UAH Pride Fair

UAH PRIDE fair celebrating diversity.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has announced the launching of the UAH Inclusive Excellence Certificate Program. The initiative provides an online course that supports Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training and awareness at no cost to the entire UAH community.

There are 15 modules to complete the full certificate, which are organized into three branches: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Each module includes a recorded lecture, a Speak Your Truth video and additional resources/information, as well as a number of self-reflection exercises or learning assignments. Students, staff and faculty are encouraged to take this professional development opportunity, no matter their DEI experience level. Completion of the full certificate is eligible for 3.0 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits.

Katie Greene, education & resource specialist in the UAH ODEI.

Katie Greene, education & resource specialist in the UAH ODEI.

Michael Mercier | UAH

“Modules under the Diversity branch aim to provide a basic foundation of DEI topics, including biases and stereotypes, intercultural competency and effective allyship,” explains Katie Greene, an education & resource specialist in the UAH ODEI who uses the gender-neutral pronouns ‘they/them.’

“The Equity branch provides modules focused on systems of oppression that prevent equality and create barriers to access for various social identity groups,” they say. "And finally, the modules in the Inclusion branch provide an opportunity to learn more about many prevalent social identity groups found on our campus, including Gender and Sexual Minorities (GSM), different age cohorts, religion and immigration.”

Greene, who created the program, says the project is designed specifically to “help members of the UAH community develop their intercultural competency skills to increase inclusive excellence in and outside of the classroom. It’s a call to action to broaden awareness of our growing campus needs and embrace the changes of today. We owe each other the commitment to learn about diverse experiences and to allow that awareness to improve our daily interactions with others. It doesn't mean we have to understand all the nuances of different identities, but at least we can agree to recognize and respect folks from all walks of life.”

The course aims to model accessibility and a learner-focused approach to curriculum design and is presented as an online Canvas course in a user-friendly format, “with video components already captioned, and documents made accessible for folks with different abilities,” Greene notes. “The Inclusive Excellence Certificate program takes the ODEI's mission ‘to improve social and cultural awareness and encourage self-understanding’ to the next level. It meets our community where they are and provides a self-paced journey to discover DEI in a non-threatening environment.”

The idea for the program began as a development project for Greene in late 2017.

“Having experience creating and facilitating DEI training at my previous institution, I started small,” they say. “While working in Admissions, I developed an internal inclusive communication guide for my fellow counselors addressing pronouns and barriers to access prospective students may face while seeking higher education.”

DEI lessons were soon integrated into the Orientation Leader (OL) training & development curriculum, while Greene advocated for a DEI exercise at New Student Orientation. After joining the ODEI in late 2020, they realized this was an opportunity to roll out the idea on a larger scale. The course took over a year to develop and was opened to beta testers in spring 2022.

“In January 2021, I began the process of creating the certificate,” they say. “First, I did a lot of market research. I reviewed certificate programs other institutions had created and figured out what worked and what didn't. I spoke with former colleagues at previous institutions and observed the UAH community to figure out what topics were the most needed, and more importantly, how to present these topics in digestible portions. I did a lot of subject matter research. I want to give a shout out to the Salmon Library for having so much relevant information readily accessible to the campus!”

Cross-campus partnerships were cultivated to grow awareness for the program. For example, a partnership was created with the UAH College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHS) Film department to record and produce a vital component to be included with each module, the Speak Your Truth digital story-telling project.

“The Quality Education Practices Online(QEPO) program provided by the Enhanced Teaching and Learning Center (ETLC) inspired the functionality and accessibility of the course,” Greene says. “Earlier this year, we had beta testers from all over campus – the College of Nursing, the Academic Success Advocacy Program, the ODEI Ambassadors and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), to name a few. The official program launched in mid-September and we've already had people complete the entire course!”

Greene sees a number of ways UAH will be impacted by the program.

“The anticipated impact of the UAH Inclusive Excellence program is two-fold,” they say. “One, to present an opportunity to learn more about social identities and the systems of oppression they may face, and two, by encouraging a shift in campus culture. Our growing population is more diverse than ever and all of us, no matter our position or capacity on campus, need to develop intercultural competency skills. By learning more about DEI topics and practicing self-awareness, we can start having more constructive conversations about how to embody inclusive excellence in all that we do on campus.”

Currently, the DEI program is available only to the UAH community. “But there have been talks about adapting the program for the local Huntsville/Madison county community,” Greene says. “The most popular subject of the program is the stereotypes and biases module; I get requests to train boards of directors, local organizations and federal businesses on this topic all the time. While the Canvas course is not available to the Huntsville community, I've presented modules to various groups around town, including non-profits like Family Services Center, North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless and Global Ties Alabama. Offering the program publicly would help equip local groups to embrace DEI within their organizations in order to improve their corporate climate and retain top talent.”

Registration for the course can be found through the College of Professional Studies registration platform. Learners have 10 months to complete the course upon registration. There are no associated fees, and participants who complete the modules within the timeframe are presented with an official certificate. For more information, please visit UAH Inclusive Excellence Certificate Program.

As to the future of the program, Greene says, “the goal is to continuously update it – DEI is evolving and a never-ending learning journey. In future iterations, I hope to include even more DEI topics and social identity groups.”