New campus training aimed at tackling implicit biases

by Aretha Matsushima, Staff Writer

San Diego State administrators developed a new program this semester aimed at targeting implicit bias that will be offered to all faculty at San Diego State.

Provost Chair of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Cristina Alfaro, along with the five Provost’s Professors of Equity in Education and Associate Vice President for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion J. Luke Wood, established the university inclusion program. Alfaro said the program aspires to strengthen the sense of community on campus between those of all cultural backgrounds.

“Our goals are to create a heightened awareness about the institution that we are, an institution that values honors and builds on the strength and the wealth of all cultures,” Alfaro said. “Most importantly to create compassionate leaders whether you’re a student, professor or faculty member.”

Alfaro said these professional learning opportunities will be hosted in the form of group presentations with options for specific training on topics such as implicit biases and microaggressions, implicit biases in hiring practices, inclusive syllabi refreshes and inclusive teaching practices.

Alfaro said she believes everyone unknowingly has biases that are created through life experiences and in turn, can lead to certain beliefs or ideologies.

“Most of the time we don’t even realize it because we just have been socialized in society and we react to people in certain ways,” she said.

Provost Professor of Equity in Education Yea-Wen Chen said it is recommended for individuals to participate in every available learning opportunity as a means of further developing the conversation around implicit biases.

“The nature of the conversation about diversity and inclusion deserves more time because we really need the space to think deeply about these issues, develop a sense of self-awareness and a shared understanding,” Chen said.

To reserve a session, Alfaro said the courses must be requested through a professional learning request form found on the SDSU diversity website on the page titled “Professors of Equity.” The presentations will have a heavy focus on dialogue so students, faculty and staff can best understand one another.

“We need to allow them to have a dialogue to come together and in the end, we are hoping that everyone will have an action plan,” Alfaro said.

As a university located so close to the border with Mexico, Chen said the program has a specific focus on how to best serve SDSU’s Hispanic population.

“One of the goals of the program is to have a direct conversation of what it means to be a Hispanic-serving institution and to really embrace and enact that identity,” Chen said.

Associate Vice President for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Luke Wood said overall, the program is looking to promote a stronger environment of inclusion on campus through awareness.

“It demonstrates institutional responsibility and an opportunity for us to improve the ways that we engage our students and our faculty or colleagues,” Wood said. “This will allow us to create a more inclusive environment and the first step to that is awareness.”