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EIU Making Excellence Inclusive

Fourth Annual Making Excellence Inclusive Conference

 MEI Conference Logo

Please join us for the 2020

“Together We RISE: Reaching Inclusivity for Student Excellence” Conference!

Conference Schedule At A Glance (pdf)

WE’RE GOING VIRTUAL: Friday, October 16, 2020 

A signature AAC&U initiative, Making Excellence Inclusive is designed to explore how colleges and universities can fully utilize the resources of diversity to achieve academic excellence for all students.

The annual RISE conference provides faculty and staff the strategies and tools to support students' academic success. The conference is also designed to raise awareness of the diverse challenges our students face, whether as members of underrepresented groups, as first-generation college students, as non-traditionally aged students, or as students with disabilities. We welcome presentations on issues concerning inclusion, diversity, equity, trauma informed methods, the impacts of Covid-19 in K-16 education, remote teaching methods, teaching/communicating students during a pandemic, the intersectionality of any of the aforementioned, and other topics that pertain to the theme.

We have made the decision to go VIRTUAL!!! We are planning our keynote address and individual sessions using a virtual meeting format. We are confident we can RISE to this occasion and meet the needs of all!! And, this year no registration fee – IT’S FREE!! 

You are warmly invited to join us regardless of whether you choose to submit a proposal.

For more information about MEI’s mission and core principles visit

Conference Schedule

8 – 8:50 a.m.

Welcome and Keynote with Dr. Lorenzo DuBois Baber

Dr Baber

Beyond Diversity: The Promise of Critical Social Justice Frames for Higher Education

Emphasizing the value of representation on campus, many leaders in higher education have focused on compositional diversity as a first and final goal for improving campus climate for students from underrepresented backgrounds. While the presence of a critical mass is a significant step towards institutional transformation, its value is diminished without a deeper directive that critiques and dismantles structural practices which maintain domination/subordination scripts in higher education. The purpose of this presentation is to consider the various approaches that have limited purposeful change on college campuses – from assimilation to post-racialism – and encourage scholar-practitioners to embrace the nuanced, challenging perspective of a social justice educator.  


Session 1: 9 – 9:50 a.m. 

Evaluation of Non-College Programs for PLA: Access, Equity, Bias

Nicholas Hayes, MFA, MA,  Assistant Director, DePaul University – Office of Prior Learning Assessment, Chicago, IL

Joseph Chen, PhD, Director,  DePaul University – Office of Prior Learning Assessment, Chicago, IL

Roni Buckley, EdD,  PLA Advisor, DePaul University – Office of Prior Learning Assessment, Chicago, IL

Abstract: Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is often and accurately presented as a tool for acknowledging the college-level learning experiences of adult and non-traditional students.  These processes acknowledge that learning in the college classroom does not encompass all learning, and PLA offers pathways to accelerate degree completion through many forms including challenge exams, evaluation of non-college programs, and individualized assessments. Each of these has its own rigor and requirements which in turn allow students to capitalize on different facets of their experience to advance their educational pursuits.  At PLA’s core is an understanding that the many constitutive practices are tools meant to improve inclusivity and equity in higher learning for vulnerable and underserved populations by acknowledging and validating learning experiences outside of the academy. The learning outcomes for this session are to help identify unintended structural biases in PLA derived from evaluation of non-college programs and to explore strategies for overcoming these biases. 


Assessing Motivation and Utilizing Motivational Interviewing in Introductory College Biology for Improved Student Success

William Martin, Assistant Professor of Biology, Aurora University, Aurora, IL

Abstract: Student motivation, metacognition and engagement are strong predictors of academic success in the undergraduate biology classroom. Implementation of diverse active learning strategies results in increased student engagement and improved student performance. Instructors direct students on behaviors aimed to promote self-reflection and self-efficacy towards academic success yet see varying follow-through from students. This research study assesses motivation in students in two separate but parallel, introductory biology courses required for majors. Students in one course, with traditionally high attrition and serving students from diverse majors, will be compared to a second with low historical attrition and serving a single pre-professional program at a single upper Midwestern HSI. Students in both courses will be evaluated with the Academic Motivation Scale for self-perception of motivation and portions of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory for evaluation of autonomy, perceived competency, and value/usefulness regarding biology. These measures will be reassessed midterm and correlated to midterm course grades as well as final course grades and attrition when the semester is completed. A planned intervention in the high attrition rate course involves Motivational Interviewing with those biology students within the semester. The MI intervention will be overlaid onto already established active learning and metacognition pedagogies.  


Inclusivity in/outside the Classroom

Panel Organizer: Lan Dong,  Professor of English, University of Illinois Springfield, Springfield, IL

Sarah Webb, Assistant Professor of English, University of Illinois Springfield, Springfield, IL

Nicholas Dabbs, Adjunct Instructor of English, University of Illinois Springfield, Springfield, IL

Scott Fenton, Instructor of English, University of Illinois Springfield, Springfield, IL

Abstract: Webb’s presentation, “It Would Be Excellent if Our Students Become Anti-Racist,” explains how the focus on “rigor” and “excellence” usually provides a subterfuge for protecting the status quo, especially for white faculty and administration who have a hard time discussing racism specifically. “Ontological absence is not remedied by inclusion,” said Carmen Kynard during her keynote at the 2019 Conference on Community Writing in Philadelphia, calling the audience to a higher standard and asking them to push past the easy “diversity and inclusion” mandates that have recently become increasingly popular. Including people of color into white supremacist institutions and curricula is no solution at all. This presentation discusses some foundational changes that must occur in our cognitive frameworks and social narratives in order to make sure our students become excellent citizens first and foremost who don’t write or condone policies that oppress people. 

