DUBOIS – Penn State DuBois entered the 2022-23 academic year with many goals. One of these campus goals includes “fostering inclusion and belonging to promote student success”. This goal falls directly under the university’s diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging misson, often referred to as DEIB. Each of these areas points to the values and mission of Penn State to support all members of its community and beyond.
The ethnic population in the Penn State DuBois region is homogeneous, with less than 5% making up the minority population. This statistic can be problematic given that research shows that the more diverse a population is, the greater opportunities there are for innovation and entrepreneurship. On the post-secondary education level, greater diversity has shown higher levels of educational achievement and advancement. With all of this in mind, Penn State DuBois has been aiming to increase awareness and engage in activities to promote DEIB on campus and in the community.
“DEIB is our campus priority,” Jungwoo Ryoo, chancellor and chief academic officer said. “Without DEIB, we cannot build an effective team essential to student success. We are thrilled to share our DEIB journey in recent months, and I am looking forward to supporting future DEIB efforts as much as I can. Let’s be mindful and compassionate to seize every DEIB moment at Penn State DuBois.”
Penn State DuBois has been making large efforts to increase awareness and improve the effectiveness of the support services that are available on campus. One of those services is the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, also know as “the CUE”. The CUE is designed to provide free tutoring and academic support services to all Penn State DuBois students. Whether it is one-on-one tutoring, group tutoring, study skills workshops, the CUE can handle it all. As part of DEIB efforts, tutors have now been embedded into classes, making it easier for students to receive tutoring help without the social stereotypes and pressures that can often come from asking for help in a central location. Efforts are also being made to incorporate more hands-on learning materials, which are often easier for students to understand when compared to simply reading out of a textbook.
The campus also has its own office for student disability resources. The goal of this office is to provide a welcoming, encouraging and empowering environment for all students with disabilities, ensuring that each student has equal access, full participation and reasonable accommodations met for their academic pursuits. Autism, attention deficit disorder, hearing, vision, learning disabilities, psychological disorders, physical health disorders, mobility impairments and neurological disorders are all recognized by Penn State as disabilities where accommodations can be made to assist students who provide verification. Disabilities cannot and will not prevent a student from having the full Penn State DuBois experience and the office for student disability resources makes sure that can happen for every student.
In 2020, the IDREAM team was created, which was reimagined from the original campus diversity team through an intensive needs assessment and campus community survey. IDREAM stands for:
- Racial equality
- Accountability and awareness
Throughout its active time, the IDREAM team has used thoughtful planning to position itself to best support students, faculty and staff at Penn State DuBois, as well as the surrounding communities that it serves.
When a discussion of equity and diversity takes place, often times the first thought that comes to a person’s mind deals with race or gender because those are typically identifiers we can see. While those are two identities that need to be considered, they are far from the only dimensions of diversity. Psychological disorders, mental health, physical disabilities and health are all important to be considered when a discussion of equity is taking place. Diversity also includes ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, cultural, religious and political background. The goal is to create a space that everyone belongs in and has access to what they need to be successful.
Throughout this academic year, the IDREAM team has organized numerous events that were aimed to bring awareness and educate students on many of the points that align with the foundational pillars of both DEIB and IDREAM. From educational events focused on different cultures around the world, to discussion groups on various topics to performances on campus by different performers that highlight their own unique characteristics, Penn State DuBois has hosted an abundance of events throughout the year.
Through funding received from the Stackpole-Hall Foundation, the IDREAM team was able to hire two student inclusion peers, begin building a DEIB library of books and films in the campus library and to celebrate a “Day of Peace” on campus, held on August 30. The “Day of Peace” was a peaceful demonstration aimed to spread the word that hate is not tolerated on campus, or in the community.
An important event took place in October when Penn State DuBois hosted a daylong DEIB workshop entitled “Engaging the head and the heart: a mindful approach to overcome bias.” With several facilitators from different universities and organizations, including Penn State DuBois chancellor and chief academic officer Jungwoo Ryoo, this event aimed to give each participant the tools they need to promote DEIB in their own sectors and to help individuals change their mindsets toward the biases that they have. The event took a deep dive into the impacts that biases in all forms have on the world and what the best ways are to overcome them. Participants also learned about how to bring mindful practices into their personal and professional lives.
