The IUPUI Equity Champions Program gives faculty the opportunity to come together and work on improving the classroom environment for their students.
The program is based on a model developed at the University of Toledo and was started on IUPUI’s campus in the spring semester of 2023 by a team of educators, including Jerry Daday, the executive associate dean for the Institute for Engaged Learning (IEL).
The program draws upon resources, strategies, and practices developed by the Student Experience Project, a collaborative of university leaders, faculty, researchers, and national education organizations. The Student Experience Project is committed to innovative, research-based practices that build equitable learning environments and foster a sense of belonging on campus.
After the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbury, and Breonna Taylor led to a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and increased the number of conversations about race, Daday felt more could be done at IUPUI.
“In talking to faculty and my colleagues, we wondered what tangible things we could do to try and address some of these issues that we see clearly in the classroom—that students tell us are happening in the classroom,” Daday said.
The program is built on six key constructs:
- belonging certainty,
- institutional growth mindset,
- trust and fairness,
- identity safety,
- self-efficacy, and
- social connectedness.
Participants are encouraged to select one or two of these constructs to implement throughout the semester.
Participants in the program also meet in groups of 10-12 people on weekly one-hour virtual calls in a Community of Transformation. In these calls, they explore evidence-based strategies that enhance equity and inclusion, and they share successes and challenges faced through implementing the constructs in their classrooms.
Faculty also have access to a free resource library to aid their implementation strategies and to help them make changes in their classroom.
Faculty participants also use Ascend, a brief, validated survey that assesses students’ experiences in the participating faculty’s course on key constructs. The Equity Champions use this survey at several points in the semester to gather real-time, actionable data that can improve student outcomes.
“Faculty try stuff, embed the survey in their classes, and students give the faculty member feedback on whether or not they're seeing the six constructs at work,” Daday said. “The faculty gather this data from students, and only the faculty member can see their own data, and then they can engage with their students in intentional conversation.”
Keely Floyd, a lecturer in the Department of Health Policy and Management, participated in the spring semester.
“It was wonderful to be able to get together regularly with a small group of faculty from across campus,” Floyd said. “That was something I didn't have the opportunity to do before.”
Floyd said the surveys and feedback from faculty at the weekly meetings were helpful for implementing the constructs in their classrooms and helped her to feel like she was making a difference for her students.
“I really appreciated that there were very tangible things that were just small tweaks that I could make to my class that I could do this week, or I could build into a future assignment that I didn't have to totally reinvent my classes to feel like I was making an impact,” Floyd said.
Fifteen faculty participated this spring, and Daday hopes to double that number for the fall semester.
The work this program seeks to achieve is not work that can be done in a single workshop session.
“This is work that takes time,” Daday said. “You need to create space, and we really need to support faculty. What I've learned is that, like students post-pandemic, faculty are craving community and connection, and so I think this is serving that purpose in a positive way.”
Faculty interested in participating in the IUPUI Equity Champions Program can visit the Institute for Engaged Learning’s website for more information and apply for the Fall semester by filling out the form.