Dabbs’s presentation, “Queer Pedagogy in the Classroom,” examines the ways in which educators can implement queer pedagogy to foster inclusivity in rhetoric and composition as well as literature. Educators can use strategies from queer pedagogy to promote inclusivity in the classroom because it emphasizes the importance of examining and disrupting the processes by which particular subjects become normalized, whereas others marginalized. One example is asking students to read texts “queerly” by examining homosocial spaces and discussing gender binaries in works of literature. Another example is assigning digital projects that rely on multiple modes of communication to disrupt constructions of “normal” writing while also expanding their notions of writing. Ultimately, queer pedagogy provides educators with useful strategies for creating a more inclusive and diverse learning environment.  

Fenton’s presentation, “Finding the Stakes in First-Year Writing Assignments” discusses an inclusive assignment sequence used in a first-year writing course, and examines how this set of assignments helps students view their experiences and identities as worthy of academic study and relevant in academic spaces. General education courses, particularly those with skills-based learning outcomes, offer opportunities for instructors to develop assignments and grading criteria that are inclusive to students and affirm the value of first-year students’ unique backgrounds and perspectives in an academic setting. In first-year writing courses, students are asked to practice a variety of academic skills—conducting research, analyzing texts, crafting arguments, etc.—but this practice is made more meaningful when students are able to apply these skills to issues in which they are stakeholders and issues that affect their communities.  

The Psychological Trauma of Black students and Black professionals on campus after the murder of George Floyd

Katherine Helm, PhD., Professor of Psychology, Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program Director, Lewis University, Romeoville, IL

Kristi Kelly, EdD, Chief Diversity Officer, Lewis University, Romeoville, IL

Tennille Allen,  Professor of Sociology, Sociology Department Chairperson, Director of the African American Studies Program, Lewis University, Romeoville, IL

Abstract: In this time of great racial unrest in American society, many Black students and professionals on campus are experiencing significant psychological trauma which can include feelings of:  sadness, anger, irritability, emotional disconnection, problems concentrating, and diminished motivation triggered by the murder of George Floyd. Subsequent national racialized events and tensions have only increased these reactions.  Black students and black professionals may be reporting emotional and physical exhaustion, feelings of not feeling safe (physically and emotionally), and a lingering anger and hopelessness, which has significant consequences for academic and career success. This is one of the most important social justice issues of our time. This presentation will increase awareness of the impact of this trauma as well as provide practical strategies for how to offer sustained, genuine support to black students and black professionals on campus.  Additionally, specific strategies will be offered on how to engage in discussions around current events in supportive and respectful ways so as not to cause further psychological harm to Black students and Black professionals on campus who may be experiencing traumatic reactions.   

Inclusive practices: Building syllabi to support students during the Covid Pandemic.

Jennifer L. Stringfellow, PhD,  Associate Professor, Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Jennifer Buchter, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Cori More, BCBA, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: Economic disparities have long been an issue negatively impacting students in higher education. The current Covid pandemic has exaggerated these discrepancies, leading to negative educational and well-being outcomes. Using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework when developing syllabi, faculty can proactively prevent any barriers than may arise thus reducing barriers that may negatively impact students. While the Covid pandemic is new, many of these inclusive practices have demonstrated effectiveness in supporting diverse students and can be implemented to address many of the disparities students are currently experiencing in higher education as a result of Covid. E learning environments will also be included.  


Assessment as Instruction: Strategies for Fostering Equity

Margeaux temeltas, BA, MA, English Department Chair, National Louis University, Chicago, IL

Stephanie Poczos, BA, MA, EdS, Associate Dean of General Education, National Louis University, Chicago, IL

Abstract: This hands-on workshop will bridge theory with practice, weaving together presentation, discussion, and role play as participants learn practical strategies for harnessing assessments as learning tools. The session provides a concrete pedagogical and curricular framework for shifting student thinking from fixed to growth mindset, developing student resilience, and building both intellectual and social-emotional competence through metacognitive peer- and self- assessment activities. Participants will learn how to use rubrics and assessments as learning tools in the classroom, how to make assignment and assessment expectations transparent to students, how to cultivate the classroom culture needed for successful peer assessment and peer-to-peer learning, and how to utilize metacognitive assessment practices to build growth mindset and infuse social-emotional learning along with academic skill-building. There will be multiple, active opportunities for participants to practice the strategies and discuss their application on their home campuses. Participants will also discuss and brainstorm opportunities for bridging opportunity gaps by infusing rich models of writing and other project assessment exemplars into instruction. Although the session will model these practices using rubrics, portfolio assessments, and sample student work from the first-year writing classroom, the teaching and assessment methods discussed are applicable and adaptable to a variety of content areas and educational contexts. The workshop will be led by educational leadership from the Pathways program for first-generation undergraduate students at National Louis University. Pathways is an innovative, data-driven program founded in research-based best practices for increasing college retention, accelerating student learning, bridging opportunity gaps, and providing holistic supports for the academic and professional success of all students. 

Session 2: 10 – 10:50 a.m.

The NexSTEM Program: A Community Assets Program that Fosters the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

Maggie Evans, PhD, Illinois Wesleyan University,  Bloomington, IL

Sheri L. Glowinski, PhD,  Director, NexSTEM Program, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL

Pennie Gray, PhD, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL

Rebecca Roesner, PhD, PI, NSF S-STEM NexSTEM Grant, Associate Provost & Professor of Chemistry, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL

Abstract: Underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by individuals with low socioeconomic status (SES) is a long-standing concern. Funded in late 2018, the NexSTEM Program (the “Program”) is a National Science Foundation multi-institution consortia S-STEM grant-funded program at Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU), Illinois State University (ISU), and Heartland Community College (HCC) with the goal of reducing barriers for low SES students from Central Illinois enrolling in and completing STEM degree programs at the three institutions and identifying effective, and sustainable, programmatic components. To help address barriers, the Program awards 2- and 4-year scholarships to academically successful students with significant financial need, and pairs the scholarships with multi-level mentoring, academic supports, and hands-on STEM research project involvement beginning in the first semester of college for both 2-year and 4-year students. Uniquely, HCC students who want to transfer to IWU or ISU can take their scholarship with them as they complete their 4-year STEM degree. The Program has now onboarded 2 cohorts of largely Pell-eligible first year students pursuing an eligible STEM major at one of the three IHEs. This presentation will discuss program structure, interim outcomes related to the current cohorts, and implications for the efficacy of this model in improving retention and representation in STEM. 


