On February 23, the Bard LLI Social Justice Team convened a group of eight (including Bard) regional LLIs for a Zoom workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The purpose of the workshop was to bring together those LLIs interested in sharing and discussing DEI efforts within their respective organizations and to explore ways in which we might build collaboration among our programs. The session was both interactive and informative. A number of follow-on efforts are underway.
The eight LLIs (Bard LLI, Union College, Vassar College, University of Connecticut, Marist College, Westchester Community College, Lifespring Saugerties, and the Osher LLI at Berkshire Community College) shared what each program has done and is doing to implement DEI and to discuss areas for ongoing information exchange and collaboration. The three major focus areas were: 1) curriculum, including courses and presenters; 2) culture or “building a welcoming community;” and 3) broadening membership. All participants were committed to embracing DEI within their organizations.
Each LLI representative presented a brief summary of their DEI and social justice journey, including what efforts didn’t work and what showed promise. Some listed courses they’ve offered and presenters they’ve featured. Some spoke of scholarships to encourage memberships. Others talked about how they had formed diversity committees, about community outreach to targeted communities, and about working to add DEI to their LLI mission statements.
After the other LLIs finished their presentations, Laura Brown and Linda Legendre presented our DEI initiatives here at Bard. Laura spoke about the Who, Us? course and how it led to the formation of the DEI/Social Justice Team. Linda Legendre spoke about the huge impact the course had on her and how that led to her work as the current Curriculum Team Chair. Both Laura and Linda spoke to the difference that they believe the original Who, Us? course had on the entire team and on forming such a committed core group of LLI members wanting to work on this topic. Most everyone was interested in learning more about and possibly participating in or recreating Bard LLI’s Who, Us? course at their institutions. There was a suggestion about getting the curriculum heads together to brainstorm course offerings. Other areas of interest in cross-regional collaboration included becoming a more welcoming community, diversifying membership, and co-sponsoring a special event, program, or course.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Every institution expressed interest in meeting again. The Regional LLI Group is working to determine the next steps on this regional LLI DEI collaboration journey. While our initial outreach was designed for us to learn more from other LLIs, it is with a great deal of satisfaction that we find ourselves establishing a regional DEI/Social Justice group, which is already expanding the reach of our efforts.