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DEI update: Faculty revise learning outcomes to better address diversity, equity and inclusion

March 5, 2021

Students, Staff, Alumni, and Other Members of the Warnell Community,

Following the national events of last summer and in response to calls for action from current students and alumni, the Warnell faculty have taken concrete steps toward addressing issues of equity and inclusion in our curriculum.

In response to student and alumni calls for addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the Warnell curriculum, the faculty met in August of 2020 as part of their annual retreat. After a discussion of the broader issue, the faculty representing each major met independently to decide whether and how they wanted to address DEI matters within their respective curricula. Each group of faculty – independently – voted unanimously to adopt measures to address DEI matters within their curriculum.

The faculty saw challenges and disadvantages to prescribing that particular courses be designated to address DEI matters. Rather, there needed to a means for broader guidance that aims to promote DEI across the curriculum without being highly prescriptive. At the time, Warnell was in the process of revising its learning outcomes and assessment plans for all of its majors. This was part of a larger initiative as the University approaches its SACSCOC reaccreditation that began in the fall of 2019. By the spring of 2020, the faculty representing each of Warnell’s four majors had drafted new learning outcomes for their respective majors and was in the process of developing an assessment plan and tools for each major.

The faculty representing each major voted to revise the learning outcomes for their respective majors to include outcomes related to DEI. Two faculty from each major were designated to coordinate these revisions with their respective faculty. The Warnell Curriculum Committee assisted by providing resources. The most valuable resources in this regard were the statements and materials available from the professional societies aligned to our programs, such as the Society of American Foresters (SAF), which accredits some of our majors.

The faculty for each major shared their materials with the other majors and then, by September, each group of faculty had submitted their revised learning outcomes. Several majors revised their existing learning outcomes to incorporate explicit statements related to knowledge of historic and current environmental justice and exclusion, accessibility in the field and in the ways we identify and communicate with stakeholders, and that professional practice includes just and equitable management of natural resources. The Forestry faculty adopted a “Professionalism and Ethics” learning outcome that integrates the professional expectations of SAF and the University of Georgia.

Warnell is now in the final phases of mapping the courses where learning outcomes will be assessed across the four major curricula and what tools we will use. Our draft learning outcomes plan and map have received high praise from UGA – not simply for its efforts to integrate DEI outcomes, but generally as a rigorous and thoughtful approach to assessing whether our majors are designed to meet the professional needs of our students. Though still a work in progress, our plan has been put forward to other schools at UGA as a model.

But a plan is only the beginning.

The Warnell faculty have put forward strong guiding criteria for our majors in areas of knowledge, application, and communication. Over the coming months, it will be up to the faculty to incorporate and operationalize their learning outcomes in our courses. We will use the tools we develop to track those outcomes and use that information to evaluate our success and guide future changes.

The most recent learning outcomes for each of Warnell’s majors will soon be available on the Warnell website.

 

John C. Maerz

Chair, Warnell Curriculum Committee

 

Robert B. Bringolf

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

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