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FD Participates in Campus Climate Discussion

By Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate<br />
In his March 2014 State of the University address, President Kaler cited the importance of creating a climate — a culture, an atmosphere — of equity, inclusion, and community on campus. He also named a group of senior leaders to lead a charge for advancing equity and diversity on campus, noting that “faculty, staff and students all have a role to play” in the effort.

Last Thursday those leaders, the Campus Climate Workgroup, hosted an all-day event designed to spark conversations and ideas for creating a campus climate in which everyone feels welcome, respected, and valued. More than 600 people, including myself and four others from FD, attended the event, held at Coffman Memorial Union on the Minneapolis campus. Here are some of my thoughts about the event, which was conducted using Open Space Technology (OST).

I and my FD colleagues headed over to Coffman that morning, unsure of what the event would be like. Personally, I was floored and came away with two messages for you:
  1. Extension staff and faculty are part of the University of Minnesota, and share in its benefits and its challenges. 
  2. Open Space Technology is a powerful tool to address difficult organizational issues.
Let’s take the second message first. Open Space Technology is an approach to facilitating conversations on topics that are complex, require diversity of the people involved in the issue (or solution), have a potential for conflict, are urgent — or all of these. The schedule for the day is set, but the topics are not — attendees “call” the topics that are most important to them and facilitate conversations about them with whoever else finds those topics important.

Seeing OST in action was awe-inspiring. Attendees called topics representing the full spectrum of University life and work: the Chicano studies crisis; family-inclusive, supportive culture; recruitment and retention of staff of color and other underrepresented populations; creating space for those not in the gender binary; and many more. Since no planning committee, no matter how diverse, can truly and thoroughly represent the interests of each attendee, OST lets the attendees represent themselves.

Back to the first message: Extension is part of the University of Minnesota; we are part of the University community, full stop. We bring the whole University to our work in Extension. That means we share in all the University’s benefits, including access to a top-notch faculty, as well as its challenges, including the struggle to create a campus climate that is welcoming to all. Whether you acknowledge your membership in that community and step up to make it the best community it can be is up to you.

Here are three ways to learn more about the campus climate initiative and identify how you can help:
  1. Read the Executive Summary of the Campus Climate Report (2½ minutes)
  2. Watch the video on Open Space Technology (3 minutes)
  3. Scan the list of topics discussed (1½ minutes) and read some of the reports and action plans (0 to a lot of minutes).

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