If you’ve ever visited the lower level of the Student Center South, you may have noticed the growing line at Starbucks, the bustling Games Room or the designs in the windows of Creation Station. What you may not be familiar with is the busy Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), a space that opened in 2014 that focuses on providing educational, cultural, and leadership experiences for the entire University of Houston community. During their first year, CDI facilitated 29 department and organization workshops, and three years later, CDI has recorded 114 diversity presentations during the 2016-17 academic year, proving themselves to be one of the most sought-after departments on campus.

Working with Departments on Campus
As the University of Houston has become more aware of the services offered through CDI, departments have realized the impact of the workshops and presentations available to them from the growing office. Through referrals, targeted marketing efforts, and strategic relationships, CDI has seen a considerable increase in the number of workshops they are providing and they are building impactful relationships across campus with departments such as Communications and Science Disorders, the College of Education, the Law Center, Bauer College of Business and others.

One of the things that make CDI unique is their ability to customize workshops based on the needs of their audience. By reviewing the departments’ goals and learning outcomes for the workshop, CDI staff can be strategic about the activities and media that are shared in their presentations and experiences that exceed the expectations of participants. During the past summer, CDI created customized presentations for departments including Admissions, Student Housing and Residential Life, UH Libraries, and Cub Camp.

“We’ve only been on campus for three years, and we created this department from scratch. Not only have we built up a department but we have developed a reputation where we are being requested to provide these services with only three full-time staff,” mentioned Niya Blair, Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
“The work the Center is doing is unique in comparison to other diversity or multicultural centers. Usually, departments such as CDI have staff that work specifically on programs and staff whose role is to provide workshops. You rarely see full-time staff provide both programs and workshops at the level that CDI is producing. In talking to colleagues at other institutions and in the corporate sector, we have found that their work isn't specific to the experiences of the attendees. At CDI we take great pride in providing an intentional, customized experience for our participants. We recognize that there are challenges to continue on this trajectory of customized experiences and outreach. We are currently exploring ways to manage it all while continuing to support the campus.”

To give incoming students a preview of what to expect from the campus culture at UH, CDI provides a diversity session at all New-Student Orientations and facilitates an intense activity during Cub Camp, an extended orientation program, which challenges attendees to examine diversity in a way that moves beyond race and ethnicity. This past summer the presentation was rated as the second most liked experience behind traditions during Cub Camp.

In collaboration with the Center for Student Involvement, CDI has added the “Exploring Diversity” presentation, which is offered to registered student organizations to create a diversity and inclusion learning experience for UH student leaders. The 90-minute training outlines what it means to talk about diversity, defines inclusion and explores how these concepts impact students in their role as leaders. To date, CDI staff have hosted roughly 30 presentations, and 65% of the attendees stated that after attending, they could identify what diversity is and how it applies to their role as a student leader.

“Following these workshops students share feedback such as, “I thought this was going to be so boring but I really enjoyed it, and I learned something,” said Adria Terry, Diversity Education Coordinator for CDI. “We realize that it’s not always feel-good work when it comes to talking about diversity. It can be challenging, and there is resistance involved but after participating, students have a better understanding of the work that CDI does and they can see this experience as more than just a checkbox to complete their registration.”

The future of Center for Diversity and Inclusion at UH
Much of the diversity and inclusion work at UH has been focused on educating targeted student populations and also departments within the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, but the staff at CDI is looking forward to interfacing more with academic areas and working with faculty. By building relationships with faculty in the past, CDI has been able to provide extra credit opportunities for students, but the hope is to infuse diversity and inclusion work into the classroom. Whether that means sharing various workshop ideas with faculty before they finalize their syllabi or by providing the names and dates of speakers that CDI is bringing to campus earlier in the semester, CDI is committed to working with faculty so that their classes can be engaged throughout the semester.

If your department is interested in partnering with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion for workshops or classroom presentations, visit CDI online and fill out a request form. For more information, contact Niya Blair at nnblair@uh.edu or 713.743.5972.