Wellesley Faculty Gather for Day-Long Retreat to Advance Work on Inclusive Excellence

Faculty and staff sit at tables discussing diversity and inclusion at Wellesley
May 21, 2018

On May 18, Wellesley faculty from departments across campus participated in a retreat focused on making progress toward the institutional goal of inclusive excellence. Planned by the Inclusive Excellence Working Group and the Retreat Planning Committee, the retreat built upon the College’s two town halls on inclusive excellence held this spring, during which students shared with faculty (and with each other) their personal experiences at Wellesley and suggested ways the College could better support underrepresented groups.

In a range of workshops, faculty reviewed inclusive pedagogy and considered research-based strategies from Wellesley and other institutions. Several staff members from Student Life also made presentations or moderated workshops, including Sheilah Horton, vice president and dean of students, and Tiffany Steinwert, dean of the office of religious and spiritual life.

    Dean Sheilah Horton speaks to faculty members at day long retreat

The retreat gave faculty an opportunity to think deeply about what students have shared and to consider the latest research and analysis as they worked to formulate solutions to help the College provide a fully equitable experience for all students.

The College’s work is based on “our conviction that excellence requires equity and inclusion in every aspect of life at Wellesley, and that academic and personal success is animated by students feeling empowered, valued, and challenged,” said President Paula A. Johnson, in remarks that opened the retreat. To improve the education and experience of a more diverse student population, she said, she fully supports the faculty’s search for “new and effective ways to promote the success of all of our students—and at the same time maintain the most rigorous standards for a liberal arts education.”

Yu Jin Ko, professor of English and member of working group, said that “optimism” has been “the one constant that characterized the spirit behind the working group's activities and many meetings” and “the enthusiastic and determined response of two hundred faculty [participating in the retreat] more than validated our optimism.”

Provost Andrew Shennan agreed. He described the faculty retreat as “an enormous success…with a palpable sense of urgency, collegiality, and energy from beginning to end.” Shennan added, “My colleagues so clearly appreciated the opportunity to be in conversation with one another about the challenges that we need to surmount in order to achieve inclusive excellence and the strategies that have the best opportunity of getting us there.” Faculty, he said, came away from the experience with “a clearer understanding of the needs of our students and the realities of their lives, a vision of a new partnership with the student life division, and concrete ideas for enhancing our pedagogical and educational practices.”

Said Shennan, “At the outset, the president reminded us that we are embarking on a marathon, not a sprint. While there are no easy answers, [the] retreat suggested that we have the collective will and capacity to make progress.”

Inset Photo: Sheilah Horton, vice president and dean of students, speaks to faculty members at day long retreat focused on creating greater inclusion and equity at Wellesley.