Later this summer, EVERFI will debut our newest online offering: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Students. This program is the product of years of research, data, and requests from partner institutions who have put faith in our ability to educate on some of the most challenging topics facing today’s college communities. As a member of EVERFI’s Prevention Education team, I had the tremendous privilege of participating in the process of building this program. Through this three-part blog series, I hope to shine a light on the experience and take you on a journey of this program from conception to creation.

Laying The Foundation

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Students was birthed out of a collaborative partnership with the University of California, Santa Cruz as part of their efforts to support an environment of inclusive excellence for all of their community members.

The topic of inclusive excellence is top of mind for many of our institutional partners, and is deeply connected to the other domains in which we have developed courses.

Who Are We Missing? Considerations for Alcohol Prevention with Historically Underrepresented Populations, demonstrates a strong need for programming, policies, and practices that place specific focus on historically underrepresented student groups. Students of color, for instance, are much less likely to consume alcohol than their Caucasian peers; however, they are more likely to experience harms related to the drinking of their peers (e.g., microaggressions, verbal hostility, and violence).

There are also differences in sexual assault experiences among students from historically underrepresented populations. Data collected from our Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventories show that these students are more likely to experience a sexual assault, yet institutions are less likely to tailor programs to the unique needs of those from the LGBTQ community, racial/ethnic minority groups, and non-traditional students.

Such data speaks to the need for institutions to not only pay attention to the way in which issues like substance abuse, sexual violence, and mental health impact minority students, but to the ways in which they need to do a better job of educating all students on the basic concepts of inclusion, equity, and respect. Our ultimate goal in creating this course is to bridge the gaps that exist between these critical issues and deepen our commitment to the critical topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The First Building Blocks

One of the first steps in our development process was outlining the most impactful and important content to cover. This continues to be one of the most challenging aspects of developing courses on such sensitive and complex topics. Given that the vision was to create a brief orientation that could be provided to all incoming students, we knew that we had to develop content that could reach a large number of students and open the door to a lifetime of learning around the topic.  We wanted to make sure that all students found the content personally relevant and accessible, doing right by the individuals who live these issues every day and engaging those who may have little to no personal experiences with issues related to DEI.

A typical course build is comprised of several individuals, each of whom possess a unique set of professional skills. The development of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Students was an especially collaborative process, with recognition and value placed on the diverse perspective provided by the lived experiences of each team member. Leaving fingerprints on the program were EVERFI scholarly writers, prevention experts, graphic designers, web developers, project managers, student interns, and researchers.

We also sought the guidance of an esteemed group of subject matter experts: Sheree Marlowe, Chief Officer of Diversity and Inclusion at Clark University; Michael Tapscott, Director of the Multicultural Services Center at George Washington University; and Karen Nakamura, Distinguished Chair of Disability Studies and Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, and former Chair of LGBT Studies at Yale University. These individuals have dedicated their careers to the issue of inclusive excellence, within and beyond their respective institutions, and would prove to be instrumental in ensuring that the course content was thoughtful, intellectually sound, and aligned with best practice.

We began the course build process with an extensive literature review and an exploration of data from our existing courses–AlcoholEdu for College and Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates–where students have shared feedback and suggestions relevant to the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, we looked at research and resources from the development of our corporate diversity course. Lastly, we conducted focus groups and interviews with students to discuss their lived experiences, their perception of the issues, and their expectations around a course like this. These interviews would serve as a springboard for student testimonials which would ultimately be featured in the program.

After much deliberation, dialogue, and back and forth between our team of writers and subject matter experts, we identified five key concepts to serve as the program’s foundation. These concepts–equity, power, privilege, oppression, and identity/selfhood–would serve as the foundation for learning objectives, and would be explained and demonstrated in a way that each learner, regardless of prior training or lived experience, could connect with. Outlined below, the team developed 12 learning outcomes to drive course development.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Define diversity and describe its relationship to creating an inclusive campus
  • Define inclusion and describe its relationship to a sense of belonging on campus
  • Explain how diversity and inclusion help create a healthy/positive campus
  • Demonstrate (high level) general knowledge of (or appreciation for) socio-historical inequalities
  • Describe and evaluate inclusion strategies
  • Identify opportunities to apply inclusion strategies
  • Define key terms (identity, multiple identities, power, privilege, bias, empathy, intersectionality, microaggressions)
  • Define and recognize “-isms” and “-phobias”
  • Learn when and how to confront “-isms” and “-phobias”
  • Learn when and how to employ “ally behavior”
  • Explore concepts of resilience and self-care to begin building personal resources
  • Apply basic communication techniques that support diversity and inclusion goals

After deciding on these core concepts, we began to brainstorm the best ways to deliver content that was engaging, interactive, and would have the broadest impact. From there, we started the process of drafting course scripts, collecting student testimonials, and developing the story of our main character, Jose, whose journey we will explore in Part 2 of this blog series. Stay tuned.