One of the largest teaching initiatives at the University of Pittsburgh is one that helps to raise faculty awareness about how to create more inclusive classrooms and diversify curriculum content across the academic spectrum, an effort that Chancellor Patrick Gallagher says embraces “diversity and inclusion as core values that enrich learning, scholarship, and the communities we serve.” So it is with great enthusiasm that the Office of the Provost and the Teaching Center honor five faculty with the inaugural Diversity in the Curriculum Award for their efforts to create more inclusive learning experiences for their students:
- Dr. Julie Beaulieu, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
- Dr. Marnie Bertolet, Department of Epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health
- Dr. Melinda Ciccocioppo, Department of Psychology in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
- Dr. Elizabeth Harkins, Division of Education at Pitt-Johnstown
- Dr. Abdesalam Soudi, Department of Linguistics in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
These faculty positively impact students in the classroom by adjusting their curricula, expanding cultural awareness, developing inclusive teaching methods, and encouraging interactive learning environments. Such efforts help spread diversity initiatives beyond our campus and into the world around us.
Professor Julie Beaulieu broadened her Sex and Sexualities course by making connections “beyond the obvious social, biological, and material categories like race, gender, and class.” The course is newly approved to fulfill Pitt’s new general education requirement for diversity. The director of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies notes that Dr. Beaulieu “has done substantial and far-reaching work to integrate diversity into not only her courses, but also the Pitt curriculum more broadly.” She has updated her course to include more global perspectives and challenged students to think critically about the relationship between theory and practice. Upon completing the course, students feel better equipped to understand the complexity of diversity and intersectionality.
Through a series of significant changes to her course, Professor Marnie Bertolet has overhauled Design and Conduct of Clinical Trials to encourage students to investigate the effect of diverse populations on clinical research. This includes amending her course objectives and updating her class examples to include information about populations that aren’t typically discussed in clinical settings. Students have lauded the changes, reporting that Dr. Bertolet brought aspects of diversity into a course where it is not always a priority. The senior associate dean at the Graduate School of Public Health says the course “stands out for its comprehensiveness and effectiveness in training a new generation of epidemiologists to think differently about our differences as they design trials.”
By making a comfortable learning environment that pays special attention to diverse populations not typically included in the course, Dr. Melinda Ciccocioppo makes Introduction to Psychology more accessible and inclusive for all of her students. She has expanded the range of psychologists referenced in the course and added topics such as racial identity development and multicultural therapy. She hopes that these changes show students that their perspectives and experiences are respected in the field of psychology—both within the classroom and beyond. The chair of Psychology commends Dr. Ciccocioppo for the curriculum changes, saying “accommodations for students with disabilities and use of gender-inclusive language have now become routine aspects of her teaching.”
After surveying students to understand their pre-existing perspectives, Dr. Elizabeth Harkins focuses on race and religion in her Educational Psychology courses to shape concepts of inclusive education—especially in regard to social justice and diversity. Student reactions overwhelmingly indicate that there’s much work to be done in this space, so Professor Harkins identifies pedagogical methods that work toward plausible change within inclusive diversity. The changes help facilitate discussions about privilege and power within education. She plans to expand the instruction on historical societal views of ableism, diversity, and discrimination, while incorporating daily connections with disability and social justice. She believes students must be provided with more tools to facilitate educational success. The division chair adds that “Dr. Harkins sees diversity as much more than a classroom subject. She sees it as a way of living life as a member of our local and global community.”
Transforming the Aspects of Sociolinguistics course, Dr. Abdesalam Soudi has created an open learning environment where students are challenged to think critically about how their individual backgrounds impact their linguistic choices, as well as how they interpret others’ choices. The foundation for these efforts lies in the “culture box”—a technique where Dr. Soudi asks students to bring in objects or stories during the first week of class that reflect their backgrounds. The activity prompts an exchange where students learn about each other’s cultures and worldviews, issues that are central to the course. News of this approach spread quickly, first with a story published in Pitt Chronicle, then to a mother of a Pitt alumnus teaching in New York. She saw the article and utilized the culture box in her own school with positive student responses.
Congratulations to the 2017 Diversity in the Curriculum Award Winners. The Teaching Center is committed to supporting Pitt students by enriching the experience and knowledge of faculty and TAs with interactive workshops, one-on-one consultations, and other programming that underscores the value of diversity and inclusion in teaching, across all content areas. Read more at the Center for Diversity in the Curriculum.