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New DEI Certificate at Muhlenberg Joins Others Working Toward Equity

New DEI Certificate at Muhlenberg Joins Others Working Toward Equity

Diverse: Issues In Higher Education

Liann Herder
December 21, 2022
The events of 2020 are still resonating. A life-threatening pandemic, disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income families, and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd became catalysts for a summer of protests, crystallizing the renewed call for racial justice in America.
Dr. Brooke Vick, chief diversity officer and associate provost for equity and inclusion at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., said 2020 helped corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and government entities see there was crucial work to be done in creating a more just and equitable environment and society.
That work wasn’t going to be easy.
“Many realized they did not yet have the capacity, understanding, or skills to implement necessary changes or identify what those changes might be,” said Vick.
Through conversations with community partners, Vick said Muhlenberg College administration came to realize they could help. Starting in the 2023 – 2024 academic year, students can now enroll in Muhlenberg College’s Graduate Certificate program in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The multidisciplinary program will blend “theory, research, and practice, to prepare students to lead their organizations through this critical time of social progress,” said Vick, who will coordinate the program.
The course will take one year, wherein students will attend two in-person symposiums and take courses virtually, synchronously and asynchronously. The goal is to attract a broad audience to the program, said Dr. A.J. Lemheney, vice president and executive director of Muhlenberg’s Division of Graduate and Continuing Education.
“We hope to attract a mix of professionals that will create conversations across industry sectors examining issues of equity and inclusion in their workplaces and communities,” said Lemheney.
Muhlenberg’s new program joins a growing number of DEI certificate and degree programs offered by businesses and, increasingly, institutions of higher education, experts said. As the U.S. Supreme Court continues its deliberations over the use of race as one of many holistic admissions assessments, DEI officers and training can offer a crucial connecting point to understand how race is woven into the lived experiences of students, faculty and staff, both on and off campus.
“It’s important for students, faculty, staff and peers to understand that in order to create a sense of inclusion, one has to feel they are welcome, respected, and their presence is important, to not only their success, but for the success of others as well,” said Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). “Working, living, and learning in an environment that appears unwelcoming, that is where you experience bias and discrimination that impacts your sense of belonging, like, folks don’t want me here.”
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