In an effort to help faculty, students and staff remain connected and engaged with one another while working and studying remotely, the UCI School of Education Climate Council in summer 2020 launched the Advancing Ideas initiative.
The initiative invited School of Education employees and students to submit proposals for advancing equity and inclusion. After receiving and reviewing proposals, three programs were ultimately funded and held: Food for Thought, CFEP Book Club, and the Undergraduate Student Support Hub Mentorship Program.
Food for Thought created a friendly, casual, and safe space for School of Education members to experiment with cooking, share recipes while learning about each other’s diverse experiences and perspectives, and discuss issues of equity and inclusion. (Read about Food for Thought here.)
In the CFEP Book Club, School of Education and Center for Educational Partnership staff and Climate Council members formed a reading group to explore seven different anti-racist publications. The club provided an inclusive community space that encouraged intentional reflection and discussion of the material. During discussions, readers had opportunities to share their engagement with and reflections on the work, personal narratives, and desires to act on what they learned from the readings and discussions.
CFEP Book Club selections were:
“It’s hard to read and discuss these books and realize that your own inaction allows the injustices faced by Black people, that you are complicit,” said Patricia Anderson, assistant director, CFEP. “The book club raised a consciousness among us of our moral imperative to do more.”
“The CFEP book club is a space where participants explore, discuss, and reflect on literature that amplifies systemic inequities that continue to plague marginalized communities in general, and the Black community in particular,” said Pheather Harris, director of the UCI California Alliance for Minority Participation. “Understanding the historical context concerning the social construct of race in this country, and the ways in which it works to produce disparate outcomes in varying environments, is a necessary step to gaining a deeper understanding about our proximity to racism and, more importantly, how to dismantle systemic oppression.”
The Undergraduate Student Support Hub Mentorship Program - designed by doctoral students Socorro Cambero, Ashley Harlow, Alissa Wolters, and undergraduate student Kevin Si, and facilitated by CFEP Dream Project Fellow Vanessa Rivera Hernandez - engaged graduate students as mentors for three to four undergraduate mentees each. The intent of the program was to provide one-on-one mentorship to incoming freshman, transfer and continuing undergraduate students within the School of Education. Furthermore, the program aimed to assist students in developing skill sets to foster academic success.
“As a first-generation student, I experienced navigating the world of higher education on my own, and graduate student mentors were huge sources of inspiration and advice for me,” said mentor Valery Vigil, first-year doctoral student. “I'm thankful for an opportunity to give back and mentor students in the SOE community!”
During winter and spring quarters mentors met with their mentees individually, then participated in four bi-weekly socials per quarter where mentors shared resources, answered questions, and promoted the benefits of graduate study. Mentors spent an average of 23 hours per quarter meeting individually with their mentees and organizing and attending socials.
“Mentoring for the USSH has been great,” said mentor John Szura, third-year doctoral student. “Biweekly kickback sessions each quarter provide the group with a great way to connect, have fun, and share information about college. Meeting with my mentees has been so valuable as we've connected over the past two quarters to chat about post-graduation options, graduate life, and successful progression during the quarter.”
Mentees reported that the consistent check-ins with their mentor were helpful for their reflection and growth.
A second Advancing Ideas initiative is scheduled for 2021-2022.
“I think this year’s initiative helped to build trust so that we could start to talk with each other in ways that are productive and that can lead to change,” said Elizabeth Peña, professor, associate dean of faculty development and diversity and co-chair of the School of Education Climate Council. “Our intention is that these smaller efforts grow into sustained actions.”