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March 16, 2017

Demand is great for diversity/inclusion program

Pitt’s new diversity and inclusion certificate program is in great demand by faculty and staff: There is a waiting list for both the core courses and some electives, and the demand may prompt the creation of even more classes on the subject.

“We knew people would be interested, but the result was overwhelming,” says Kristy Rzepecki, senior Title IX and diversity specialist in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She is one of the designers and teachers of the program, along with fellow diversity specialist Warren McCoy. “It was a great thing to see.”

Last fall alone, when the program was introduced, she reports, 260 faculty and staff began courses in the program.

The diversity and inclusion certificate addresses both personal and workplace behavior through two core workshops (“Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Environment: The WHY and HOW” and “Preventing Sexual Misconduct: Understanding Your Responsibility”) and a series of electives, among which certificate seekers must pick four:

• “Different Like You: Recognizing Stereotypes and Removing Barriers”

• “Understanding Harassment: How to Recognize and Respond”

• “Individuals With Disabilities: Creating an Accommodating and Inclusive Environment”

• “Baby Boomers to Millennials: Respect and Productivity in the Workplace”

• “Intercultural Competency: Beyond the Basics”

• “Allies Network Training”

• “Veterans on Campus: Understanding Resources and Opportunity”

• “Workplace Bullying: Understanding a Barrier to Equal Opportunity”

• “Supporting Our GLBTQA Community”

Each workshop lasts two hours and involves a group discussion and interactive activities.

The program can be completed in one semester, but most participants expect to spread the classes out over a year. There is no deadline to finish the program, and any faculty or staff member can attend individual workshops without aiming for the certificate.

The program ends with what Rzepecki calls a “capstone conversation,” reviewing what people learned from the experience and what they already have incorporated into their work environment and personal lives.

Thanks to participant suggestions, Rzepecki says, courses soon may be added to teach diversity and inclusion concerning religion, race and transgender people.

The certificate program, devised with the faculty and staff development program and Human Resources, may begin offering core courses twice a semester to accommodate those on the waiting lists.

The goal of the program, says Rzepecki, is to show the worth of a diverse and inclusive workplace, and to further the University’s mission of enriching the Pitt experience through maintaining a diverse campus community.

Pitt also is considering offering versions of the program to graduate and undergraduate students, the latter in collaboration with Student Affairs.

The program relies entirely on Pitt faculty and staff for teachers, she emphasized: “We don’t want to bring anyone in from the outside because we have so many people here with expertise … and we wanted to build those relationships to be able to have everyone on the same page as to why diversity and inclusion are important.”

Rzepecki stressed that, with the election of Donald Trump via a campaign marked by rhetoric against immigrants, women and other groups, Pitt has not changed its emphasis on diversity or its belief in the value of inclusion.

“It’s probably even more important for people to gain the awareness of why diversity and inclusion are important,” she says. “These are members of our community … They value diversity and inclusion. They want to be part of moving the University forward.”

For more information about the program, go to

—Marty Levine 

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