A new virtual program aimed at expanding and advocating for inclusivity and diversity is starting online Aug. 20 for its first session, followed by three more throughout the school year.
NCLUDE — Nebraska Community of Learners Understanding Diversity through Education — is an online-oriented organization formed to create an inclusive environment while maintaining a connection with others led by Karen Kassebaum, assistant vice chancellor for inclusive leadership and learning.
“There's people that don’t live in the Lincoln area or they’re across the state that are doing work around inclusive excellence and we can share and learn from each other,” she said. “This platform gives us the opportunity to share practices around inclusive actions.”
Kassebaum said there will not be a strict plan for activities and the group will instead focus on creating conversations during the meeting.
“It’s all organic. The first meeting [group leaders] are going to lead the conversations,” she said. “But we ask people when they are invited to join the conversation, what are their expertise areas, and so next month it could be a topic about neural diversity, we just don’t know. It's all up to the host of the conversation.”
The group will also have an optional book club component, with the first three options being “How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive” by Jennifer Brown, “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, according to Jessie Peter, a fifth-year Ph.D candidate in child, youth and family studies and graduate assistant in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“You can choose and read any one of the books,” she said. “Within the next three meetings, we will set aside some time for breakout sessions to discuss what you learned with the group.”
Peter said there are plans to expand NCLUDE to be an in-person group, as well as allow others outside of campus to be a part of the conversation.
“For now, we are on an online format, but when we can we’d like to switch to an in-person format, or at least have an annual meeting towards the end of the year when members can have a networking session, have a talk with somebody who’s from a different Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” she said. “But it all depends on if we’d be allowed to due to COVID-19.”
With the current cultural climate surrounding racial inequality and with recent police brutality protests, Kassebaum said NCLUDE is needed not only on campus but in the whole country.
“Based on the things that have happened with the murder of George Floyd, systemic racism and all the inequities that are going on with our country, we need to learn how to be inclusive with our practices daily,” she said. “So we really need to be inclusive and learn about other people, and expand our own network and learn and grow from other people so they can learn and grow from you as well.”
Those who wish to join NCLUDE can sign up before the meetings on the NCLUDE website where they will receive meeting dates and their corresponding Zoom invite links.