Creating Discussion Groups: Issues of Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity for Theological Schools and Seminaries
I. Rationale for Creating a Discussion Group Using Case Study Methodology
Theological schools and seminaries which have accepted the challenge of making their student bodies and faculties more racially diverse, either recently or over a long-span of time, quickly realize the complexity and ongoing challenges of this commitment. It is not easy.
Racial diversity, especially when it moves past tokenism and toward inclusivity, requires new patterns of relationships, new decision-making approaches, and curriculum with more expansive sensibilities and sensitivities. These expansions in teaching and institutional change require reflection, conversation, collaboration, and camaraderie.
This grant project is meant to seed lifegiving conversations with particular faculty and with contextual specificity. The use of a case study methodology will allow faculty to engage in conversations about teaching that are meaningful, efficient in time, and begin to facilitate institutional change around issues of racial diversity, justice, and inclusion.
The case study methodology, utilized in many fields of study as well as routinely in business and corporate life, allows participants explore their own curiosity, identity issues germane to the particular context, expand knowledge on targeted issues and strategize for change. Case study methods provide processes for reflection, critical and imaginative, meant to strengthen collaboration for institutional improvement.
II. Description for Creating a Case Study Discussion Group
This small project grant provides funding, up to $5000, for theological school faculties and staff who want to form a case study discussion group to critically and imaginatively reflect upon issues of diversity, justice and equity as they arise in particular teaching contexts. Groups can be formed with faculty and staff in the same theological school or seminary. And, groups can be formed with faculty and staff across multiple seminaries. Each grant will support one case study discussion group. Any case study conversation group can be comprised of 3 to 9 persons. The names of the participants will need to be supplied with the grant application. The group established for the application of the project is meant to remain intact throughout the project.
Some leaders will know case study methods, others will “learn on the job.” Leaders of the discussion groups are to act as facilitators and will be responsible for submitting the final report. Leaders of the group, upon attending the virtual training session, September 8 & 9, will receive a $1500 stipend (this stipend is beyond the budget of the group).
III. Case Study Approach
A case study approach is an effective means of gaining insight and learning from the actions, incidents, happenings, events, and situations of real-life teaching and the everyday-ness of institutional life. In many cases, discussions generated by case studies result in institutional change, healing in community, creation of new policies, procedure, and needed celebrations. In the case of this project, the focus of any case study is to be on issues of diversity, race, racism, equity, belonging, welcoming and inclusion.
Like any method of learning and reflection, it takes time and practice to become skillful with the process and in the group. It is expected that the groups formed for these case study discussions will meet over an extended period of time (9 months). It is likely that (but not required), in addition to the series of short meetings, a group might plan a half-day or full day meeting to focus on an issue which arose in the conversation, to plan and design needed changes as a result of conversation or to discuss ways of integrating the discussion into the larger life of the institution(s).
IV. Goals of the Case Study Discussion Group
- To establish a regular small group conversation that grapples imaginatively and critically with issues which arise from racial diversity and inclusion.
- To develop the ability to process issues of diversity, equity and inclusion for needed response and change.
- To explore, as a group of colleagues, issues of racial diversity and equity which are experienced in the particular context(s) of the group participants.
- To develop tools of discussion, reflection and change concerning issues of racial diversity and equity.
- To raise awareness about the institutional dynamics regarding racial diversity and equity.
- To consider the effects of racial diversity and equity on the teaching ecology.
- To envision strategies for celebrating racial diversity as well as creating a more welcoming atmosphere.
September 15, 2022 to June 15, 2023
- The case study discussion group would gather – the gatherings are likely monthly or with agreed upon regularity.
- Group participants would take turns writing and presenting a case study for discussion. It is recommended that each member write a minimum of one case study.
- Group leadership would develop a timeline for case study writing, discussion, assist with guiding the discussions, and, if warranted, plan a half-day or full day meeting for further discussion.
- Each case study discussion group meeting would be 1.5 to 3.0 hours in length.
- Given the available funding, some discussion groups might plan an intensive meeting (a half or full day away for deeper discussion, conversation on issues which arise in the discussion, or further facilitation of issues of racial diversity and equity.
VI. Impact of Project on Teaching and Learning
Small group discussion affords colleagues the opportunity to deepen the working relationship to meet the communal aspirations of racial diversity and equity. The impact of these conversations is meant:
- to improve classroom dynamics, bring insight to teachers for students and one another,
- to better understand how an institution’s constituencies facilitates and/or hinders its work on racial diversity and equity,
- to strengthen teaching sensitivity and sensibilities for issues of race, racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, equity, and belonging,
- to provide time for colleagues to discuss the critically important issues on which change hinges,
- to develop the vocabulary needed for conversations on racial diversity and equity.
VII. A plan for evaluation of the project both during and at the conclusion of the grant period
A final evaluation of the grant is to be submitted by December 15, 2023. The evaluation, three to five single-spaced pages, needs to discuss:
(a) What were the critical issues raised in discussion? List them. (b) In what ways did the use of case study and the discussions impact the group, the teaching, and the institution? (c) What are the next steps concerning issues of diversity and equity? (d) How will the work, insights, and accomplishments of this group be disseminated? (e) As a result of this experience, is there a project for which another Wabash Center grant might be sought? If so, what?
It is recommended that at the mid-point of the timeline and at the end of the timeline that members of the group be asked for feedback concerning their experience, learning, and involvement in the group. These evaluations, (written, digital or oral) can be used to create the final report of the grant.
Evaluation questions to consider:
#1 What has been most helpful about participating in this group?
#2 What has been least helpful about participating in this group?
#3 What has surprised you about participating in this group?
#4 How has this conversation impacted your institutional role and responsibilities?
#5 What changes would you recommend as a result of this experience?
#6 What is your plan of dissemination of the notions, issues, learnings, and insights of this group?
#7 What further steps or next steps would you suggest for issues of racial diversity and equity in this context?
#8 How has this group caused you to think differently about issues of race, racism, diversity, inclusivity, welcoming, belonging, and compassion?
#9 How have issues of conflict, differences of opinion, and disagreements been handled?
#10 How have joys, accomplishments, achievements, and attainments been celebrated, congratulated, or replicated?
VIII. Group Membership
Provide a list of everyone directly involved with the project. Please itemized persons: names, title, school, contact information.
The members who are submitted as participants with the application of the project are meant to remain throughout the project. Should members need to be removed or added, please inform the Wabash Center in writing.
IX. A plan for dissemination of what you discover through the grant project
The Wabash Center requires that each group have a plan to disseminate the learning and insights of the group. Dissemination can take many forms.
Consider the following kinds of dissemination strategies:
- Make a presentation(s) and/or report to faculty, administration, trustees at your school
- Create a hallway bulletin board or on-line report/pictorial
- Write blog(s) for Wabash Center
- Write essays for scholarly journal(s)
- Revamp syllabi
- Convene a student forum
- Write poetry, poetic prose, dramas for portrayal at the school
- Orchestrate a celebration, commemoration, or tribute for accomplishments in issues of diversity and equity
- Map the issues and or resources in a particular school and share widely
- Write op-ed letters to local news
- Etcetera ….
X. Budget – Ways funds will be spent
Please provide a line item budget along with a narrative budget that indicates the main expense categories for the project and how the costs of each item were determined.
Note: Institutional indirect costs are not permitted for small grant project grants.