DEI Education Plan FAQ

One of two major DEI initiatives announced in fall 2020 is sustained, pervasive education around issues of race, ethnicity, unconscious bias and inclusion for everyone in engineering – students, faculty and staff – within one year. This FAQ addresses some of the recent questions raised by the Michigan Engineering community.

Overview top

What is the plan? How does it impact me?
A summary of the proposed plan and how it affects different members of the community (students, faculty, and staff) is available here. These are currently proposals and we are looking for feedback from the community. If you would like to share your thoughts, you can anonymously do so on our DEI Feedback Form. You can also set up a meeting with a member of the DEI Implementation Committee during their DEI Office Hours.

What are the basics?
The College is launching two major initiatives this year:

  • Sustained, pervasive education around issues of race, ethnicity, unconscious bias and inclusion for everyone in engineering within one year. Details
  • A new structure to work horizontally across the College to ensure the work is not siloed and provides resources. Details

Through this, we will be:

  • Building a framework to ensure every member of the engineering community is educated about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, beginning with a focus on race, ethnicity and unconscious bias;
  • Maintaining and expanding pipelines and pathways to become successful engineers and leaders; and
  • Creating tools to ensure the campus is more inclusive and equitable.

Why are we doing this?
We feel very strongly that, at Michigan Engineering, the job of creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community rests not within one organization or group of people, but with all of us.

Research shows that unconscious bias affects all of us to different degrees, no matter how egalitarian we perceive ourselves to be. It is a product of our upbringing and past experiences. In order to counter the negative effects that this unconscious bias can have, we need to become more aware of it. We can do this through education.

How did we arrive at this point?
This is the culmination of dedicated work through our DEI strategic plan, the Culture pillar of our Michigan Engineering 2020 plan and a direct charge this summer to create a framework for lasting change – taking us beyond the five-year strategic plan and into the future of a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment that permeates our community.

These initiatives are foundational to lasting change, and will build a framework to allow us to become more effective in our efforts to address other critical matters, such as sexual misconduct, accessibility, harassment and more.

What is the general timeline for implementing the new DEI education plan?
In the Fall 2020 semester, we are introducing the proposals to the community for feedback. In the Winter 2021 semester, we will begin some DEI education pilot programs, gather feedback and continue to iterate on the proposed plan. The DEI education plan will fully go into effect in Fall 2021.

Why are you focusing on race and ethnicity? What about the other issues?
The summer of 2020 has sharply exposed the disparities in our society – the continued systemic racism and bias in our country that have long led to a lack of equal opportunity and violence against our Black citizens. We believe it’s critical we start with immediately ensuring that we are not perpetuating or reinforcing systemic racism. We can attack multiple “wicked problems” simultaneously, but sometimes you have to seize the moment. Now is a moment for us to take urgent and decisive action to stem the pandemic of racism.

We know that we have many related issues to tackle, including those around sexual misconduct, accessibility, harassment, and more. We will be beginning with a focus on race, ethnicity and unconscious bias, but intend for this to create a framework to educate on many issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

We will be hearing from our community in the coming days, and in particular want to explore areas of intersectionality.

Will this be mandatory?
We feel very strongly that the job of creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community rests not within one organization or group of people, but with all of us. Our new education proposals are made with that in mind. As we develop them over the semester, we will be looking to the community to help us determine the details, including which are required and how.

Is this the same for students of color?
DEI leaders are aware that community members of color will have a deep understanding of racism and unconscious bias through their lived experience, and they’re exploring ways to ensure that the modules don’t cause trauma.

Can you give a brief background on the previous state of DEI initiatives among the individual departments and CoE as a whole?
You can read the original strategic plan and yearly updates here.

Undergraduate Students top

How does the new DEI plan affect current undergraduate students? Will their graduation be governed by the old or new curriculum?
If the decision is made to make this a graduation requirement, it will not impact students who were set to graduate before the requirements were created. It would affect the first-year class that attends after that requirement is set into place.

Will this involve an undergraduate class that’s online, similar to the sexual harassment awareness courses?
No, the DEI education undergraduate component would not be online similar to the sexual harassment courses. They will be face-to-face (virtual or in-person, taking into consideration public health guidelines) to encourage participation and dialogue. However, online modules or assigned readings may be a component.

