CODE Facilitator Institute goes virtual with course on cultural competency

A new virtual course aims to prepare faculty, staff and graduate students to engage in and facilitate Conversations on Diversity and Equity (CODE)

Previously a two-day intensive program, NIU’s CODE Institute has shifted to a six-week online experience for participants to build their cultural competency. The first course begins Sept. 14, and those interested can register now.

Jocelyn Santana, director of Social Justice Education

A train-the-trainer model, CODE will provide facilitators with tools to engage in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion work, as well as self-assessment and reflection about the participants’ held beliefs, values and understanding of their lived experiences, said Jocelyn Santana, director of Social Justice Education for Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Participants explore interesectionality of identities (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, economic justice, nationalism and system of belief) and how these identity layers inform daily experiences of inclusions or treatment of otherness.

Those who fully complete the six-week course can become facilitators of future CODE workshops and programs, while others can customize the course to simply gain knowledge and engage with their fellow participants in learning about cultural differences. That knowledge can be incorporated into classrooms department services, policies and practices, and student resources.

“This program takes the curriculum we’ve covered in the past and focuses it more intensively on one topic per week. We’ll explore key concepts a little more thoroughly on this platform, rather than just introduce them,” Santana said.

“The real important part of CODE is that those in the cohort have an opportunity to connect with each other and share perspectives and perceptions,” she said. “That allows them to challenge one another and encourage the self-work to dismantle systemic oppression and the sustainment of a hierarchy of oppression.”

Future facilitators will participate in weekly peer-reviewed assignments as part of the course.

Always valuable, NIU’s CODE programs have taken on added meaning amid the Black Lives Matter Movement and recent unrest in the country.

“I am grateful to the ADEI team for their continued dedication to social justice education. The team has done a great job of shifting all social justice education to a virtual platform. In addition to COVID, the team has also been able to address racial injustice as a result given the national visibility of the murder of George Floyd,” said Vernese Edghill-Walden, NIU’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer

Since June, Edghill-Walden said, ADEI has increased the number of workshops and programs to meet the increased demand for professional development and training for faculty, staff and students on systematic racism and other systems of oppression.

“The demand for these programs has grown year after year, and this year has been like none other,” she said.

Along with exploring general diversity concepts, participants in the CODE Institute will gain a stronger understanding of their identities, personal beliefs and values related to cultural and social inequalities, said Jane Pappas, Assistant Director for Social Justice Education in ADEI.

“I’m really excited to be able to bring this to the NIU community, mostly because I think it’s going to broaden our reach with CODE. We already have strong facilitators on deck, and I’m very excited to be able to help train a whole new cohort of folks,” Pappas said. “Moving it to a digital format will allow us to reach a broader array of people who might not be able to come to a two-day training.”

Facilitators from across campus not only have used their CODE experiences to help conduct workshops, they’ve incorporated it into their teaching and interactions with students.

“Our changing environment has allowed us to provide education in virtual platforms and broaden the breadth of those we can now reach. We are hopeful our campus will take advantage of the opportunities offered and join us and peers in our workshops where we have conversations that matter,” said Monique Bernoudy, assistant vice-president for ADEI.

CODE provides faculty, staff and graduate students with the tools they need to champion equity and diversity throughout campus.

“We believe it is important to continue to engage in extremely important conversations and since the CODE Institute has shifted to a virtual platform, we wanted to provide an opportunity for exchange in dialogue through these assignments,” said Diana Garcia, graduate research assistant for Social Justice Education for ADEI.

“Our NIU community is so diverse and only by embracing the diversity in this Institute, will participants be able to enrich their knowledge and understanding of differences amongst our NIU students, faculty, staff and community partners.” 

A listing of all Social Justice Education programming to be offered this fall can be found online.

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