June 14, 2021 3 min read
DiversityEdu Sparks “Intentional Conversation” About Inclusion at Cal Poly
Known for its emphasis on “learning by doing,” California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) combines technical and professional curricula with the arts and humanities to give students a wide breadth of hands-on experience. Thanks to the university’s investment in robust diversity and inclusion initiatives, Cal Poly doubled the number of applications from students with marginalized identities between 2008 and 2018.
When Jamie Patton joined Cal Poly in 2017 as the new assistant vice president for Student Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion, the campus climate was “chilly and hostile” when it came to issues of identity and marginalization. While students had access to “many of the traditional [diversity and inclusion] operations,” such as a multicultural center and a mandatory course, Patton and his team recognized the need to foster an “intentional conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion” on campus.
With just shy of 22,000 students spread across a 9,000-acre campus, Patton knew the university needed to:
- Get everybody on the same page when it came to diversity and inclusion.
- Reach a large number of students in a short period of time.
- Find a diversity and inclusion framework that could become the standard across the whole school.
“I can’t say enough about the work of the team. I appreciate the trust and the relationship that we had to build in a short amount of time.”
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion
Why Vector Solutions’ Diversity & Inclusion Courses?
- Flexibility: Cal Poly could customize the course to their students’ needs.
- Expansive Reach: Patton’s team was able to engage students quickly at all levels of their education.
- Setting a Baseline of Knowledge: Patton’s hope was that Vector Solutions’ Diversity & Inclusion courses would help the university “begin the conversation about diversity and inclusion with new members of…[the] student body prior to their arrival in taking classes.”
In Patton’s opinion, “the launch went very smoothly,” thanks in part to Vector Solutions’ responsiveness and consistent communication between the two teams. The university was:
- Prepared to launch Vector Solutions’ Diversity & Inclusion courses.
- Equipped to respond to course taker feedback during roll-out.
- Able to make Vector Solutions’ Diversity & Inclusion courses part of the university’s Week of Welcome, or first-year orientation.
- Access to the language and skills to begin discussing topics that “aren’t talked about over kitchen tables, or in the curriculum in schools”.
- Consistent opportunities to learn via the follow-on activities featured in the Vector Solutions’ Diversity & Inclusion Facilitator’s Guides.
- Deeper dives into conversations between students and Patton and his team.
Thanks to the baseline of knowledge and skills introduced by Vector Solutions’ Diversity & Inclusion Courses, the Cal Poly team is ready to reach new depths in student learning about growing inclusion. Next steps include:
- More small-group discussions about “oppression and the cycle of oppression-all those different concepts that are touched on throughout the 60-minute module”.
- Extending the course to resident advisors to deepen their connection to first-year students.
- Continuing to work with Vector Solutions to customize the course to Cal Poly’s evolving needs.