March 2024

Dialogue for Change: UMB Kicks off EDI Workshop Series

March 18, 2024    |  

Diane Forbes-Berthoud, PhD, MA, chief equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) officer and vice president at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), kicked off a recent EDI workshop by emphasizing, “Training, training, training.” 

“We want to know not only what we mean by equity, by diversity, by inclusion — we also want to be able to apply it and integrate it,” she said. “The questions are, how can we integrate how we think about barriers and disparities and reducing those? And also, how do we make sense of all these various definitions of what the ‘E’ and the ‘D’ and the ‘I’ might be in our specific settings?” 

Berthoud was speaking at “What Is EDI at UMB and Where Are We Headed,” an educational session that outlined the vision, major pillars, and desired outcomes for EDI at UMB and reviewed tools that will be the cornerstone of upcoming workshops and educational offerings for managers and individual contributors at the University. 

Led by Domonic Rollins, PhD, founder and president of Rollins Consulting, the Feb. 26 session commenced with a deep dive into definitions of EDI at UMB through a series of participant conversations. Rollings stressed the importance of providing dialogue opportunities to everyone involved. 

“It is the questions about where we’re headed, what we’re doing that actually ground this work,” he explained. “We can’t move a group of people forward in a new understanding, a new way of being, a new way to engage, if the questions aren’t answered.” 

Rollings asked participants to talk to others at their tables and reflect on their current understanding of EDI at UMB and what their expectations are regarding EDI initiatives.  

After a spirited round of discussion, participants raised issues that came up in their conversations, specifically about connecting EDI efforts across departments and the practical impact of EDI training on day-to-day operations. In addressing the questions, Rollins emphasized that success will ultimately rely on individual behavior change.  

“You’re asking, ‘How is what we are doing here today going to impact the day to day? What can I expect to be different as a result of what's going on?’ So, spoiler alert, the only thing that’s going to be different is what you choose to do differently. What’s going to be different really is dependent on how we collectively and individually choose to be different,” he explained, adding, “Put differently, if I get a new awareness of a thing that happened here this week, today — what will I do with that?” 

Rollins cited the inclusion of gender pronouns in introductions as an example of a tangible shift resulting from heightened awareness. 

“There was a point in time at which we didn’t do that,” he noted. “At some point, we raised our awareness. Then after that, we made a decision around some sort of behavior change — and as a result of that, now we show up in spaces with an introduction that includes our gender pronouns. And the hope is that in so doing, we are creating greater inclusion.” 

Continuing the group discussion, Rollins asked participants to move around the workshop space and find new people to talk to, with a prompt to share their hopes for EDI and reservations regarding their engagement in such work. He also provided guidelines for effective communication, including using “I” statements, sharing airtime, taking risks, and recognizing that everyone’s experiences are valid. 

In doing so, Rollins emphasized that the conversations happening in the workshop — and the issues raised in them — would increase understanding among participants while also strengthening UMB’s ongoing EDI initiatives.  

“Your questions are actually a source of knowledge and wisdom for how we might proceed in the work. And if nothing else, they are sources of what matters,” he said. “If we’re not clear on what matters to the folks that work here, then we’re not going to get the [EDI] work done well.” 

Throughout the session, Rollins and participants delved into the challenges facing EDI initiatives, including resistance to change among some staff and concerns around how to encourage broader participation in upcoming workshops. Other key themes that emerged included the importance of involving diverse perspectives in EDI discussions and trainings, framing invitations to trainings in ways that emphasize benefits rather than deficiencies, the need to create safe spaces for vulnerable conversations, and acknowledgement that time and effort are required for cultural shifts to happen within organizations. 

The workshop concluded with a preview of upcoming training sessions, which will be held throughout spring and again during the fall semester. The series consists of three training sessions for managers along with three sessions for individual contributors (or those who do not lead teams) and line staff. In addition, five workshops with themed topics will be held, including: 

  • Unconscious Bias: Getting Underneath Our Assumptions  
  • Microaggressions: Understanding the Bigger Picture of Everyday Interactions 
  • Dialogue: Collaborating Through Conversation 
  • Conflict Transformation: Navigating Tension to Deepen Connection 
  • Adaptive Leadership: Getting to the Root of the Challenge 

Participants expressed hopes for fostering connections across the University that will aid their EDI work in individual workplace settings. 

One of the attendees, LaTanya Robinson, MS, human resources specialist at the Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HSHSL), explained, “I came today because I wanted to learn more about what UMB does as a whole. I’m here with colleagues who are on a diversity committee at the library, and we wanted to learn how we can build on what the University is doing. I came away with a lot of takeaways.” 

The co-chairs of the HSHSL Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Shanell Stephens, MLIS, research and education librarian, and Christine Nieman, MS, data education librarian, agreed, and said they’re looking forward to attending upcoming workshops.  

“We’re looking for new ideas,” Stephens explained. “We’re asking ourselves how to shift the norms at our jobs.” 

Nieman added, “I really appreciated asking questions around what impact we want to see as a result of this work, and what conditions there needs to be. It was good to think about that, because we don’t want to be performative, we want to see real change.”