Freshman Connection

Lead Presenter: Heidi Larson, PhD, Counseling and Higher Education, College of Education, Eastern Illinois University

Aileen Tierney, BA, Counseling and Higher Education, College of Education, Eastern Illinois University

Max Smith, BA, Counseling and Higher Education, College of Education, Eastern Illinois University

Audrey Kim, BS, Counseling and Higher Education, College of Education, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: This presentation outlines the impact of the Freshman Connection program on freshman students transitioning into Eastern Illinois University.


Supporting First Generation College Students in the Applied Music Studio

Rebecca Johnson, Assistant Professor of Flute, Eastern Illinois University

Elizabeth Sullivan, Assistant Professor of Oboe and Musicianship, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

Brian Sullivan, Independent Scholar

Abstract: In this presentation we will explore the ways in which applied music faculty may be uniquely positioned to meet the needs of first-generation college students—students for whom neither parent completed a bachelor’s degree. Though numbers vary by institution, this group currently represents around 56% of the national undergraduate population. (NASPA) Many scholars have investigated this diverse group of students, noting significantly lower rates of graduation and economic disparities between them and their continuing generation peers. While many colleges and universities have campus-wide supports for first generation students, research suggests that intervention should be crafted around characteristics such as race, region, and degree program. Little exists on this topic in our specific field of music, and in this session, we will turn to the research in other fields, along with our experiences at R2 and M1 universities, to provide practical strategies for applied faculty and to chart a course for further research in this topic in our field. We believe that the individual teaching model of applied music has the potential to increase effectiveness of interventions and music programs as a whole can help to integrate students more fully into universities. We believe some of these ideas can be applied to supporting first generation college students in other disciplines, and believe that participation in music programs can help students in other majors integrate into college life.


Examining systems to support Students: A holistic approach to support students during challenging times.

Jennifer Buchter, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Cori More, BCBA, PhD, Assistant Professor,  Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Jennifer L. Stringfellow, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: Economic disparities have long been an issue negatively impacting students in higher education. The current Covid pandemic has exaggerated these discrepancies, leading to negative educational and well-being outcomes. If not addressed, these stressors could become barriers to student achievement and degree completion. Students may find themselves responsible for financial responsibilities not only for themselves, but also for their family. They may lose financial support from their family in addition to being required to provide caregiving responsibilities. Changes in living arrangements further contribute to disparities in educational experiences and outcomes. In addition to these concrete needs, stressors such as isolation, changes in expectations, school and work stress, financial stress, and instability can contribute to physical and mental health needs. This presentation will provide participants an understanding of how a systems theory perspective can support students by identifying needs of students, recognizing signs of stressors, how to ask “hard” questions, and what supports are available within the university and community to address the stressors or needs students may be experiencing. Concrete and clinical supports will be examined.  


Incorporating Brain-Based Learning into Virtual Career Support and Delivery

Angela Evans, DPA, LCPC, CADC, BC-TMH, Assistant Director, Career Development Center, University of Illinois Springfield, Springfield, IL

Hannah Nicolaisen, Career Peer Student Mentor, Career Development Center, University of Illinois Springfield, Springfield, IL

Mildred Wallace, Career Peer Student Mentor, Career Development Center, University of Illinois Springfield, Springfield, IL

Abstract: Career development is a life-long, continuous process with many complex factors and interplay. This is also reflected in what makes up the learner of today and the demands of the current pandemic on flexible learning styles and modes of delivery to prepare for success. An eclectic toolbox is needed to meet and adapt to one’s unique strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences via different modes of communication. A purposeful and enhanced focus on experiential learning strategies may be achieved by using pseudo-flipped career training and brain-based learning. Some tenets include emotional intelligence, cognitive behavior therapy, and stages of readiness which may improve students’ attitudes toward career development and generate confidence in performing and modeling career-related tasks. The experiential activities, assignments, and technology utilized for flipping the training are described. Student feedback regarding changes in their attitudes and values toward career development, and confidence in applying career support, is reported per specific virtual examples of personalized instructional methods, activities, and delivery. Join us and learn about our eclectic career toolbox and how it is applied via career peer student perspectives and enhanced virtual experiences (EI + ABCDE + FLIP in a SNAP where one’s at!)


Diversifying Faculty and Staff at EIU: The Quality Initiative Proposal

Sace Elder, Professor and Chair, Department of History, Eastern Illinois University

Catherine Polydore, Professor, Counseling and Higher Education, Assistant Dean, Honors College, Eastern Illinois University

Jeffrey Stowell, Professor, Department of Psychology, Eastern Illinois University 

Angela Vietto, Professor and Chair, Department of English, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: The Higher Learning Commission recently approved Eastern Illinois University’s Open Pathways Quality Initiative Proposal, “Diversifying Eastern Faculty and Staff for Student Success.” The primary goal of the project is to increase student success (e.g., retention, academic achievement, and graduate rates) by increasing the diversity of EIU’s faculty and staff to levels that are representative of the increasing diversity of the institution’s student population. The purpose of this presentation will be to generate interest in the project and to solicit feedback as we proceed with data collection and look ahead to creating a strategic plan.   

Over the last 15 years EIU has seen a steady increase in the diversity of its students, from 10.5% non-white students in 2005 to 31.5% in Fall 2019. In comparison, only 13.8% of the employees (faculty, staff, and administration) identify as non-White. Research has shown that faculty of color tend to engage in scholarship and practices that support a diverse student population. Research has demonstrated the positive impact a diverse faculty has on the academic success of students of color.[1]  Students of color have reported feeling more positive experiences at institutions where staff members and those in authority look like them.    

This project entails the development and implementation of strategies for the successful recruitment, hiring, and retention of faculty and staff members of color. In the presentation, we will briefly outline the process by which the University selected the project. Then we will describe the three phases from data collection (the current phase) to strategic plan development (starting next semester) and implementation, which will start in Fall 2021. Although our report to the HLC will be due in 2024, we anticipate that the project will be ongoing.  

