The “Inclusive Courses, Innovative Pedagogies” grant funded six new courses, scheduled to be taught next year. The grant was one of the initiatives by the administration to include more diverse courses in the catalogue. According to Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin, the grant is meant to bring improvement in two dimensions: the substance of the course (what is taught) and the pedagogy (how it is taught).
Dean Uvin noted that grants to improve courses are commonplace in colleges, but he chose to gear this one specifically to increasing diversity in response to protests last semester. “What prompted me to do it this way this year was an attempt to expand the conversation on campus about diversity and inclusion and pluralism,” he said.
A new Psychology course titled “Psychological Determinants of Health” led by Assistant Professor Stacey Doan will explore how social factors influence health and what the role of the health care system is in reducing disparities. Associate Professor of Religious Studies Gary Gilbert will teach a new course “Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish State.” “Experience,” developed by Professor of Philosophy Amy Kind, will attempt to answer the question of how we can understand experiences that are radically different from our own, especially in cases where we are unable (either in practice or in principle) to access such experiences ourselves.
Incoming first years will have the option of choosing a new Freshman Humanities Seminar class by Assistant Professor of History Sarah Sarzynski, “Vampires, Zombies, and the African Diaspora.” In the government department, Associate Professor Jon Shields is creating a new course “Debating Race: Black Intellectuals in the Age of Obama.” Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jamel Velji will develop a new course “Pluralizing Islamic Studies” to reinvest agency and complexity in the teaching of Islam.
These courses were approved by the Dean of Faculty office in consultation with Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Nyree Gray. Almost all the professors who requested funds received them, and only one proposal was not accepted. The application asked candidates to detail the learning goals and propose a plan along with a budget. They were also asked to agree to teach the course at least two times, to ensure that enough effort was put in. Finally, applicants were requested to attend a workshop with other recipients of the award to discuss methods of teaching that worked for them.
This workshop is something Dean Uvin is very excited about, saying that the workshop is really the missing ingredient to previous grants that attempted to bring diversity into classrooms. For example, the James Irvine Foundation donated funds during the period 2003-2006 and created many courses that are still taught today, but previous recipients expressed discontent that no meeting was organized between the recipients. Dean Uvin said that when reading the 160 annual reports, he often learns about innovative solutions to common challenges professors have taken, and would like to share those with others.
For recipient Professor Jamel Velji, who will teach the course “Pluralizing Islamic Studies,” the grant was an impetus for making a class that he has been thinking about since his career at Haverford College.
“I think that one of the great things this grant involves is to think about how we can expand our curricular capacities to figure out what pluralism is in the outside world, to figure out what scholarly communities are thinking about in terms of pluralism and bringing that back into the classroom which I think is really exciting” he said. “I think that pluralism and diversity are completely intentional. I think they should be intentional and need to be made intentionally valuable, and I think it’s really good for the community to include as many perspectives as possible in the classroom.”
Dean Uvin echoed the thought that more perspective and conversation was necessary, and this grant was a step in that direction. “If people are more willing to talk about things, you see change happen,” he said. “It’s when they are not talking about it nothing happens.”