NACOGDOCHES, Texas — After canceling in-person ceremonies for more than a year as a result of the pandemic, a certification program started by Stephen F. Austin State University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs in fall 2019 recognized its first 81 graduates during a campus luncheon in April.
Held in the Baker Pattillo Student Center’s Twilight Ballroom, the luncheon recognized faculty and staff graduates from three semesters of the OMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Certification Program. Each graduate was awarded a certificate and a “Diversity Champion” miniature axe handle.
“Our goal was to recognize the 2019-20 graduates in April 2020, which of course is right when COVID-19 hit,” said Veronica Beavers, OMA director. “Therefore, we had to cancel the luncheon and cancel all the late spring 2020 sessions to give us time to rethink the program.”
By the late summer and into the fall, all program sessions had transitioned into virtual formats.
“We decided to keep the program virtual for the 2020-21 academic year, and with the help of the COVID-19 vaccines, the on-campus mask and distancing mandates, and subsequent decrease in the spread of the virus, we were finally able to conduct our first luncheon for the program’s graduates,” said Jalon Berry, OMA assistant director. “Some of our graduates had been waiting a year and a half for the luncheon.”
The OMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Certification Program was developed with the intention of exposing faculty and staff to critical issues in diversity, multicultural education and social justice.
“We had a great number of requests by faculty and staff to host diversity trainings on a variety of topics,” Beavers said. “We wanted to offer them but in the most efficient and effective way. After researching how other institutions offer similar programs and attending national diversity conferences, we developed this program specifically for faculty and staff.”
The program also aims to facilitate relationship building and learning opportunities across campus.
“Typically, when people think of diversity, issues surrounding race and ethnicity are solely what enters their mind,” Berry said. “Although those are aspects of diversity, we want everyone to know how much more there is to the word, especially in regard to the diverse populations that make up our institution.”
Approximately 300 faculty and staff are currently enrolled in the program. The OMA has ongoing plans to offer similar certification programs to students and local community members.
There are three levels of certification built into the program. Level one requires participants to attend five two-hour workshops created and facilitated by individuals in the campus community, including faculty, staff or students. Past workshops have covered such topics as deaf culture and the hard-of-hearing community, veterans and their dependents, LGBTQIA+, Generation Z, and caregivers, among others.
Level two requires an additional three webinars/workshops and affiliated discussion sessions. Level three requires completion of a cohort-led diversity, equity and inclusion project that can implement change and create a more inclusive environment within the SFA community.
A complete list of program graduates recognized during the April luncheon can be found here.
More information about the OMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Certification Program can be found at sfasu.edu/oma.