The project is being carried out by a large committee of faculty, staff, and administrators from across the university. The four presenters include Jeff Stowell, who is EIU’s HLC liaison and who leads the QI Project. The other three presenters, Drs. Polydore, Elder, and Vietto, chair the three main subcommittees of the project.  


Session 3: 11 – 11:50 a.m. 

Highland’s Project Succeed program

Anthony Sago,  Director of TRIO, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: The purpose of the program is a belief that students, when provided with the tools, resources, and information necessary for success, will have a greater chance of graduating. The program embodies a holistic approach that customizes services addressing the academic and non-academic needs that enable students to reach their goals while attending college. When moving remotely, the team of advisors and staff wanted to make sure students did not lose that sense of community and support, so Project Succeed began holding a Virtual Café, which began as a meeting place for students to have fun while dealing with the added stress of school. Later, the Virtual Café morphed into separate Zoom™ meetings to help students with academics, making sure they meet coursework and individual expectations. Project Succeed is a federal TRIO program funded through a U.S. Department of Education competitive grant. The name TRIO stands for the original three programs to tackle poverty during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. It is a program that ensures equal educational opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic situation. The program focuses on ongoing academic enrichment at each level of the student's college experience.  


Educator Self-Care, Resiliency, and Inclusion

Dr. Carolyn B. Jester, BSE, MSE, EdD, Professor of Special Education, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR.

Dr. Peggy Woodall, BS, MS, PhD, Professor in the Advanced Instructional Studies Department, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR.

Tammy Wrobbel, Candidate in the Master of Education Developmental Therapy Program, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR.

Abstract: Acosta, J., Chandra, A., & Madrigano, J. (2017) stated that “Resilience is defined as the capacity of any dynamic system to anticipate and adapt successfully to difficulties. Individual resilience is the process of, capacity for, or outcome of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” The Seven streams of resilient behavior – community, competence, connections, commitment, communication, coordination, and consideration – act as a whole system response, as a practical theory that has the capacity to adapt and mold to changing data and shifting circumstances in the face of new technology according to Horne, J. F., III, & Orr, J. E, 1998. Resilience is a combination of social competence and pro-social values, optimism, purpose, an attachment to family, to school and learning, problem-solving skills, an effective coping style, and a positive self-image. Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art meaning ‘to join with gold.’ Kintsugi consists of assembling “broken pieces of an accidentally-smashed pot” (The Book of Life, 2018). Kintsugi celebrates imperfection. The broken pieces of the pot are glued together with “lacquer inflected with a very luxuriant gold powder” (The Book of Life, 2018). The visible fractures are adorned with gold rather than hidden. Symbolically, the golden cracks represent the worth of the bowl because of its imperfections rather than in spite of them. The bowl is like a human, cracked by the contingency of life. The gold endows the pot with unassailable beauty, uniqueness, and strength. There is a lesson for embracing failures and experiences that crack our spirit. How do we turn those life cracks into gold? This relates back to our idea of building resilient educators so that they can serve children in inclusive, quality learning environments.


Level Upon Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

Jack Blahnik, Esport Graduate Assistant, Campus Recreation, Illinois State University, Normal, IL

Abstract: This presentation will detail practices and procedures faculty and staff can take in a virtual environment to be more equitable, inclusive and diverse minded.  Now more than ever, it is integral to not only advocate for our underserved student populations, but actively support and engage these students in practices that equitable and inclusive for all.   Now more than ever, it is vital that institutions across the US recognize the injustices that often plaque our communities of color and underserved populations; thus, it is critical that faculty and staff make a conscious and intentional effort to do better.  As the people that have the power to influence student’s thinking and behavior, we have a responsibility to ourselves and those we serve to educate them on issues right here at home.  Our job should be to raise the self-awareness of ourselves and our students and help guide them to a conclusion that they must look introspectively to gain. Conversations on equity-minded virtual practices has started to occur more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  One strategy for teaching with equity and inclusion in mind is to express authentic care in student’s lives.  This alone is not enough according to Dr. Wood and Dr. Harris III.  They suggest avoiding the “approach me first” and “ask me first” mentality.  Student’s often struggle with asking for help, so it is important to find ways to engage them proactively, intrusively, and intentionally. Here at Illinois State University, our esports program is actively take steps to do better.  With esports on rise across America and colleges, now is a great time to pursue esports.  Existing largely online and not immune to restricts in place due to COVID-19, esports has proven its resiliency through the pandemic. Because esports is new and there are no governing bodies yet, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that esports are done right. This presentation is meant for faculty, staff, and administrators that are committed to doing better in the world of student diversity, inclusion and equity as it pertains to online environments and communities. 


Lost in a Free Land: A Personal Narrative

Amy D. Davis, PhD., Assistant Professor, Elementary Literacy,Teaching, Learning, and Foundations, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: The purpose of this presentation is to inform and demonstrate how educators can be culturally sensitive to student differences. Through the sharing of my own personal story, my intention is to heighten participants’ awareness and increase empathy for student diversity. As a child of an immigrant and a first-generation college graduate, I have navigated two diverse cultures for the past 50 years of my life. I have dealt with a population that cannot pronounce my last name to having no connection to my heritage and family across the ocean.  The intended outcome of this presentation is not just to share my personal narrative, but to bring an awareness to teachers’ active, intentional, and on-going engagement with diversity so that their students never feel lost, underrepresented, or alone throughout their educational journeys. How they can foster an inclusive environment through simple changes to their approach to students which might be as simple as learning how to correctly pronounce names, an appreciation for different ethnic groups, and never making assumptions. I hope to illustrate these in my online presentation for the annual “Together We Rise: Reaching Inclusivity for Student Excellence” 2020 virtual conference. 


Session 4: 12 – 12:50 p.m. 

