Political Science, English, Social Work, School of Liberal Arts

To diversify the curriculum, enhance inclusive teaching practices and recruit diverse majors, Academic Affairs now offers grants for faculty to fund course content, projects and events. 

A panel was held October 3 by the most recent cohort of awardees to present on their grant-funded efforts and how they can be adapted by other faculty and departments.

“Faculty are eager to adopt inclusive practices in the classroom and other work with students,” said Margaret E. Madden, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “They asked for professional development opportunities tailored to their specific disciplines and pedagogies, and these grants offer resources to develop programming and activities targeted to departments’ needs and interests.”

Madden said the grants, which were first offered in 2020, are valued at $2,000-$5,000 each. They are generally geared toward supporting a project that focuses on a major program curriculum rather than just one specific course.  

Taewoo Kang, Ph.D., assistant professor of political communication, applied his grant toward a stipend for a student diversity research fellow. Kang and Idiatou Diallo ’25 worked on a project called “What Students from Underrepresented Groups Like and Dislike about Siena and the Political Science Curriculum.” Diallo helped to develop and refine research questions, conduct literature reviews, identify sampling frames, and develop interview questions and strategies.

“The Diversity Research Fellowship was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my academic career,” said Diallo. “When I was first applying to Siena, I was concerned about my voice not being valued as a minority student. Having this fellowship opportunity heavily disproved my assumptions. Working on this project with Dr. Kang expanded my knowledge not only within research but also how to properly amplify the voices of the unheard. It is an extremely big part of Siena’s mission to make everyone feel as welcome as possible and I wholeheartedly believe this project will accomplish that task.”

Another example is the “Diversity in Pedagogy” speaker series developed by English faculty James Belflower, Ph.D., Stacey Dearing, Ph.D. and Shannon Draucker, Ph.D. They invited colleagues from a variety of schools across the country to share their expertise on feminist, antiracist, and accessible pedagogy.  

“We were grateful for the opportunity to host invigorating chats about teaching, especially during some of the darkest days of the pandemic,” said Draucker. “One of the biggest things we learned about diversity in pedagogy is that small changes—even seemingly minor tweaks to our syllabi, our course policies, and our classroom practices—can make a huge difference.”  

She said things like tweaking the boilerplate “accessibility statement” to be more inclusive of a range of learning needs; making the fonts of course documents screen reader-friendly; and incorporating short, collaborative exercises to establish classroom norms for talking about issues of race, gender, and sexuality, can go a long way into creative safe and supportive classroom environments.  

The Social Work department was awarded a grant to implement the Diversity Advocates project conducted by Emily Lozado Tapia ’23 and Julene Ventura ’23, who engaged in outreach activities with local urban high schools and community colleges to inform their students of social work as a career – and to suggest Siena as a great starting point for that career.

Dirk H. de Jong, Ph.D., LMSW, professor of social work, said the project focused on recruiting potential students from diverse backgrounds “to increase the representation of marginalized communities in the social work field and on the Siena campus.” 

Creating inclusive spaces for all Siena students was one of the recommendations made by a task force convened by the Office of the Provost to address faculty development on diversity issues. 

“These grants are an excellent way to support Siena’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and its overall institutional goal of building a community strengthened through diversity,” said Marcela Garcés, Ph.D., faculty development coordinator.

Academic Affairs is currently reviewing the newest pool of applicants submitted before the October 16 deadline; applications will still be reviewed on a rolling basis as long as funds are available. Please contact Marcela Garcés, Ph.D., for more information.