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Inclusive Excellence 3.0: Inclusive Equitable Excellence

Dr. Carlos Cortes

A shout out to everyone who had a part in bringing Dr. Carlos E. Cortés to Ashford! His session, “Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity: Opportunities and Challenges for Ashford University” was timely, inspirational and refreshing. One of many quotes from his presentation which inspired me was,

“An equitable and inclusive climate provides people the freedom and opportunity to draw upon their diverse cultures and experiences without feeling obligated to constantly represent ‘their people.’”

Why the 3.0? Because this was not your grandmother’s version of inclusive excellence. Certainly, the term “inclusive excellence” has been in the higher education literature for almost two decades and has accompanied messages published in the literature from over half a century ago. However, Dr. Cortés included some fresh perspectives to add to our diversity conversations. The developmental progression to “inclusive equitable excellence” is one such example. Yes, of course, the early inclusive excellence literature included language about equity, but the explicit focus was much more on diversity than equity. Toward the goal of fully integrating a commitment to equity into our conceptualization of inclusive excellence, Dr. Cortés asked us these questions.

  • Are you equitably effective?

  • Are you effective with everyone?

  • Are you preparing students to be agents of equity?

One of the things I especially appreciated about Dr. Cortés’ perspective was a tendency to move away from either-or thinking. As one example, he addressed the often debated topic of affinity groups and integrated groups. His conclusion was both-and and he affirmed the value of “bonding capital” (which occurs within affinity groups) and “bridging capital” (which occurs within integrated groups).

He also offered practical advice:

  • Use generalizations, not stereotypes.

  • Use generalizations as clues [hypotheses], not as assumptions, because assumptions imprison us.

  • Think of intersections, not silos, because each of us is an intersection of groups. We have multiple facets to our identities and not all of these facets are immediately visible. In addition, the visible aspects may not even be at the core, or center, of our students’ identities.

Dr. Cortés did a great job identifying how our values, vision, and purpose statements at Ashford position us well to be leaders in inclusive equitable excellence. He challenged us to help students become better at viewing the world and identifying themes through the eyes of others rather than simply looking at others.

Dr. Cortés offered a potential curricular goals:

  • Help students become more ‘collaborative and inclusive within their communities.

  • Develop a more reflective responsiveness to diversity.

  • Acquire greater intercultural competence which is capable to perceiving and appreciating both difference and commonality.

Some interesting potential course titles proposed included

  • Opportunities and Challenges of a Diverse Society

  • Leadership in a Shrinking Globe

  • Diversity in the Digital Age.

A few other semi-random tidbits that I picked up from Dr. Cortés were

  • Explorations of representations of self in the digital environment? (Digital personas)

  • Teaching students to be respectful during difficult dialogues.

  • A pitfall: The lust for trying to quantify everything

  • Being offended has become a ritual for some. However, personal resilience is the greatest form of safe space. How can we help our students develop personal resilience (including how not to be offended) in the face of things that might be offensive?

If you did not catch Dr. Cortés’ presentation, I encourage you to view it when the TLC sessions are posted to CETL. He covered much more than I’ve touched on here, and do be sure to look for his discussion of the “Equitable Effectiveness Diversity Matrix.”

Dr. Yolanda Harper

Associate Professor, College of Health, Human Services and Sciences

Ashford University

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