Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The success of the University of Iowa depends in large measure on the ability of staff and faculty to create a welcoming, inclusive community.  Meeting the needs of a large and diverse student body is difficult and takes understanding, collaboration, and looking for ways to better communicate. 

The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is partnering with Kognito, a company specializing in experiential learning and development opportunities, to provide a brief interactive training for cultivating inclusive communities.  This training helps staff and faculty “gain awareness, knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to engage across differences with integrity and empathy.” (CIC Website) 

Kognito’s modules offer virtual training that allows participants to take the role of an administrator having a conversation with a student.  The program offers participants a variety of conversational options – some are effective, and others are not.  A virtual coach helps guide you through an interaction with a student who has accidentally said something harmful. 

The training takes about 20 minutes and begins with the idea that “there’s room for me to grow”.  It also helps participants recognize there are times when a well-intentioned phrase may end up causing harm.  In these instances, it’s important to take a deep breath and consider how the comment may have affected other people.  

A key aspect of any DEI discussion is perspective taking and empathy for others.  For example, the training opens with three people sitting in a break room for their meeting.  At first, it seems a bit odd that the training happens in the presence of a microwave and bulletin board, but the reason behind the choice of location becomes clear early on, and that’s the point – personal experience and bias can cause us to misread motivations and situations. 

The Kognito training for Cultivating Inclusive Communities is a valuable and practical addition to the UI’s DEI course offerings.  Learn more about this training here.