Will the College of Engineering’s DEI education component be similar to the LSA race/ethnicity requirement, in which there is a variety of courses to take based on your experiences, identities, and what you want to learn more extensively about?
We are currently looking at the LSA R&E approach to understand what does and does not work for their students. We want the courses our students take to be specifically focused on the consequences of anti-Black racism, systemic racism, implicit bias, and related topics in the science and engineering disciplines.

Graduate Students & Postdocs top

As a part of identifying Rackham as a partner in existing workshops, were current levels of participation evaluated? What fraction of the graduate student body currently engages in these activities?
As a part of crafting the DEI education proposal for graduate students and postdocs, CEDO reached out to the 36 students who completed the Rackham DEI Certificate since its inception in 2018. They were asked about which parts of the program they found most useful, what they would change, and what else should be considered to include. Another 36 students are currently participating in the Rackham DEI Certificate Program.

Did the students who completed the DEI certificate feel the certificate was beneficial or not?
Past participant feedback about the Rackham DEI Certificate was overwhelmingly positive. We have also taken into consideration participants’ feedback on how to improve the offerings to make them more relevant, inclusive, and accessible for Michigan Engineering graduate students and postdocs. If you would like to learn more about the program, please visit their website.

What fraction of the graduate student body can Rackham support in engaging in these workshops?
The College of Engineering is working with Rackham to ensure that capacity exists to support all graduate students and postdocs who will engage in these workshops. Additionally, staff members of the new DEI Center are being trained to become facilitators to lead workshops.

Faculty top

Will the DEI changes for the faculty yearly review impact tenure?
Contributions to DEI have been considered in the tenure review process for several years now. The details for exactly how expectations will work moving forward—both for tenure-track and non-tenure-track—are being proposed and discussed with faculty throughout the 2020-21 academic year.

I know DEI and service are included in faculty reviews, but will they now be emphasized more?
These are questions that the group working on the faculty proposal are considering, including through the dialogue they are planning to have with faculty through a variety of mechanisms. The group is seeking feedback from faculty on issues like these, and potential solutions. Please share your thoughts and concerns, including right now through the feedback form.

Staff top

What is the scope of professional development initiatives?
The staff professional development initiatives are outlined in the “staff” section of the DEI education proposal.

Are DEI meetings going to be viewed as work time, if they are during scheduled work hours?
DEI events and education are a part of staff professional development and are considered working time. We are making efforts to schedule these events and opportunities during work hours.

Curriculum Development/Content top

How does the curriculum promote anti-racism and fight against white supremacy?
Change it Up Bystander Intervention workshops have been offered at the College for 2 years and broadly addressed how to speak up and intervene in inappropriate situations. A new version of this workshop is being developed to specifically educate on anti-racism and white supremacy. It is planned to be offered to all students, faculty, and staff.

The culture shift plan calls for pervasive and sustained education—how will this be infused into the curriculum?
A faculty Curriculum Committee is helping to explore this question. Members are listed online with the Community Teams.

Who is developing the content for the DEI courses and workshops?
The Community Teams (listed on this page) are led by Michael Wellman (faculty), Joanna Millunchick (undergraduate students), Mary-Ann Mycek (graduate students and postdocs), Deb Mero (staff), and Jeanne Murabito (Change It Up Bystander Intervention). These team leaders are working with other College and University DEI experts. We are also working with the Rackham Graduate School.

I’ve read a lot and heard from people I trust that institutional efforts like this don’t work. How will this be different?
This is not mandatory, single-instance diversity training. What we’re implementing is sustained, pervasive education on race, ethnicity and unconscious bias. It will tackle the issue through both a historic and practical lens to help ensure we are educating on how systemic racism and other diversity issues contribute to decision-making at all levels of the engineering academic and research journey. It will also be regular and sustained over a long period of time, allowing individuals to build on their knowledge and experiences.

Participation and Expectations top

Will this DEI education be required?
We feel very strongly that the job of creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community rests not within one organization or group of people, but with all of us. Our new education proposals are made with that in mind. As we develop them over the semester, we will be looking to the community to help us determine the details, including which are required and how.

Generally speaking, opt-in education often pulls from those who are already interested in getting DEI/race-based education, not those that actually need to hear/experience it. How will this be addressed? Will it be addressed at all?
After the initial opt-in pilot programs, we will seek to increase participation through a variety of mechanisms. We recognize that people are at different points in their personal journeys, and we will have a wide variety of offerings for different situations.

