PLU pioneers for inclusive classrooms

Every student coming to Pacific Lutheran University listens to a mandatory lecture on diversity and inclusivity. Staff and faculty, though, have no required training in dealing with what’s termed “microaggressions.”

The Diversity Center defines microaggressions as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely on their marginalized group status.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any options available. Faculty and staff attending their summer orientation had the option to attend a workshop on microaggressions led by Galen Ciscell (a visiting sociology professor) and Nicole Juliano (assistant director of the D-Center).

“[During the conference] we explored the taxonomy of microaggressions,” Juliano said. “We talked about how microaggressions play out in our everyday lives and in the classroom.”

Eliminating microaggressions is all about creating a safe space in the classroom, Ciscell said. In their workshop, they gave attendees the tools they’d need to identify the biases that everyone has.

“We’re living in a world where we all have these preconceived perceptions and biases, and many of those biases we don’t know about until we discover that we have them,” Juliano said. The workshop focused on educating people to find their biases and eliminate them.

Additionally, PLU’s Bias Incident Response Team is operational now and accessible via the Diversity Center’s website. The BIRT’s mission is to “strengthen and sustain an environment of respect, justice, and care for all members of the PLU community.” It serves as a way for students and staff to report incidents of explicit and implicit bias, and can respond accordingly to each incident.

“At the very minimum, I think its consciousness-raising.” Juliano said. “We’re beginning to create dialogue between students and the staff and faculty.”

Jenny James is an English professor, and currently teaches a course on American literature where one of the major themes is displacement within a community. She attended Ciscell and Juliano’s workshop at orientation.

“If there’s a microaggression raised in the classroom, [the workshop] taught us to create a conversation of self-reflection,” said James. “[The training] is a key step in all of us being a part of this diverse community that’s working for a just world.”

There will be more workshops available to staff and faculty at the beginning of the spring semester on Feb. 3 at 8:30 a.m. in the Anderson University Center.

“It’s a lofty goal to eliminate bias and microaggressions in the world,” Juliano said. “But we do hope to provide skills to our students, faculty and staff to engage in those difficult conversations”


Advocates get students to their far away dreams

This article originally appeared in The Mast in Sept. 2015

The Wang Center for Global Education’s Sojourner Advocates are ready to assist and provide support for prospective, active, and former study away students this year at Pacific Lutheran University.

“As a Sojourner Advocate, I help plan campus wide events to encourage and inform students to study away,” Sojourner Advocate Sam van Roon (Junior) wrote in an email. “We also provide welcoming upon return and, most importantly, get people excited about all that awaits them in this great big world of ours.”

Roon is joined by Seniors Sonja Schaefer and Kalie Saathoff. Schaefer has studied away in Beijing and the famed Antartica/Argentina trip while Saathoff studied away in Windhoek, Namibia and Honolulu, Hawaii.

“Living in a giant metropolis with a non-English-speaking host family was exactly the independent adventure I was seeking,” Schaefer writes on the Wang Center website.

Roon said he never even considered studying away before enrolling, but with the help of the Wang Center, Roon studied away in Brussels, Belgium. While there, he had the opportunity to visit nine other countries.

“49% of students study away in their time at PLU,” Roon said. “I enjoy having the position and network necessary to increase that number as much as possible.”

If funding a semester abroad seems daunting, don’t worry! It really is affordable, Roon says. There are more than 20 resources on the Wang Center’s website to help with funding, many of which are specific to certain study away locations.

“There are more reasons than can be listed in the amount of time it takes to just actually apply!” Roon said. “You’ll meet incredible people, see amazing sights, learn more than you thought imaginable, and have a lot of autonomy to have the unique, individualized trip you want to have.”

There are still several open study away opportunities for J Term, including China, England, Italy, Martinique, and Uruguay. Within the state, students can spend J Term in Holden Village, Neah Bay, or even Tacoma. The deadline to apply is the September 30th.

If you’re still not convinced studying abroad is for you, check out the Study Away fair on Sept. 23 in the AUC Regency Room. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you’ll have the opportunity to meet and learn about PLU sponsored Gateway semester programs, faculty-led J-Term programs, and non-PLU Approved providers, as well as information about funding opportunities.

“To me, being a Sojourner Advocate means having the opportunity to encourage and assist students campus wide to take advantage of the amazing opportunities that PLU has to offer”