‘Diversity academy’ to give in-depth look at inequality


Garrett Ammesmaki

South Dakota State will have its first ever “diversity academy”this spring, a workshop with 16 courses focused on systemic racism and inequality, the tools to understand it and ultimately combat it.

“This first go-around in the spring will really be a pilot for a full-scale launch in the fall,” said Nathan Ziegler, director of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access.

The program will go more in-depth than current Title IX training with experts covering topics like communication, inclusion principles and standing up against racism and discrimination. It will be all-encompassing, with not only conversation on racial elements, but also discrimination of LGBTQ, women and disabled people.

Ziegler developed the program with the goal to create a firmer understanding of systemic inequality. Although conversations are happening across campus and the country, there’s still barriers to understand the need for diversity and the prevalence of inequality, he said.

An educational psychologist, Ziegler believes the best way to close the divide is to start the academy with basic concepts and build upon them incrementally.

“We take things anecdotally, we don’t ever have a deep understanding or appreciation for all the different elements,” Ziegler said.

The program is subject to change as Ziegler works with administration to further refine it, but the different courses will serve to “develop intercultural competency and knowledge.”

Ziegler is looking at many “creative ways” to incentivize students and faculty to take the program. Those who complete 10 of the 16 courses receive a certificate of completion and incentives for faculty could include integrating the courses into department evaluations.

Ziegler also hopes to implement the program into the curriculum at some point.

“Most times when you hear the word diversity we tend to think in terms of race … but I think sometimes we forget to look at areas–there are minorities everywhere.”

-Amanda John, President of Black Student Alliance

Though there’s Introduction to Global Citizenship and Diversity, a mandatory class for first-year College of Arts and Sciences students, Ziegler said some students have expressed the want for another, more in-depth class.

Amanda John, a double major in political science and sociology and president of Black Student Alliance, said she thinks the “diversity academy” is a “great idea” and would like to have other classes added to curriculum focused on more in-depth conversation about inequality.

“Most times when you hear the word diversity we tend to think in terms of race … but I think sometimes we forget to look at areas — there are minorities everywhere,” John said.

In light of the viral social media post of a former SDSU student in blackface and signs from the white supremacy group Identity Evropa spotted around campus, John said, “we can clearly see race is something that needs to be talked about more. It needs to be conversed on and people need to be educated about more, but there are different sides of diversity as well.”

Ziegler hopes to publish more information about the diversity academy program on SDSU’s website within the coming months.