September 30, 2019

Spotlight #002: An Interview with Michelle Disson, Title IX and ADA Coordinator, Florida Polytechnic University

At a small, fresh institution like Florida Polytechnic University — which opened for instruction in 2014 and has fewer than 2,000 students, faculty and staff — establishing a campus culture that upholds Title IX protections, along with other equity missions, is crucial. Michelle Disson serves as Florida Polytechnic’s Title IX and ADA Coordinator. When it comes to Title IX, Disson said she is “a party of one.”

“I do everything from initial intake at this moment, I do investigations, I do the training,” Disson said, “and I oversee the programming as well.”

With ADA compliance, Disson oversees other campus offices the Office of Disability Services, facilities and human resources to ensure the appropriate policies and procedures are followed. The intersection of Title IX and ADA compliance is centered on giving students equitable experiences.

“We want to make sure that students can continue their educational journey and have options and resources,” Disson said. “With the ADA, you want to make sure that everyone’s treated fairly and has an equal opportunity to continue their education and experience programs and activities within the university.”

Those options and resources, Disson said, present themselves through various student-life-centric offices like Florida Polytechnic’s Academic Success Center, Counseling Services and CARE Services, which handles student health and wellness along with crisis and safety concerns.

Those campus resources are supplemented with online information about Title IX and a reporting tool available on Florida Polytechnic’s website.

Florida Polytechnic provides Title IX education and training, Disson said, for students, faculty and staff. Each year, Florida Polytechnic employees complete Title IX training through Get Inclusive. New employees also receive training in their new hire orientation as well.

“For students, we are involved in orientation,” she said. “All of the new students who attend orientation get the training … They are provided, from Get Inclusive, Voices for Change. So, all students have to complete Voices for Change before they’re allowed to register for the following semester.”

In addition to the student body’s education through Voices for Change, Disson provides open sessions for faculty to learn more about Title IX obligations and programming for students on topics like healthy relationships, sex education, sexual violence prevention and intimate partner violence prevention.

With Get Inclusive, Disson said they are the only system she has implemented that receives positive feedback.

“Most people understand that, yeah, I have to do this every year, especially the employees,” Disson said. “But I typically hear, ‘This was horrible, this takes so much time, I didn’t really get anything out of it.’ With Get Inclusive, I have found more people recognizing … it got the point across, and ‘Hey, I’m remembering now I need to do this. I have this exact scenario.’”

Disson added that she appreciates the types of questions that are asked in the training modules. Evaluating answers to open-ended prompts allows her to identify what is important to students and learn more about them.

“I was very hesitant in the beginning of my time with Get Inclusive of the many open-ended questions,” she said. “I have found that has been almost invaluable when I go through them, just even [to] get a sense of what is the tone … that has been very helpful with students. I learned so much about our student population that you wouldn’t typically get from a first-year experience survey.”

Moving forward, Disson said Florida Polytechnic hits a lot of aspects in regard to Title IX compliance and education, with Get Inclusive in that mixture of resources. A goal she identified: continuing to get information out to students and remind faculty about reporting options. Progressing this outreach harkens back to the inherent values of Title IX and ADA.

“It is important to provide an equitable experience for students,” Disson said.

August 30, 2019

Voices for Change: A Critical Analysis of Get Inclusive’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Bystander Intervention Program

As a college student, I know conversations around critical issues like sexual assault, drinking and drug use, discrimination and institutional inequality happen in various settings. Some of these happen organically among students, and others are prompted through university led workshops and online trainings. Unfortunately, one important topic that doesn’t get enough discussion is bystander intervention as a method to address critical issues like sexual assault and discrimination.

Review: Voices for Change

Bystander intervention is a core theme in Get Inclusive’s new sexual violence prevention training program, Voices for Change. I recently had the opportunity to review Voices for Change to better understand its unique approach to prevention education. 

Voices for Change focuses on four main topics: Identities and Inclusion, Consent and Sexual Violence (Title IX and Campus SaVE), Alcohol and Other Drugs and Hazing and Intimidation. What I appreciated off the bat was the tenets of identities and inclusion were presented at the beginning and in a straightforward manner. Because our social identities (real or perceived) can affect how we respond as a bystander to events later discussed in the program, starting with discussions on identity is smart, as students can apply those thoughts to the other three main topics as they go through Voices for Change.

In the program’s videos, four different narrators who seem to be in their 20’s lead the discussions and information given about these topics and how bystander intervention can play a positive role in problematic events. The aspect of having peer narrators is important; college students are going to listen better to people that are similar to them. And their dialogue hits the nail on the head — the narrators don’t sound overly scripted. As they relay important information and concepts to the viewer, they’re also real about it. The narrators speak to each other and talk about the nuances of an issue in a believable way. One woman confesses that she said something racist in the past, but realized later that her statement was harmful. There’s a sweet spot between a straight-laced lecture and overly conversational dialogue that almost satirizes how young people converse, and Get Inclusive’s narrators fit in that sweet spot.

The examples of real-life, impactful events related to each topic are good and well-constructed. The dialogue from the bystanders in each incident sounds real and captures what someone’s thought process might look like as they witness microaggressions, hazing or gradual alcohol abuse. They have doubts. They have reservations. They realize the nuances of a situation without ever denying that something harmful was happening. This is how real students think and feel and reflect; these vignettes, I believe, are effective at engaging the viewer in a story that sounds true-to-life.

Beyond Listening 

Voices for Change’s education on these topics goes beyond listening to definitions and conversations. The program also supplies statistics about sexual assault, hazing and drug abuse. The information provided is not framed in a scare-tactic manner, but it does reveal the hard facts about these sensitive topics. For example, in the consent and sexual violence portion of the program, the participant is met with the shocking commonality of sexual violence: 1 in 5 college women will be assaulted, as will 1 in 4 trans/gender non-binary folks and 1 in 13 men. It also lists the statistics of how often sexual violence is reported and what keeps survivors from seeking help and justice.

