Salem State University was awarded a Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) grant of nearly $75,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), which the university will use to launch a pilot program, called “Building Inclusive Academically Engaged Communities of Practice.” The program aims to explore how to make classrooms inclusive spaces where students feel welcomed, valued for their cultural wealth, and supported in their learning.
For the remainder of the 2021-2022 academic year, mentor pods comprised of Salem State undergraduate and graduate students and junior and senior faculty will develop instructional practices and curricula that promote diversity, equity, inclusion and student success across all four Salem State schools. These practices will use a variety of resources to learn about inclusive curricula issues including the Statement of Principles of Anti-Racist Community-Engaged Teaching developed by Salem State University, Worcester State University, Fitchburg State University, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Members of the mentor pods will also draw on their own expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Under the pilot program, students will play a hands-on role in observing the new pedagogical approaches in classrooms before they are more broadly implemented by participating faculty at the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.
The Salem State University pilot program is a collaboration between the Center for Civic Engagement and Inclusive Excellence and will be co-led by Roopika Risam, chair of secondary and higher education, associate professor of English and higher education, faculty fellow for Digital Library Initiatives, and coordinator of the graduate certificate in Digital Studies; and Keja Valens, Salem State Professor of English and Faculty Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion. Valens and Risam designed the mentor pods with the intention of equalizing power dynamics often present on college campuses through encouraging members to recognize the intrinsic value each will bring to the open discussions centered around anti-racist pedagogical practices in the curriculum.
“Our goal is to make classrooms more inclusive spaces where students feel welcomed, valued for their cultural wealth, and supported in their learning,” said Risam. “We’re grateful to the Department of
Higher Education for helping Salem State make progress towards a more inclusive and equitable environment.
“Our students represent a myriad of cultures and bring perspectives that are vital to the development of an authentic antiracist curriculum,” said Valens. “We look forward to advancing avenues for them not only take charge of their own college experiences, but to have a lasting impact on advancing culturally inclusive and equitable learning.”
At Salem State, the grant will directly support the mentor pods through stipends and professional development opportunities, including on-site coaching, course-embedded observations, and more.
Salem State was awarded the HEIF grant in honor of its commitment to increasing workforce readiness for students of all abilities, providing quality academic opportunities, and advancing the equity agenda of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.
The Massachusetts Department of Education’s HEIF grants were developed by the Massachusetts legislature in 2012 to help the Board of Higher Education achieve the strategic goals of the Massachusetts public higher education system. Previously, Salem State received a HEIF grant of $100,000 for their Viking Textbook Affordability Initiative that has saved students over $600,000 on course materials since 2018.