuing diversity, and institutionalized cultural knowledge. The Educational Leadership Program held an additional retreat at which faculty provided peer-to-peer critiques of their colleagues’ syllabi for the infusion of culturally proficient instruction for their students.
In November of 2016, the Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity partnered with the Educational Leadership Program and the Department of Teacher Education and Administration to sponsor their annual conference themed “Crucial Conversations on Equity and Excellence,” where book study authors Randall Lindsey and Raymond Terrell delivered strategies for educational professionals from around North Texas to raise awareness towards closing access and education gaps, and building professional and organizational capital to support large-scale change initiatives focused on access and equity for students. At present, the Diversity and Equity Committee and Departmental Executive Committee are evaluating efforts to continue their commitment to intentional equity and inclusion.
These efforts, led by department chair Dr. Jim Laney’s commitment to actualize the social justice vision of the department, are a model for institutionalizing Inclusive Excellence. The Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity is proud to support the Department of Teacher Education and Administration’s continued commitment with a $5000 gift, and honor them with the inaugural Inclusive Excellence Award.