Hiller Auditorium has been a focal location for many performances this year for many visitors coming to the campus. In August, AJ Wilkerson, a stand-up comedian who was diagnosed with Autism as an adult, regaled students and community members alike with his unique comedy routine that emphasized both his big personality and the interesting way his brain works with Autism. Not only did this event serve as a chance for everyone to come together for a good laugh, but it also raised awareness of what Autism is and how those who have been diagnosed are living full and happily lives, even using their diagnosis to their advantage, such as AJ does each day.
Storyteller Odd?Rod visited the campus in November to deliver his powerful message that aims to inspire everyone to push beyond adversity. Through a series of poems that proved to be lifesaving for him, he gave a chronological journey of his life coming from a home with a history of drug addiction, how he worked out of that situation and how he has now made it his mission to help others through education and sharing his personal experiences so others may learn from it.
The auditorium also saw several cultural related performances as well. Didge Evolution took attendees on a journey through Australia, using didgeridoos as the focal point of their show. Didgeridoos have been played by Aboriginal people for over 1,500 years and are an important part of the culture’s history. Students and visitors also got to experience Hawaiian culture firsthand when Polynesian Paradise visited the campus in March. This group of dancers took everyone on a trip through the rich culture and history of Hawaii, as those in attendance got to experience a journey through the South Pacific and learn about the beauty of this sacred land. Both of these experiences brought enrichment to the community for cultures that are unique and different from the ones that we have in our area.
The campus fully participated in Black History Month, with February being filled with events related to Black History. Eboné bell kicked off the month with an interactive presentation of Black changemakers and historical figures. With most Americans only knowing a handful of important Black figures from history, Bell used her skills in storytelling and relatability to bring more prominent Black history makers to the forefront for everyone. Black history is an important part of American history and attendees got to experience that firsthand during this event.
Students, faculty and staff alike got the opportunity to learn about Black authors during the “Black Authors Matter” presentation held during the month. Students from English 139 presented posters celebrating Black American authors and the events that influenced their writing. These presentations shared important details about each author and served as an enlightening experience for the campus community.
Another highlight happened on February 23 when the “Let’s Represent Art Show” took place in the PAW Center, highlighting artwork from the campus community based on the pillars that IDREAM stands for. This event marked the culmination of IDREAM week on campus, featuring activities like painting, bracelet making and a film showing featuring American abolitionist and social activist Harriet Tubman. The art show was also headlined by Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a Penn State graduate who specializes in metal working. Stevens-Sollman has created several metals that have highlighted different aspects of social culture and the important figures who played big parts in those events. One of those metals commemorated the social concerns and injustice surrounding George Floyd’s death in 2020. That medal, which earned the 2021 American Medal of the Year presented by the American Medallic Sculpture Association, is part of a six-part metallic statement on current events, entitled “2020: America in Crisis”. Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg is another individual created into a medal by Stevens-Sollman.
In March, the campus saw several events related to women and Women’s History Month. They included a discussion panel that highlighted how women are under-represented in STEM related majors and careers, as well as how women often face gender related hurdles for which educational institutions struggle to find ways to prepare them. Penn State alumni in the fields of engineering, information sciences and technology, and wildlife technology were on hand to be part of the panel to help address these issues and share insights with students on how to overcome these challenges in the professional world today.
Students from Penn State DuBois’s women’s studies class presented their research to the campus community during March as well. The topics included the alternatives to incarceration, interaction with trauma survivors and women’s portrayals in pop culture. Using real-life experiences, students contrasted them with the ways incarcerated women are portrayed in America’s popular culture today.
The IDREAM Team has also hosted several discussion groups on various topics relating to inclusion and equality. During sessions including the topics of LGBTQ+, to marijuana usage and legality to mental health awareness, students have been given the opportunity to learn more about topics that have become part of our everyday life today, raising awareness in the process to several social issues that are often featured in the news media and on social media. The team also hosted an e-course with biweekly discussions on race, power and privilege. First year students participated in the e-course also.
Penn State DuBois has made DEIB a high priority on its list of achievements to work towards. This academic year has seen the campus and the community make large strides towards achieving the goals of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. While much progress has been made, there is still more to be done for both the campus and the community to reach the overall goal of a diverse campus that can be a home for anyone and everyone. Achieving that goal will truly allow us to proudly say “we” when we chant “We Are…Penn State!”