Diversity and equity included in first-time student course

Aug 12, 2020

Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life Joseph Shepard will speak to incoming students about diversity and inclusion in their Traditions and Transitions (T&T) program.

T&T is a freshman seminar designed to improve students’ academic success and help in their social transition to college life.

“Infusing diversity, equity and inclusion into the Transition and Traditions courses would ensure that we’re educating our incoming students on the importance of respecting the dignity of every individual,” said Shepard.

Shepard will visit each T&T class at least once to help host a discussion about diversity, equity and inclusion.

The idea was born from listening sessions that were held by the Department of Student Life during the summer. Students took positively to the opportunity to have conversations surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion with one another and inspired Shepard to find a way to connect with students at Newman.

Rosemary Niedens

The initiative correlates well with the university’s most recent strategic plan that places diversity at the top of its priority list.

Shepard was quick to contact Rosemary Niedens, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, to discuss the possibility of him visiting with T&T classes about the topic.

Niedens felt the initiative tied in well with the purpose of T&T as well as the Newman Code, which states, “As a member of the Newman community, I pledge to live in the spirit of critical consciousness by respecting the dignity of every person, honoring both personal and institutional integrity and striving to embrace all humanity.”

Niedens said, “From the beginning of T & T, there has been an emphasis on collegiality and elements of the Newman Code. We have always included work on multicultural communication, diversity and inclusion. … Clearly this aids in encouraging students to reach for the goal of transforming society as they explore a larger worldview.”

Joseph Shepard

Shepard has a passion for what he does and has led many diversity initiatives at Newman including creating the Diversity Round Table Ambassadors, supporting various diversity-centered clubs and hosting speakers who specialize in related topics.

“The role of institutions of higher learning is to do all that we can, when we can, to prepare them for the world that awaits. We must teach our students to not only get proximate with those that come from different backgrounds other than their own, but we must also help educate our students to become more conscious of how different people show up and lead in different situations due to their identities. Ultimately, aiding our students in understanding this, helps all of us create a more equitable society,” he said.

Shepard hopes to teach students that diversity and equity goes beyond just race and ethnicity.

Shepard said, “I want our metropolitan students to understand what it’s like to be a student from a rural county. I want our able-bodied students to see the world through the lens of non-able-bodied students and ultimately, I want to learn from our students too.”

He is looking forward to visiting T&T classes and is sure he will learn something from them just as they learn from him. He believes this initiative will help students understand that strength lies within our ability to operate outside the realm of dualistic thinking.

“Our job is to prepare our students to transform society. The diversity in our society is always evolving and we must equip our students with the tools and knowledge to effectively live, work, play and pray in a diverse society,” he concluded.