Community Conversation on Diversity
February 28th, 2019 was an important evening for our MPA community. In response to the recent faculty search that took place to fill an MPA-focused political science faculty position, students, faculty and administrative leaders participated in a community conversation hosted by Dr. Judy Millesen, MPA Program Director. Approximately twenty MPA students attended. MPA faculty and Graduate School leadership were also there and included:
- – Deanna Caveny, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs
- – Godfrey Gibbison, Interim Director of the Graduate College
- – Renard Harris, Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
- – Dr. Gibbs Knotts, Chair of Political Science, MPA Professor
- – Dr. Matt Knowlin, Political Science & MPA Professor
- – Ali Titus, MPA Program Coordinator
The purpose of the community conversation was to create a space for inquiry, fill informational gaps between stakeholders, and share solution-focused dialogue to discuss faculty diversity at the College of Charleston. Constituents met in an informal, circle-like setting and engaged in active listening and perspective sharing, a format that is unique in the higher education arena.
The conversation started with a discussion about the meaning of diversity. A prevailing theme was that diversity can mean “difference” and it can be an “action”. While the full details of the community conversation can be found here, the group identified strategies the MPA program and Graduate College may implement to demonstrate a commitment to diversity. For example:
- – Invite students to be engaged in the recruitment process…not just serving on the committee, but involved throughout the process—drafting the job description, advertising the position, participating in the interview process, etc. Collecting feedback from students and assure that feedback is considered in the final decision-making process
- – Remembering that “equal recruitment” does not mean “equitable” hiring and practice targeted, intentional recruitment strategies that will reach the intended audiences
As students, we have expressed a need for change, but we can also be a community of change-makers. Specifically, the MPA department has outlined three immediate next steps that call for our contribution:
- Draft “commitment to diversity” language and/or a request for a “diversity statement” as part of the application process for use in future position announcements
- Examine MPA curriculum and offer suggestions about how to better integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion through academic content, in-class exercises, experiential learning opportunities, etc.
- Edit and revise the MPA diversity plan so that we not only capture our commitment to diversity but also identify specific action steps that will help us to achieve our diversity goals.
The community conversation was an opportunity for students AND leaders to grow in knowledge and attitudes towards a stronger, more representative institution; yet, it must be recognized as a meaningful starting place. Let us use the momentum from the community conversation to create a seat at the table and to turn dialogue into action.