In June, two Kenan Fellows visited the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity for one week to do a deep dive into data analysis in collaboration with OIED’s Stephanie Helms Pickett, associate vice provost for diversity engagement, training and education.
The fellows were Alphonso Donaldon, Jr., M.Ed., who teaches high school English at the Durham School of the Arts and has worked in high school education for nineteen years, and Jamie Lathan, Ph.D. (Education), history teacher and dean of distance education at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, who has worked in education for 18 years.
The Kenan Fellows Program is a statewide initiative that seeks to provide a cohort of teachers with internship opportunities in business, administration, higher education and other areas. This year, NC State has a cohort of twenty-seven fellows doing a wide range of things, from pig farming to technology to marketing. Donaldson says there is a “vast array of internship opportunities, with ours focused on diversity work. We will be also be working with ‘We Are,’ an anti-racsim summer camp of third- through fifth-graders under Rhonda Bullock at NC State and at Burroughs Wellcome under Alfred Mays, their program officer, looking at diversity initiatives in business and science education.”
To become a fellow, Donaldson and Lathan went through an application process that included written and interview components. Once selected, they participate in a year-long program that includes a summer institute with a three-week internship, a fall retreat and monthly impact activities. Their goal is to create a final product that emerges from the work they’ve done plus their work in the classroom and the community. The project will culminate in spring of 2020.
When asked about their personal objectives for the program, Lathan says his goal is “to become a facilitator of equitable, welcoming environments for all people, including students, faculty and staff, and to help develop those same welcoming, inclusive habits in other individuals, whether students or peers, developing leaders for cultural change and leading and playing an active role in equitable practices.”
Donaldson says his goal is “to create a personal brand statement around embracing the challenge of finding ways of empowering young people and educators to lead the work of equity and diversity — all should be interested and empowered, all should be engaged in how to create a more equitable place through doing scholarship, advocacy work and demonstrating leadership together.”
Advancing Equity and Diversity at NC State
While in OIED, the fellows examined campus-wide survey data to determine patterns and trends and formulate recommendations in support of the mission of advancing equity and diversity at NC State. Surveys included the campus-wide student survey of first-year students, the survey of graduating students, the climate survey, the student engagement survey and the survey sent one year after graduation.
Lathan says, “It’s been great to look for those places where themes emerge that might help NC State better serve marginalized students.” Donaldson says the data “will speak loudly about recruitment and retention, key places to capitalize on to improve the numbers.” He suggests that one tactic could be to “really lean into all the good things that are happening here, to identify and leverage those things to yield better results across the board.”
Their project deliverable was a presentation of the findings that stood out to them among both the quantitative and qualitative survey responses as well as their recommendations from an observational perspective for how OIED and NC State could move forward based on the data analysis they’ve done.
Donaldson says, “The staff here has been so welcoming, helpful and supportive, really interested in what we think — even when they have so much on their plate already — from a person coming into a higher space as a novice, to be taken seriously in this way is something that I really appreciated.”
Lathan agrees, saying, “I’m very grateful both for the opportunity to learn from the experts that we’ve met, and to be respected as a professional who has a valuable contribution to add to the diversity space, to practice what we preach by including, valuing and respecting our voices and allowing us to have a seat at the table. It’s been very empowering. I leave here with a lot of confidence going forward about my own place in the work of equity and diversity, both at my school and beyond, just from being welcomed and listened to here.”