Intersectionality as a Framework to Develop Best Practices to Improve Access to Higher Education for Marginalized Groups

Danielle Bank, Disability Support Services Coordinator, Academic Enrichment Center, Dominican University, River Forest, IL

Manu Kaur, Professor (Mathematics), Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences,  Benedictine University, Lisle, IL

Pat Somers, Assistant Professor (Clinical Psychology), Director of Intercultural Education, Department of Psychology, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL

Abstract: The Combahee River Collective (1986) may have been one of the first groups to describe the complex interrelationships among social influences that overlap, intersect, converge and combine to directly and indirectly affect the lives of individuals and the groups to which they belong. Later theorists and activists (Cooper, 2017; Crenshaw, 2006; Hooks, 1994) have elaborated on the nature of these social forces which include race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, sexuality, ability status, national/citizenship status, age, and others. Examining the ways that these social forces limit or advance the life decisions and opportunities of individuals and their social groups sheds light on how marginalized groups may share common points of struggle. An intersectional approach may also allow groups to perceive the value of forming coalitions to work toward common goals and dismantle common obstacles. Using the lens of intersectionality, this panel will focus on best practices to address inequities in two areas of access to higher education: lack of persistence in STEM disciplines and concerns with transition from secondary to post-secondary education for students with disabilities.  


Striking a Match to Institutional Bridges: Co-Conspiring to Overcome Barriers to DEI Work

Alex Berry, Director, Student Development, Richland Community College, Decatur, IL 

Dr. Clarice Thomas, Student Success Coach, Richland Community College, Decatur, IL

Abstract: At the height of national civil unrest, demands for justice can be heard over the silence of institutional racism. Two student affairs professionals co-conspire to address the need for equity and inclusion work at their community college. Using their respective theoretical frameworks, the presenters discuss their efforts to change institutional requirements for diversity coursework and professional development for faculty and staff. The presentation will highlight the college context of resistance, and changes that have been implemented in the most recent academic year. This session has implications for administrators and faculty members and will offer suggestions for others to engage in collective and individual practices that center a more just and equitable campus environment for all students.    


Inclusive Innovation: How We Shortchange Startups and Limit Innovative Impact

Kate Jackson, Venture Design Challenge Lead & Lecturer, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL

Abstract: Entrepreneurs are problem-solvers and change-makers. They find a problem worth solving, and then mobilize the resources to solve it. These inherent entrepreneurial attributes are neither gendered nor racial. Entrepreneurship and innovation is biased toward action not stereotypes. And yet, the prevailing system of established regulations and societal norms make launching and scaling a business particularly challenging for minority and women entrepreneurs. Explicit and implicit belief systems and systemic and structural barriers affect every aspect of business success in both subtle and overt ways. These barriers must be addressed if we want all small businesses to thrive and grow. This is crucial because small businesses drive our economy, providing new jobs that increase employment. As employment grows so do tax revenues, which benefits local communities and local businesses. New ventures lift up not only individuals, but also their local communities and the US economy as a whole. New venture creation is a social good that must be open to all, encouraged, and advanced. Presently, access to the ecosystems necessary to survive and thrive as an entrepreneur are not open to all. Minorities and women continued to remain locked out. Why? In this workshop, we will discuss how unlocking access to this ecosystem has the potential to positively impact our society and our economy. And why we need to unleash this potential now more than ever.


Disrupting Norms to Increase Diversity of Teacher Candidates: Restraining Forces for Junior Faculty

Cori More, BCBA, PhD., Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education,Eastern Illinois University

Jennifer Buchter, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Jennifer L. Stringfellow, PhD., Associate Professor, Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: This presentation includes an introduction and discussion of a manuscript, Disrupting Norms to Increase Diversity of Teacher Candidates: Restraining Forces for Junior Faculty, recently published in the Journal of Culture and Values in Education. While the focus of this manuscript is on teacher preparation, similar hazards and risks exist for all junior faculty when looking to disrupting the norms in higher education to support equity and diversity of students.  


Built-in @ Booth: DEI as a library priority

Kirstin Duffin, MLIS, MS. Professor of Research, Engagement and Scholarship, Booth Library, Eastern Illinois University

Stacey Knight-Davis, MS., Head of Library Technology Services, Booth Library, Eastern Illinois University

Beth Heldebrandt, BS, MA., Public Relations Director, Booth Library, Eastern Illinois University

Zach Newell, BA, MA, MS, PhD candidate in Library and Information Science, Simmons University, Boston, MA, Dean of Library Services, Booth Library, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: Booth Library has been working as a cross-disciplinary partner to facilitate critical conversations and has been acting as an ally in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Booth has also prioritized its work with DEI by recently completing a strategic plan. One of the main goals of the strategic plan is to build in and sustain DEI initiatives as part of a holistic effort to ally Booth with campus and community partners in advancing this goal. The presenters will discuss how Booth has been positioned as a model and hub for promoting DEI on campus. Among the initiatives to be addressed are the strategic plan implementation, partnerships around exhibits and programming, implementation of diversity training in support of staff development, and efforts to bridge the technology equity gap. Additionally, presenters will discuss the work they are doing in supporting retention and student success efforts for our underrepresented student population. This session will be informative, outlining scenarios that help guide the Booth DEI committee in responding to social issues that affect our faculty, staff and students, and how we are able to respond. We will also lead an activity in the session to challenge attendees to “partner up” to brainstorm ways in which we can work across the proverbial aisle to build DEI into all parts of the campus community.  


Session 5: 1 – 1:50 p.m. 

Kill Them Before They Grow: Racial Disparity in Conduct

Amanda Mesirow, Coordinator, Code of Conduct, Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hills, IL

Abstract: This session is based on the speaker’s Kuona project for their Black Radical Tradition course, and Porter’s “Kill Them Before They Grow: Misdiagnosis of African American Boys in American Classrooms” (1997).  Through research and counter storytelling, participants will learn about the growing call for research on racial disparity in school conduct/discipline, and the work needing to be done to address it. 