Administrative top

How will you improve the communication between DEI based groups across departments?
Each department has a faculty DEI lead. The DEI department leads meet monthly with the DEI Director (Sara Pozzi) to discuss activities and share resources across departments. The new Center for DEI will also work horizontally across all our pillars and units to ensure the work is not siloed.

There are many tiers of DEI initiatives happening on campus at the University, college, and department levels. Is there communication between the organizers of these initiatives?
In addition to DEI plans at the College level, we are also actively involved at the University level. Campus DEI leaders meet once a month to exchange ideas and discuss their progress. This is a part of the University’s DEI strategic plan.

What portion of Professor Sara Pozzi’s time is dedicated to DEI efforts versus her faculty/ research job?
Dr. Pozzi’s administrative appointment as Director of DEI is a 50% appointment. This is similar to other director-level administrative faculty positions in the College.

New DEI Center top

What specific activities will the new DEI center engage in? How will students interact with this center?
We are currently planning what the new Center will do and how it will support the College community. If you have ideas on how the new Center can support you and your group/ department, we would love to hear from you. Please reach out via our DEI Feedback Form.

Can there be a space in this center where there can be a sort of DEI office/office hours? Will there be somewhere on North Campus where you can go with ideas or issues, much like MESA on Central Campus?
We are still exploring what the new Center will look like. Currently, you can set up a meeting with a member of the DEI Implementation Committee during their DEI Office Hours. If you would like to learn about how CEDO can help you, please contact cedo-admin@umich.edu.

Future Plans top

How can we go beyond taking a required training that checks a box, versus getting all members in our community to own the need to enact change and be a part of systemic change toward eliminating racism in our community?
We view the DEI education plan as just that sort of effort. Everyone is on their own path and has things to learn in these areas in order to become better colleagues, teachers, and citizens. In designing DEI education, we have to reflect on how we are putting this into practice. We hope to structure DEI education so that it provides individuals with the context of how this informs an individual’s work and impact on society.

Are the initiatives currently in the strategic plan from four years ago continuing? Or, are efforts on diversifying our faculty and student body being put on pause to center effort/resources on training and curriculum?
The newly announced initiatives are in addition to already ongoing efforts, as detailed in the Year Four Strategic Plan.

Executive Order top

Are there any guidelines to comply with the September 22 Executive Order on Combating Race & Sex Stereotyping?
The University remains fully committed to its DEI work and to leaning into its values as an anti-racist institution. Units can and should continue the important work they are doing under our DEI plans, including continuing to engage in DEI education. The President and Provost issued a statement, noting, “We are dismayed by an executive order that is a direct violation of our right to free speech and has the potential to undermine serious efforts to acknowledge and address long-standing racist practices that fail to account for disparate treatment of our citizens throughout our society. The university will continue to examine the implications of this order and speak out against it.”

For help with specific questions, please contact the Office of the Vice President & General Counsel.

Miscellaneous top

How will the initiatives be measured and how will we be sure the DEI initiatives are working?
We are working on how to develop metrics and assessment tools to track our progress. Efficacy is one metric that we are exploring how to measure and track.

Will books like White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo or How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi be incorporated into the summer reading program?
The Michigan Engineering Common Reading Experience has been going on for over a decade now. Those books are suggested to the Honors and Engagement program and vetted by students, staff, and focus groups. If you have a book you would like to suggest for the program, you can do so here.

Is the goal to create an atmosphere where all people in engineering will feel included? There are so many everyday instances that could be impactful to our lives, but there are so many missed opportunities on a daily basis.
Creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and valued is one of the key goals at the College of Engineering. If you think we have missed an opportunity to foster this, or have ideas about how we can do so in the future, please reach out to us via our DEI Feedback Form.

I can see many methods for educating and promoting inclusion to work, in a preemptive way, against discrimination. However, are there any measures or changes that are more “reactive” to incidents or instances that may occur in the future?
The Change It Up Bystander Intervention program was founded on the premise “If you see something, say something.” We will offer this workshop to all students, faculty and staff so that people can feel empowered to speak up for themselves and others to address incidents in the future. If there is a larger incident or topic that you would like discussed, we are always looking for topics for our EnginTalks events. To submit a topic, please feel free to either email enginsabinfo@umich.edu or fill out this anonymous Google Form.