The Heights

Updated: March 09, 2017


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Finding our way to Courageous Conversations about Race

In July, new Foothill College President Thuy Nguyen, Classified Staff Senate President Erin Ortiz, and Academic Senate President Carolyn Holcroft invited members of the campus community to a gathering to a talk about the recent police events across the country, the almost unimaginable violence that occurred in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas during the week prior.

Approximately 80 students, faculty, classified professionals, and administrators — including Student Trustee Courtney Cooper, Trustee Laura Casas, Chancellor Judy Miner, and District Police Chief Ron Levine — filled the Hearthside Lounge, one of the more intimate gathering spaces at Foothill.

The conversation started with a young, African American male student sharing his poem on hope. Next, facilitators Pat Hyland and English instructor Sam White asked the group to write down a word or two to describe their emotional state. Words included disillusioned, scared, helpless, sad, blessed (to be alive), frustrated, angry, insecure. and hopeful. As individuals were encouraged to talk about their thoughts and feelings, the group agreed that this would be a space for members to be authentic and to speak without fear. Not all spoke. Some were there to only listen and witness another person’s perspective.

Toward the end of the event, another conversation began about student transfer data and our Foothill challenge to better serve all our students. President Nguyen shared that in the past three years, only 22 of the 1,269 Foothill-UC transfers were African American. One faculty member commented, “I want to improve my record on equity, but I don’t know how. What can I do?”

This brought the conversation full circle and tied it to its original intent for the college -- a way to improve student equity in the classroom by first being able to explore and talk about the reasons for the equity gap at Foothill. It was no coincidence that a number of the participants in that conversation had taken part in an intense, two-day seminar called Beyond Diversity I that was intended to introduce them to a specific protocol called Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR). Developed by Glenn Singleton at the Pacific Educational Group (PEG), the protocol is a technique to guide conversations about race and its role in educational achievement disparities.

The Student Equity Workgroup (SEW) first brought Singleton to Foothill in April 2014. The Workgroup chose PEG to provide professional development training for Foothill faculty, staff and administrators to prepare for the inevitably difficult conversations that must occur for effective planning and implementation of campus equity efforts, as directed in our College Equity Plan.

Holcroft, who wrote the request for funding, said PEG purposely and explicitly focuses on two of Foothill’s student populations who experience the highest achievement gaps: our African American and Latino/a students. Since then the two-day Beyond Diversity I workshops have been offered at Foothill twice, once in March 2014 and again in May 2015.

Beyond Diversity is a powerful, personally transforming two-day seminar designed to help faculty, students, staff, and administrators understand the impact of race on student learning and investigate the role that racism plays in institutionalizing academic achievement disparities.

Participants learn to use the CCAR protocol, which incorporates an understanding of your own and reactions of others in a situation, whether coming from a place of believing, thinking, feeling, or acting, and how to adjust to those reactions.

  • Engage in a thoughtful, compassionate exploration of race and racism and grapple with how each influences the culture and climate of our schools.
  • Learn and practice using strategies for identifying and addressing the policies, programs, and practices that negatively impact student of color achievement and serve as barriers to ALL students receiving a world-class education.
  • Develop the knowledge and requisite skills for engaging, sustaining, and deepening Courageous Conversation about the impact of race and racism on education.
  • Construct a personal action plan for deepening your understanding of racism, including how you will engage other members of your college community in dialogue about systemic racism.

About 100 Foothill employees have participated in the Beyond Diversity I training so far. Most recently, eight more Foothill faculty, staff and administrators attended a Beyond Diversity I seminar offered by PEG in Redwood City. All who have completed the training are now eligible to participate in the next level of Beyond Diversity workshops in January 2017.

To learn more about Foothill’s equity training, contact Interim Equity Director Elaine Kuo at kuoelaine@foothill.edu or Student Equity Workgroup Co-chair Carolyn Holcroft at holcroftcarolyn@foothill.edu.

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