The O’Neill Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is bringing back its five-part DEI certificate course for the spring 2022 semester. Registration is now open for the course’s undergraduate sessions which begin on January 21 and a second session for graduate students set to begin on March 25.
The Diversity Seminar Series first launched in fall 2021. Each week, students dive into diversity-related discussions around cultural intelligence, seen and unseen disabilities, gender and sexual orientation, socioeconomics, and allyship.
“We created this series to give students a better understanding of how diversity impacts everything from their mental and physical wellbeing to their future workplaces,” explains course facilitator Ellise Smith, O’Neill’s assistant DEI director. “Having resources to help expand their DEI learning can enhance students’ cultural intelligence and their professional development, better preparing them for their careers and the world around them.”
Alyssa Hodges, a Criminal Justice major, enrolled in the course during its first semester because she wanted to know more about how to address the many diversity-related issues in our society.
“There really is no excuse not to learn about the issues surrounding DEI work,” she says. “As a biracial woman and as someone surrounded by people who face challenges due to their identity, I knew I needed to learn more. There are big changes that need to be made and the first step is being aware.”
Having now earned her DEI certificate, Hodges is taking her journey even further. She was selected to serve as the student assistant for the O’Neill DEI office in the spring semester and will help with the next round of sessions.
The upcoming undergraduate sessions will take place on January 21 and 28, and February 4, 11, and 18 from 10 a.m. until noon. The graduate sessions will follow at the same time on March 25 and April 1, 8, 15, and 22.
Bri Youn, who is slated to earn her O’Neill MPA in Policy Analysis in 2022, completed the course in the fall and has encouraged other students to pursue their certificates this semester. She was searching for a course that would move DEI conversations beyond the standard classroom discussion and says the DEI Seminar Series provided a space to do just that.
“These critical conversations can be difficult to navigate and are often uncomfortable for some, but they need to happen,” Youn says. “In each session, Ellise created a safe place centered around open, honest, and authentic communication.”
Smith says the Diversity Seminar Series is committed to creating a welcoming learning environment for everyone.
“Diverse perspectives are recognized, respected, and encouraged to enhance session discussions and add an enriched level of intellect to those conversations,” she explains.
That type of dialogue not only builds understanding but also creates lasting bonds between students. Youn says developing a new network of people she can call on for DEI support and advice was one of the biggest benefits of the course.
“No matter how many podcasts I listen to, books I read, or workshops I attend, nothing can replace the genuine relationships we built through the DEI Seminar Series,” Youn says. “The understanding that comes along with those relationships is simply irreplaceable.”