Binding the Burden of Blackness:  Facing History to Redefine Ourselves

Dr. Carole R. Collins Ayanlaja, PhD, Department of Educational Leadership, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: To restrain and tie up the effects of systemic racism, a greater understanding of how race has impacted black people is necessary both intra-racially and interracially. This presenter seeks to reflect on her own understandings as an African American woman and discusses relevant topics that characterize a “black experience” Her goal is to unpack her reality, incorporating theory with lived experience, and share it as a pathway to ignite a forum to propel more racial introspection, understanding, and cohesion. Audience engagement and feedback will be encouraged. 


Creating a Trans-Inclusive Classroom

Tori Neal, MA., PhD Student and Instructor, Department of Sociology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL

Abstract: This session will explore how high school and college educators create a better classroom climate for non-cisgender students.  Participants will learn tangible steps to design a trans-inclusive classroom. From modifying language used in lectures and assignments to creating a system to address fluid pronouns and gender identities, I will demystify updating the classroom to include trans students.  Creating a trans-inclusive classroom promotes diversity, inclusion, and equity. Trans students cannot thrive in a space they feel excluded from. As the number of trans children and youth rise, educators need to create an inclusive learning environment. It is impossible for students to strive for excellence when their existence is ignored or made invisible. I encourage educators to explore the positive possibilities of a more trans-inclusive climate.   


Integrating Literacy and Literature within LGBTQ+-Based Curricula

John H. Bickford, PhD.,Professor of Social Studies/History Education, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Foundations, Eastern Illinois University 

Abstract: I report how children’s and young adult non-fiction and fiction books (mis)represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual (hereafter, LGBTQ+) themes and people. I have published research on LGBTQ+ representations within books for elementary children as well as for high school students. I have also explored patterns of book challenges (challenges are registered complaints that have the intent to ban the books) by parents and citizens resistant to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ themes and people within literature in schools and local libraries. I use separate examples for high school and elementary by integrating literacy tasks and literature texts on, respectively, Matthew Shepard and families. 

Identifying Diversity and Committing to Inclusivity in the Online Classroom

Holly Farley, EdD, RN, Assistant Professor, Chair of the Gail & Richard Lumpkin School of Nursing, Eastern Illinois University

Jacy Ghast, DNP, RN, Assistant Professor/Clinical Coordinator/Advisor, Gail & Richard Lumpkin School of Nursing, Eastern Illinois University

Abstract: In a traditional classroom, diversity can be considered an asset if the instructor recognizes the value in the varied backgrounds of students, and leverage this through intentional pedagogies that improve success for all. Can traditional pedagogies be transferred to the online classroom? Creating a community in the online classroom can be challenging, especially with online courses moving to accelerated 5-8 week formats and eliminating synchronous activities. Often it is a struggle to facilitate a face-to-face classroom with an open culture that fosters exchange of ideas and different perspectives. In a face-to-face classroom faculty can directly ask questions and attempt to engage all students.  This can be more challenging in an online classroom where students may not be willing to share their backgrounds or engage in conversations. It can be argued that inclusivity can happen in the online classroom, as well as, through intentional and varied assignments and engagement. This presentation will discuss inclusive strategies for the online classroom and provide the opportunity for the group to share experiences and strategies that have been successful in the online classroom.  



Previous Conferences:


 Eastern Illinois University Presents the Third Annual

Making Excellence Inclusive One-Day Conference

“Together We RISE: Reaching Inclusivity for Student Excellence” 

Friday October 11, 2019


A signature AAC&U initiative, Making Excellence Inclusive is designed to explore how colleges and universities can fully utilize the resources of diversity to achieve academic excellence for all students.

The annual RISE conference provides faculty, and staff the strategies and tools to support students' academic success. The conference is also designed to raise awareness of the diverse challenges our students face, whether as members of underrepresented groups, as first-generation college students, as non-traditionally aged students, or as students with disabilities. This year, the conference welcomes K-12 educators, as MEI understands that common understanding among all student affairs professionals is an important part of developing practices which promote inclusive excellence. To facilitate schedules, K-12 sessions are offered in the afternoon. 

See the conference schedule below or Register here for the conference. Registration is free for EIU community members,  $20 for non-EIU members, and $10 for non-EIU graduate students. 

2019 Keynote Speaker: Dr. Mary F. Howard-Hamilton 

Mary Howard-Hamilton

Dr. Mary F. Howard-Hamilton is the Bayh College of Education Coffman Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at Indiana State University. Dr. Howard-Hamilton has published over 90 articles and book chapters and is a member of the Editorial Boards for several prominent journals. Dr. Howard-Hamilton has served as a higher education student affairs administrator for 15 years and a full-time faculty member for 24 years. She has spent her entire professional career in higher education for a total of 37 years working at eight institutions.

Conference Schedule

  • 7:45 a.m. | Conference Check-In and Breakfast
  • 8:15 a.m. | Welcome
  • 8:30 a.m. | Keynote Address: 8:30 a.m.
  • 9:30- 1:30 | Book signing

Session Block 1| 9:30 a.m.-10:20 a.m.

  • The Race Card Project

Presenters: Catherine Polydore, Associate Professor of Counseling and Higher Education
Zachary Newell, Dean of Booth Library
Richard England, Dean of Pine Honors College
Eastern Illinois University 

In 2010, NPR journalist Michele Norris founded the Race Card Project as a way to help people explore and share their ideas about race. By asking people to write down their thoughts on race in just six words, it is possible to create a set of condensed reflections that reveal diverse views, and intense personal experiences, while offering participants an opportunity to encounter many other perspectives quickly. The original project has flourished as an online forum ( and many institutions have created local versions of this project to foster conversations about race. This year, EIU hosts its own Race Card Project at Booth library. This session discusses the Race Card Project and concludes this experiment.

  • Leveling the Playing Field in Higher Education

Presenter: April Jackson, Director of Student Disability Services
Eastern Illinois University 

Not all disabilities are visible. Not every accommodation is necessary for every disability. Accommodations are meant to level the playing field. Students who utilize accommodations are often the first to express that they rather not have to, but that they realize where their areas of need lie and that they need support to ensure they have the same groundwork as their non-disabled peers.
This presentation shares insight into what being a student with a disability may look like at the University level. It shares stories directly from current students and shares information presented by Ms. Jackson who has the lens of a mother of a child with a disability, a special education teacher, a K-12 administrator, and now a Director, of Student Disability Services.

