Promoting Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Academics on Midwestern University Campuses

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March 21, 2023 | Midwestern University

In 2023, a new Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Academics (IDEA) four-part certificate program was introduced on both Midwestern University campuses, and was made available to all faculty and staff via application. The course included timely conversations and workshops led by subject-matter experts, with the goal of evaluating and enhancing participants’ knowledge and skills around diversity, equity, and inclusive practices in daily campus interactions and in the classroom.

More than 120 faculty and staff applied to participate in the inaugural IDEA Certificate Program. In total, 45 individuals from across the two campuses completed the course and earned the certificate.

Over the span of the year, participants completed four sessions:

  1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Building an Inclusive Classroom & Campus Environment
  2. Strategies for Creating Inclusive & Welcoming Classrooms & Campus Environment
  3. Inclusive Practices in Action: Stories from the Frontline at MWU
  4. Closing the Gap: Inclusive Dialogues to Promote Belonging Across Campus

Each of these sessions was designed to highlight real-world scenarios, best practices, and actionable steps that participants can use to effectively communicate with all types of learners, both in and outside of the classroom. In addition to attending these four sessions, participants were also required to engage in active learning exercises to practice strategies and apply concepts, as well as complete pre- and post-session assignments.

The sessions of the course were designed so that by the end of the program, participants would be able to:

  1. Define principles of equity-minded support services and inclusive teaching
  2. Identify the role of identity and inequities in all learning environments (e.g. classrooms, labs, workshops, etc.), and the importance of sustaining a respectful, safe, welcoming and supportive campus environment
  3. Explain the impact of bias, inequities, and micro-aggressions on student learning and select appropriate responses in an education setting
  4. Describe effective frameworks, tools, and strategies that promote inclusive practices and environments on campus
  5. Plan inclusive learning strategies that can be applied in daily interactions on campus and in the classroom to support students


To celebrate the completion of the program, Kathleen Goeppinger, Ph.D., Midwestern University President and CEO, and Victoria Franks, M.Adm., Assistant Vice President, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, hosted recognition events on both campuses to award certificates of completion.

Several participants shared their thoughts on the course:

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to both higher education and medical care. As Midwestern University combines those two fields, DEI efforts are even more important here. We have so much to learn from and with each other. It is crucial that we as an institution understand and support diverse needs and backgrounds as holistically as possible to model that support and inclusion for our students, our patients, and our students’ future patients.” - Karen Eckhart, B.S., CPFM, Financial Aid Administrator, Downers Grove Campus.

“I have always had a desire to learn more about people and have always been intrigued by the similarities and differences among people from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Lately, I have been on a journey to learn more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). As a mentor and an educator, I want to learn to be more inclusive and create a safe space for my students. The MWU IDEA certification program objectives aligned well with my personal and professional goal of serving those around me better, which is why I applied to the program. I learned more about this topic, met some incredible people from different programs and colleges, and learned good and practical strategies that I have already implemented in my courses.  My desire to continue to learn more about ways to make my classroom and the campus more welcoming and safer for students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds and experiences has only grown since going through the IDEA certification program. While I learned a lot, I know there is so much more to learn. I am excited for the ongoing initiative of MWU faculty and leadership to continue to talk about this important topic and support faculty like me in our own journey of learning to be more inclusive and supportive of our students. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to learn more about DEI, especially as it relates to academia.” - Gifty Abraham, O.T.D., OTR/L, Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy Program, Downers Grove Campus.

“Success in medicine not only requires self-directed, lifelong learning of medical topics, it is also essential for the medical professional to be committed to self-reflection with ongoing, steadfast efforts to learn from others about diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Bias is present in each one of us and we will likely make unintentional mistakes related to DEI within healthcare; however, continual learning and growth are key.  The MWU IDEA certification encouraged a brave space for stretching outside of one’s comfort zone and was filled with rich dialogue, insightful conversations, and abundant opportunities to expand understanding of DEI concepts.  For me, this year-long opportunity to learn will serve as a foundation for continued personal exploration into DEI concepts.  I highly recommend this course to any colleague who wishes to acquire knowledge about incorporation of DEI within the classroom, office, or community, or anyone who simply desires to better understand human connection, varied life experience, and the importance of inclusivity and nonjudgement.” - Eve Hoover, D.M.Sc., M.S., PA-C, DFAAPA, Associate Professor, Physician Assistant Studies, Glendale Campus.