Provost Pat Farrell addresses the Student Senate body at their meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in the University Center. Student Senate helped push for a new certificate for inclusive excellence for undergraduate and graduate students. (Tiancheng Ji/ B&W Staff)

Certificate of Inclusive Excellence promotes cultural awareness among students

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The new Certificate of Inclusive Excellence was created by a committee of Lehigh students and faculty to promote an inclusive campus environment and make students more aware of campus issues.

Undergraduate students might be able to receive the certificate as early as next semester, with graduate students following soon afterward.

“The certificate can bring students better access to learning about cultures and their needs, (like) increasing knowledge of issues and microaggressions that we don’t think about every day,” Student Senate president Dakota DiMattio said. 

The certificate was first proposed after faculty saw the need for a more culturally aware community on campus. As student interest in the certificate grew, Senate pushed for faculty to acknowledge the campus response.

A task force of undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff helped determine the specific criteria needed to earn the certificate. Among the task force leaders are associate finance professor Ann Anderson, associate education professor Christopher Liang and Cameron Wesson, an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of sociology and anthropology.

“Students are a powerful force at Lehigh,” Wesson said. “When they want institutional change on a scale like this, it’s the kind of thing you pick up and run with.”

Henry Odi, the vice provost for academic diversity, said the requirements for the certificate will include academic courses, civic engagement and student assessment.

Odi said there will only be a two-course requirement to receive the certificate to accommodate students with busier schedules.

“We don’t want the inclusive excellence program to be exclusive,” Wesson said. “We want it to be as broadly inclusive as possible.”

The civic engagement component will give students the opportunity to have eventful experiences they can apply to their community. Student assessments will allow self-reflection into what the certificate means on a personal level.

“Particularly for the students, it is how the certificate will be preparing them for the world that they’ll be going into,” Odi said.

The certificate’s components will be proposed March 31 at the university’s Summit for Inclusive Excellence.

Tim Ryan, a U.S. chairman and senior partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, is one of the scheduled speakers. He will discuss the value of diversity and inclusion as a national value with the general community.

After Ryan, a panel of five individuals from the task force will go over the events of their earlier session. An open discussion will follow in Packard 101 where audience members can give their opinions on the decisions made. 

Odi said once the summit is completed, the criteria involved in the certificate program will begin to come into shape. He said he hopes the certificate can be finalized by the fall of 2017.

“We live in a changing society,” Odi said. “It will be important for us at Lehigh to take every step to make sure we are better preparing our students for the changing society and helping students to develop the skill sets that will allow them to excel.”

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