  • Diversity and Inclusion: Implementation of our Learnings from the Diversity Council for Independent Colleges Institute on Diversity, Civility, and the Liberal Arts

Katherine Helm, Graduate Program Director, Professor of Psychology
Kristi Kelly, Chief Diversity Officer/Director of Multicultural Student Affairs
Jennifer Tello Buntin, Assistant Professor Sociology
Kurt Schackmuth, Vice President for Mission and Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs
Lewis University

The Council for Independent Colleges Institute on Diversity, Civility, and the Liberal Arts provided recommendations and suggestions for how to operationalize diversity, inclusion, and civility on campuses. This led to refining diversity and inclusion goals, developing a specific action plan for operationalizing goals in the areas of curriculum, hiring, retention of diverse students, faculty, and staff, and specific ways to utilize continuous assessment to determine the success of initiatives.

  • Military and Veteran Students: Common Misperceptions, Observed Challenges, and Proposed Best Practices

Wade Smith, Instructor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology
Eastern Illinois University

Recent research has revealed that military students and student veterans face a range of challenges in the college classroom and on college campuses. The primary focus of this session is to provide insight into the challenges commonly faced by military and veteran students in the post-9/11 era and proposed best practices through an exploration of recent academic research into these topics.

Session Block 2| 10:30 a.m.-11:20 a.m.

  • “Help! I’m Being Accused of Racism!”: From Denial to Dialogue in a Few (Not So Easy) Steps

Jeannie Ludlow, Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Eastern Illinois University

It is awful to be accused of racism. I know—it has happened to me often. My first reaction is always, “Not me! I didn’t do that!” Denial, however, does not lead to resolution. This interactive workshop for all audiences will share contemporary understandings of racism, including intersectional oppressions. As we put these accusations in context, we can become more comfortable talking about them. We will look at several models for effective responses to accusations of racism and discuss ways to assess particular situations to determine which models may work best. We will describe what effective resolution looks (and feels) like.)

  • Mental Health On the Rise: Protecting the Emotional Well-being of Today’s College Students

David Ehlers, LPC, Health and Counseling Services Counseling Clinic
Eastern Illinois University

Mental health concerns among college students has been a growing issue at universities and community colleges across the country. While young adults are less likely to receive mental health services than any other age group, approximately 75% of all mental health conditions begin by age 24, with higher rates of mental health conditions among college-age students. Underrepresented groups encounter additional barriers in order to receive the services they need. Participants at this session will get a closer look at the research related to mental health and college students, learn how to identify and help distress students, and collaborate to find better solutions to support students succeed personally and academically.

  • Access Does Not Equal Inclusion: Lessons and Reminders from The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students

Juanita C. Cross. Academic Advisor, Academic Success Center
Eastern Illinois University

Do some higher education policies/procedures inadvertently hinder students instead of help? Why do some students reach out for help while others do not? This session introduces participants to the book “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students.” This book written by Anthony Jack (Ph.D. Harvard University, 2016) challenges the notion that first generation students are homogeneous. Through extensive interviewing, Anthony Jack examines two groups, “the privileged poor” and “the doubly disadvantaged.”  Participants will learn the differences between these two groups; the “hidden curriculum”; and how to start viewing first generation students through a different lens. Discussion will also center around three university policies examined in this book.

  • UDL and ALCs: The Card Game Version

Dr. Newton Key, Director of Faculty Development and Innovation, Professor of History
Eastern Illinois University

This presentation draws from Thomas J. Tobin and Kirsten T. Behling, Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2018), and the work of David Reid at Gould Evans, developer of K-12 “UDL Learning Spaces Idea Kit.” The latter includes Student Experience Cards, Educator Experience Cards, and Paradigms Cards. Gould Evans are architects and the “game” at times focuses on space design, whereas Universal Design for Learning (UDL) focuses on curriculum design. The presenter will offer a brief version of the participatory game having the attendees pick from their cards (examples from headings of current cards: offer structured choices, support varied processes, variety of collaboration settings, interactive walls) key components. The session will close by tying these space considerations back to the “reach everyone, teach everyone” UDL principles that make teaching and learning more enjoyable for all.

Session Block 3| 11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

  • Seeking “A More Perfect Union”: Deconstructing the psychological impact of racism and economic marginalization through awareness, self-action, and cross-cultural engagement

Carole Rene’ Collins Ayanlaja, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership
Eastern Illinois University

Over 100 years ago sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, WEB Dubois predicted that race would emerge as a key social problem. Today, its power to shape the lives of those living in the United States remains. This presentation applies theoretical perspectives and identifies lived experiences that project the impact of inequity, addressing key questions through informative dialogue and interaction focused on social/emotional mindfulness.

  • The Little Hurts That Undermine Equity: A Workshop to Identify and Challenge Microaggressions In the Classroom

Sydney Hart, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology
Wilbur Wright College

Rooted in the myth and ideology of reverse and color-blind racism, even people with good intentions can express stereotypes and implicit biases in micro-aggressions: little behaviors that perpetuate stereotypes and contribute to a climate of intolerance. Micro-aggressions add up to create hostile environments and personal harm. In this participatory workshop, we will build equity-mindedness by learning to identify micro-aggressions, discuss effects, and brainstorm ways to manage them in our classrooms, colleges, and lives.

  • Identifying Diversity and Committing to Inclusivity in the Online Classroom (cancelled)

Dr. Holly Farley, Assistant Professor of Nursing
Eastern Illinois University

In fall 2015, there were 5,954,121 students enrolled in any distance education courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions. As this number continues to grow and online education becomes more accessible to all, education becomes more equitable to all students. With this shift, students from all backgrounds will be represented and the diversification of online classrooms will also increase. In a traditional classroom, diversity can be considered an asset if the instructor recognizes the value in the varied backgrounds of students, and leverage this through intentional pedagogies that improve success for all. Can traditional pedagogies be transferred to the online classroom?  This presentation will discuss inclusive strategies for the online classroom and provide the opportunity for the group to share experiences and strategies that have been successful in the online classroom.

