Equity, inclusion drive curriculum changes

Cal Lutheran revamps courses and adds new major

In Project CHESS, Cal Lutheran and Moorpark College faculty are working together to make changes in up to 100 classes.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Sept. 23, 2020) Fall semester at California Lutheran University brought curriculum changes that address issues of equity and inclusion and the beginning of additional efforts.

The first courses revamped under a federal grant to be more culturally responsive to students who are underrepresented in higher education are being offered this semester. The classes are in biology, math, English, religion, sociology and theater.

A new major in ethnic and race studies also launched this semester. The program is designed to help students gain a deeper understanding of communities of color in the United States and build cultural competence in working with diverse groups.

At the same time, new Associate Provost for Educational Effectiveness Taiwo Ande is beginning a review of all curriculum to address equity, diversity and inclusion, including looking for ways to incorporate more on issues of race and racism.

The revamped courses offered this semester are the first to come out of Project CHESS, a Cal Lutheran program funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program. Cal Lutheran and Moorpark College faculty are working together to make changes in up to 100 classes.

The faculty are looking for ways their approaches to teaching could be more equitable. Some changes relate to content. The English Department and Pearson Library revamped the first-year composition course to have students research and discuss arguments for and against reparations for Black Americans. More often, it is about clearly stating the importance of studying already included diverse content.

Mathematics professor Mike Gagliardo changed the term “office hours” to “drop-in hours” on his syllabus and added a note that students have permission to advocate for themselves to help those unfamiliar with navigating college. He also added evening drop-in hours to be more accessible.

Andrea Heilman, assistant professor of theater, decided to have her students use Instagram to share their photos of lighting examples because most of them already used the app and there wouldn’t be a cost. Asking students to provide feedback to each other by commenting on Instagram helped Heilman engage shy students who might be hesitant to speak in class. She is trying to meet students where they are.

“The best thing about these policy changes, and most equity initiatives, is that they are just good practices in general,” Gagliardo said. “They are aimed at helping underrepresented students, but they really do help all students and are policies we probably should have been implementing all along.”