IDEA Initiative Fosters Culture of Inclusion

By Denise Nelson Nash & Jennifer Lee
VP of the College/Secretary of the Board of Trustees & Guest Contributor

Last year, in keeping with Scripps College’s ongoing focus on strengthening a campus-wide culture of inclusion, the President’s Office introduced the I.D.E.A Initiative, a comprehensive plan to align resources, programs, and events to advance inclusion, diversity, equity, and access throughout the Scripps community. Denise Nelson Nash, Vice President and Secretary of the Board of Trustees, facilitated this work on behalf of the College by convening student, faculty, and staff leaders to develop an action plan, by coordinating high-level discussions among the Board of Trustees, and by supporting a yearlong community engagement program with the Sustained Dialogues Campus Network (SDCN) and Public Conversations Project (PCP).

This past year, the entire first-year class and 57 student leaders were engaged in SDCN-led workshops and trainings, respectively. Sara Bryk ‘18, a participant in the inclusivity leadership workshop, recalls, “Attending the moderator training last year was an eye-opening experience to me. I have never before been in a space where people were so willing to share experiences that really mattered with people that they barely knew. I’ve been hooked ever since!” Following the training, four student moderators led dialogue groups to explore issues of loneliness, class, race, religion, and beliefs on campus. Rachel Berner-Hays ‘17, one of the inaugural moderators of the program, says, “Sustained Dialogues has been a great opportunity for me to become better equipped to both participate in and facilitate dialogues focusing on issues of identity and lived experiences. It has made me more aware of my own identities and given me tools to engage with people in the hopes of making this a better place for people who have all different identities.”

In addition to engaging students with Sustained Dialogues, over 100 faculty and staff participated in difficult dialogue workshops over the summer; 40 faculty heard from ten recent alumnae across the 7Cs about classroom experiences in collaboration with a 7C Working Group; and nationally recognized thought leaders came to campus to share their experiences and expertise on a variety of topics ranging from Islamophobia to white privilege.

The President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusivity (PACDI), led by Co-chairs Piya Chatterjee and Denise Nelson Nash, approved over $10,000 in funding for students and staff members to engage in projects that aligned with the IDEA Initiative. Four students and one staff member attended SDCN’s national conference at the University of Alabama, eight students attended INCITE!’s Color of Violence Conference in Chicago, and two students and two staff members attended a SDCN conference in Washington, D.C. In addition to individual support for conference fees, PACDI also approved funding for a member of AASU’s senior thesis, the Indigenous Student Alliance, and the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies’ New Visual Afrofuturisms and Speculative Migrations conference.

This important community-building work continues in 2015-2016 as the College advances the values set forth in the College’s mission statement, diversity and inclusivity principles of community, and the strategic plan for diversity and inclusivity. The focus will be on in-house capacity building as more community members participate in workshops and trainings on how to successfully navigate difficult dialogues and topics. Already, the Class of 2019 has participated in a SDCN workshop during Orientation and 39 students have registered for three new dialogue groups. PACDI is also looking for opportunities to expand funding opportunities so that more students can be supported in their endeavors.