  • The Path to Persistence: Helping to Guide Our Most Vulnerable Students

Alexis Straub, Graduate Student, College Student Affairs
Eastern Illinois University

In 2015, Dr. Joann Horton identified 50 risk factors that can affect a student’s chance of success in college.  Some of these include background characteristics, personal traits, and environmental factors that work together to create barriers for students wishing to obtain their degrees.  Yet, there are many who persist despite their circumstances which would have predicted a different outcome. The presenter’s research focuses on these at-risk students and how they have persisted to graduation. The students’ stories and strategies will be shared in order to help student affairs professionals and educators and give them the chance to reflect on their own practices with students and how they are catalyzing success.

Lunch| 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

Session Block 4| 1:30 p.m.-2:20 p.m.

  • Making Media Inclusive Across Grade Levels and Disciplines

Robin L. Murray, English Department
Eastern Illinois University

Through this session, participants will explore ways to actively and intentionally engage with diversity in a media-driven curriculum, highlighting effective ways to increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the ways individuals interact with systems and institutions through thoughtful content choices. This session will highlight ways to diversify film, video, and other media content choices to address group and social differences, including race/ ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. The session will especially address the need to incorporate various media texts that increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of ableist systems and institutions. This session is intended for K-12 audiences. 

  • Disabling “Disability”: Serving as an Ally for People with Disabilities

Jim Howley, Director, General Studies Program
Eastern Illinois University

In this session, participants will learn key terms related to disability as well as mechanisms for rejecting ableist practices.  The central focus is on developing strategies to use in advocating for people with disabilities as well as how to serve as an ally.  In addition, participants will discuss scenarios in which serving as an advocate could best be accomplished.

  • Making Excellence Inclusive: Advancing Equity Minded Practice

Catherine L. Polydore, Chair, Making Excellence Inclusive; Professor, Department of Counseling and Higher Education
Eastern Illinois University

Making excellence inclusive, a brain child of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), espouses high quality, practical liberal education should be the standard of excellence for all students. This necessitates the practice of equity-mindedness, one of its core principles. This presentation clarifies this principle and provides concrete examples for practitioners.

  • Using Storytelling to Create An Intercultural Awareness At Eastern Illinois University (CANCELED)

Toluwalase Solomon, Graduate Assistant, Curriculum and Instruction
Eastern Illinois University

Despite the increasing enrollment of international students at Eastern Illinois University (EIU), little is known about the integration of international students into the larger community. Communicatively speaking, the internationalization of higher education can be understood as interaction between different cultures. Culture is communication, Communication is culture. (James Neuliep, 2006). Supporting this stance, initiatives that encourage intercultural learning and interaction between international students and their host community are vital. Although intercultural awareness creates knowledge, motivations and skills needed to communicate, it also enhances interrelated sensitivities of different cultures. For this reason, the presenter intends to speak from a personal perspective to create college wide understanding on the realities of acculturation and prospective contributions international students may offer at Eastern Illinois University.

  • Speaking the Language of Diversity and Inclusion: From Political Correctness to Communication Competence

Presenter: Richard G. Jones, Jr., Associate Professor

Eastern Illinois University

Although we’ll never be perfect, mindful and competent communication regarding diversity and inclusion is an aspirational goal. This presentation focuses on how we can all improve our communication when it comes to cultural identities, including race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and ability. Engaging in mindful competent communication related to diversity and inclusion is not the same as engaging in “political correctness.” Political correctness can create a pressured climate that can lead people to avoid discussions about cultural identities or avoid people with different cultural identities. Our goal in this session is to learn a foundational vocabulary along with some adaptable guidelines that can help us in a variety of communication contexts.

 Session Block 5| 2:30 p.m.-3:20 p.m.

  • African American Student Retention at Predominantly White Institutions

Candace Thompson, Graduate Student, College Student Affairs
Mona Davenport, Director of the Office of Inclusion and Academic Engagement
Jon Coleman, Assistant Professor of Counseling & Higher Education
Eastern Illinois University

How is higher education different for African American students from their majority peers?  The history of higher education for African Americans in the United States has been one of struggle both for access and for success.  This session presents information on the changing nature and needs of African American students in higher education and how faculty and staff can support these students and improve student retention.

  • Recognizing and Rectifying the Misrepresentations within History-Based Curricula

John H. Bickford, Associate Professor of Social Studies/History Education
Eastern Illinois University

This session demonstrates how children’s and young adult non-fiction books, literature, and textbooks (mis)represent the Black Freedom Movement, or the centuries of slavery beyond the Civil Rights Movement. If unchallenged by teachers, students will remain ignorant of slavery’s ubiquity and brutality, its centrality to America’s emerging economy, and enslaved African Americans’ humanity and resistance. The presenter will demonstrate how teachers, parents, and students can first identify and then fill the gaps within misrepresentative curricula. This session is intended for K-12 audiences. 

  • Difficult Issues and Safe Space in the Classroom 

Jeannie Ludlow, Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Eastern Illinois University

Even as our media conversations and our daily lives become more polarized and less cooperative, we increasingly use the language of “safe space” to describe our classrooms, especially when we discuss difficult or contentious issues in class. But the sentence, “This classroom is a safe space” can have many meanings. This interactive workshop for teachers, professors, and others who work with students will share different perspectives on “safe space” classrooms. We will discuss the different forms student resistance to difficult topics can take. And, we will work together to strategize effective ways to talk about difficult topics and to think about “safety” in class and on campus.

Register here for the conference


Archived programs from previous RISE conferences can be accessed online.

RISE 2017

RISE 2018

Related Pages

Contact Information

Making Excellence Inclusive

College of Arts & Humanities
600 Lincoln Avenue Charleston, IL 61920

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