As an ECP, I've always valued the concepts of diversity, inclusion, and equity and tried to incorporate them into my courses. However, the last year of the pandemic, public health inequities, and racist and xenophobic backlash has really highlighted just how much more proactive I need to be. What are some strategies or resources you have found helpful in incorporating DEI content and policies into your courses and other interactions with students?
What Can I Do?
Dear What Can I Do?,
This month marks the anniversary when the world followed stay-at-home orders due to the spread of COVID-19, which originated in an Asian country. Sadly, here in the U.S., hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment have increased by 1,900% in certain states (Lang, 2021). Recent events have shed light on how everyday life can be impacted by racism, xenophobia, and discrimination, which can have adverse impact on psychological health (Reja, 2021). As early career teachers of psychology, we can change the narrative from one of exclusion and bias to one of understanding and acceptance by incorporating diversity/inclusion/equity (DEI) in the content of our classes, our connection with the campus and local community, and our mentoring of student organizations.
Courtney: Discussion of discrimination and racism come up naturally as part of the content of many of the courses I teach (e.g., Social Psychology, Introduction to Psychology). I also weave these important topics into less obviously connected courses (e.g., Research Methods) through some of the example studies I bring in. Some of the most interesting and meaningful discussions I’ve had with my students regarding these topics has been when we are able to take current events and/or personal experiences and to understand how that event came to be and how future negative events could be prevented (or positive events promoted) using what they have learned about psychology. Last summer, many of my discussions focused on police brutality and Black Lives Matters protests. More recently, we spent a lot of time discussing the pandemic and its impact on a variety of minority groups. My hope is that by focusing on events going on now, students can see the importance of these topics and can begin to think of practical things they can do (even small things!) to help promote a more inclusive world with less hate and more understanding. Finally, many of my classes utilize Perusall where students can comment on the text as they read. I’ve noticed many students have brought up their own personal experiences with racism and discrimination in this context and they often receive support and encouragement from their peers after sharing. This exchange can help the student who shared, but also helps the whole class to understand more deeply the direct impacts of racism on those around them.
Molly: Like Courtney, I do my best to incorporate diversity content in my courses, whether talking about race, culture, gender, and sexual orientation in upper-level courses on emotion and relationships, or mindfully using examples with diverse actors in statistics and research methods (and editing every example that uses gender as a binary variable). In all my courses, if there is a dearth of representation, we also talk about the biases and barriers to sampling from diverse populations and talk about ways to handle those biases and barriers. There are also amazing resources for incorporating more diverse voices in course readings, and others for increasing visual representation. More and more, I’ve been moving away from solely focusing on content and thinking more about (a) how my course design can be more accessible and equitable, and (b) how I can use my position to advocate for students and to remind them as often as I can about their value and humanity outside the narrow confines of academic achievement. Here are two of my favorite instructor toolkits with tons of perspectives and resources on inclusive teaching, considering content as well as process and systems.
Daniel: As others here have already mentioned, there are many tools, resources, and techniques for infusing diversity-related concepts and discussions into your courses. This is important and feasible, as many of these tweaks (e.g., incorporating diverse voices in course readings, editing the examples you use in research methods courses, making your courses accessible) are changes that don’t require you to overhaul your entire course. I would like to add that, if possible, I believe every institution should have a dedicated course that explicitly explores topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the University of Denver, for example, I designed and now regularly teach a Psychology of Diversity course, and this has been a wonderful success that has allowed me to devote an entire quarter to tackling important societal questions related to diversity from a psychological perspective. Again, it’s critical to weave this into all your courses as much as possible, but having a dedicated course allows you to delve deeper and highlights that you—and your institution—really value these areas.
Albee: My colleagues infuse DEI topics in the classroom, which can enhance discussion and critical thinking. Engaging students in the larger community and having them see, hear, and interact with others who are different from them can also deepen their learning experience. I am an Asian American woman and one of the few faculty of color (FOC) in my department and institution. In my short time in higher education as an ECP, I found it important to address my ethnic minority status and educational background as a way to be transparent to my students and model open discussions in the classroom. One strategy is to build in two cross-cutting themes across the content in all my courses: disability awareness and cultural diversity. For example, I incorporate a variety of names and examples in my test questions and prompts (e.g., Samir vs. Sam, Avi and David as a couple vs. April and David). In courses focused on development themes (e.g., Lifespan Psychology), class discussions include differences in societal views on pregnancy and pregnant women from different cultures (e.g., hospital vs. home deliveries). Guest speakers from underrepresented groups in the college community (e.g., faculty and staff members from other departments) share their stories and how familial, religious, and cultural influences affected their birth experiences. In courses focused on academic achievement (e.g., Educational Psychology), factors including race, socioeconomic status, and immigrant status are explored. Notably, the impact of being diagnosed with and treated for neurodevelopmental disorders and mental illnesses in the school and home settings are discussed. Guest speakers from the local community include students with disabilities and individuals in their support systems (e.g., principal and teacher from a special education school).
Janet: Since the other ECP members have given some great examples of including diversity, equity, and inclusion in their teaching, I will discuss how I address these issues in my student mentoring. As the advisor of the Psychology Club, I bring in campus and community panel members from a variety of backgrounds, support equity-minded programs put on by students, and educate students on resources/opportunities available to them (e.g., scholarships for black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) students, department grants for undergraduate research focused on equity, etc.). In my faculty role, I try to make research assistantships accessible to all students; I no longer have “entry” requirements for research assistants in an effort to reduce barriers for these opportunities. I am lucky enough to be at a smaller institution, so I am also able to provide mentoring to any student that wants it, be it mentoring for graduate school, career readiness, or academic support. At each level of mentorship, formal and informal, my goal is to actively reduce systemic barriers that might otherwise prevent wonderful students from accessing resources and opportunities.
Karenna: Like Janet, I would like to focus on mentoring student organizations. I’ve had the pleasure of working at two different institutions during my (still early) career. At the first institution, which was a small liberal arts college, I noticed that there was no student organization for people of color. As a Hispanic woman, this did not sit well with me. Because I was no stranger to using inclusive language and discussing “tough topics” such as race and discrimination in my courses, students felt comfortable talking to me about the lack of representation they felt. In the campus community, we started a multicultural student association, which was primarily a social and service organization. In the local community, we also fundraised and organized events on campus for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, etc. At my current institution, I like to highlight BIPOC psychologists during their respective cultural heritage months on my office door. I leave a note up on the door to signal my pronouns and first-generation American and college student status, and that I enjoy chatting about diversity and inclusion-related issues. Lastly, I make a point to use primary source readings outside of Western, education, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies. These gestures and activities are in addition to the content changes that other ECPs have spoken about in this column.
If you are looking for more ideas, we recommend exploring the Diversity pages in the STP website, where you can find a Statement on Addressing Systemic Racism and Inequity as well as a plethora of resources within the Diversity Matters Blog.
Lastly. two of STP’s newest e-books: Incorporating Diversity in Classroom Settings (Volume 1) centers on ability, age, culture, ethnicity/race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status and Incorporating Diversity in Classroom Settings (Volume 2) focuses on intersectionality. Here are a sample of ideas in these volumes:
- Communication style differences between Eastern and Western cultures
- Start! (Even if you’re uncomfortable): Infusing readings on racial discrimination into research methods
- The frailty of human nature: Daring on local conflicts to teach against prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping
- Even the pedagogy was White: Moving away from a single lens approach in the teaching and practice of psychology
Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee
Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.
Karenna Malavanti, Ph.D.
Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.
Molly Metz, Ph.D.
Janet Peters, Ph.D.
Daniel Storage, Ph.D.