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The School of Art & Design has begun to implement strategies to increase diversity in teaching and in coursework as part of the University of Michigan’s campus-wide plans to increase diversity, equity and inclusion.

Karina Moore, director of admissions at the Art & Design School, said as part of the DEI initiative, grants have been given to different areas of the University to allow them to increase inclusion specifically within their space, which the school has received. The exact monetary amount of the grants has not been released.

The Stamps Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategic Planning Committee submitted its specific plan to University President Mark Schlissel before he released his campus-wide plan. The original Art & Design School plan included concepts for better recruiting and retaining diverse faculty.

Moore said after receiving feedback and financial commitments from the University, the Art & Design School decided to use the funding to focus on the aspects of their plan tied to curriculum and faculty teaching.

Irina Aristarkhova, professor of Art & Design and head of the DEI commitee for the Art & Design school, wrote after meeting with students to receive input on ways to improve the plan, the school has started running workshops with the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in response to desires for a more diversity-oriented curriculum.

“Our next workshop is this coming Friday, December 9, where faculty will share their syllabi and workshop new ideas for assignments, examples, and strategies to make inclusive teaching a more explicit part of their courses for Winter 2017 semester,” she wrote.

Art & Design Prof. Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo, former head and current member of the planning committee, noted the Art & Design School had not received all the funding it requested, but said the committee will focus on achieving its goals in other ways. 

For instance, Moore said, part of the plan requested a DEI coordinator specifically for the Art & Design School, but that request was not granted. Instead, the committee itself will make up for the lost role and all members of the community will be responsible for holding the school accountable.

Moore said prospective students this year have shown an increased interest in learning about campus climate issues both in the Art & Design School and around the University.

“Prospective students, especially this year with everything that has been going on across the country, are more willing or interested in asking about what the climate is, having to do with all kinds of diversity here at Stamps and at large at the University,” Moore said.

Nunoo-Quarcoo said at the end of this year the committee will create a one-year report to assess the plan before creating another report at the five-year mark. He noted while these reports will be an overall description of what the committee has done, what has been observed, what has been learned and what needs improvement, the committee will always look at how the plan is going through regular meetings.

He said he hopes at the end of five years, DEI becomes less of something each unit has to do, but something that happens naturally.

“DEI should become a main issue, it should become the default,” Nunoo-Quarcoo said. “For me, it really ought to be the default and not the exception.”

Aristarkhova wrote that having a wider perspective is necessary in the art and design world today, whether that be for one’s own creative practice, career opportunities or problems within communities that need solving.

“Due to the increasingly global nature of art and design, the school needs a diverse group of faculty and staff to prepare a diverse community of students to contribute their full potential to a much more globalized world of art and design,” she wrote.

Moore said the DEI plans at the Art & Design School are important not only because they will improve climate issues within the school, but also because they will help the students grow as artists.

“On a broader level, artists and designers are instigators in our society — they are raising awareness, they are bringing up issues that are important to everyone in society,” Moore said. “So they themselves, they need to be aware and have spaces where there are guided discussions and conversations about these issues and where they’re not only able to but required to investigate what’s happening in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion not only here at U of M but in our country through their creative work.”


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