Combining the approaches of statistical information and nuanced, real dialogue presents students with a compound consideration of each topic. If they’re doubtful about the alcohol abuse vignette, for example, perhaps the information about how binge drinking and alcohol abuse is defined will give them the perspective they need to understand the problem.

Voices for Change doesn’t beat around the bush, and from a college student’s perspective, I appreciate that. We don’t need analogies to talk about these topics; these issues affect our lives and bodies, so we need to talk about how they can affect our lives and bodies. This program understands that its audience frankly wants mature, informed discussion of these topics. Dialogue catered to an emerging adult audience that does not talk down to them is, honestly, hard to find. Voices for Change recognizes the reality that college students are adults, just less experienced and aware generally than college graduates.

Self-Reflection

Lastly, the portions of Voices for Change that ask for the participant to interact with questions and trivia are centered around reflection. The most common interactive activity is a form of journaling — the program asks the participant to type their responses to questions in a text field. This ties into an overarching theme of the program: imagination. Imagining potential scenarios and reflecting on the information given can be an important learning tool, and it is at least more memorable than clicking on bubbles to answer a multiple choice quiz. Voices for Change prioritizes individual responses and reflections, something that reflects pedagogy that students will run into in at least one class, if not multiple times over their college career.

By providing relatable narrators, realistic dialogue, pertinent facts and reflection-based learning methods, the creators behind Voices for Change have grasped what works for college students. Nuanced conversations and the frank and mature presentation of problematic topics mirror what kinds of dialogues students will have in real life with friends, resident assistants, club members, teammates and professors.

August 25, 2019

Spotlight #001: An interview with Dr. Carmen Poole and Jeremy Beckman

Get Inclusive’s Spotlight series features interviews with prevention and compliance experts who are taking an innovative approach to their work. If you know someone we should feature, please email hello@getinclusive.com

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An interview with Dr. Carmen Poole and Jeremy Beckman, the authors and creative leadership behind Get Inclusive’s prevention and compliance training courses. 

“Get Inclusive is really a fantastic unicorn space for me where I get to not only research and write in the areas that I have training and have profound interest, but also I get to work in the space of curriculum design and teaching and learning and working on figuring out the best ways to teach people things.”

Dr. Carmen Poole, director of content, shared this insight about the work she gets to do through Get Inclusive. Poole and Jeremy Beckman, head of product, shared how their different educations, work experiences and personal passions brought them into the niche, “unicorn” field of creating prevention-based educational programs at Get Inclusive.

Question: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, your education and what brought you into this world of working with prevention-based programs?

Poole: “My background is in academia and in social justice education. I was a terrible student, which is how and why I realized how important actual learning was, true learning — the sort of difference between being spoken to and spoken at, and I happened to be one of those students that responded poorly to being spoken at, and discovered late that the book world was where I belonged.”

“And so I studied in history and political science, in university did my masters in history, and went on to get my PhD in the history of education. That was at the University of Toronto. My research interests were largely in African American, African Canadian history, women's history, women's studies, feminist studies, and other social justice cognate interest areas. But in my master's year, I developed an interest in curriculum: the history of education, how decisions get made about curriculum, who decides what we learn, and how we learn it, which ended up turning into a much larger project for my Ph.D. dissertation, dealing with ethnography and the politics of representation among African Canadians in southwestern Ontario.”

“After teaching and the Ph.D., I wanted to look into the adult learning space a little bit more specifically. Working with Jeremy at LawRoom was really a great opportunity where I could combine or reconcile or marry all of my academic interests in human rights and social justice, in minority studies, diversity studies, feminist studies, women’s rights with corporate training. It's the unicorn space that I had the privilege to enter into, and to me, Get Inclusive is really a fantastic unicorn space where I get to not only research and write in the areas that I have training in and have, like, profound interest in but also I get to work in the space of curriculum design and teaching and learning and working on figuring out the best ways to teach people things that they may or may not want to learn.”

Beckman: “I went to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and got a degree in visualization. Visualization is ... an application of cognitive sciences to how the brain works regarding visual information or visual communication. It tends to fall into one of two categories — if you're actually talking about the application of visual communication to a professional area — and that is either education or advertising and marketing. It just so happened that one of my professors was an instructional designer who worked in the adult learning, performance improvement, online education area. So I dove into to e-learning, and that's where I started my career.”

After working at a content creation agency that made custom courses for large corporations, Beckman said he wanted to create materials that tackled more than management and sales training.

“So in a way with online education technology and instructional design for online education and the LawRoom opportunity provided me the opportunity to move into a space that yes, was compliance, and in my world that's considered grunt work that people who are creating, say, custom materials for large organizations, is actually really uninteresting. But to me, it was interesting because it was an opportunity to move into an area where oftentimes what is actually required mandatory by law, in terms of training, is actually addressing really important issues.”

“And I thought to myself: Here's an opportunity to take on the challenge that is turning compliance training experiences into something that is more than what it has been historically for the sake of actually addressing the underlying issues that compel organizations to do compliance training to begin with. So in other words, sexual harassment — now [there] was an opportunity for me to focus on creating training content that hopefully actually helps address that issue for individuals and workplaces where this actually occurs.”

Question: Can you share a little bit about what projects or programs you're working on now?

Beckman: “Get Inclusive is, as you can imagine by its namesake, this organization that was started in the spirit of expressing and sharing and promoting messages that are essentially pro-diversity and are really about proliferating the merits of inclusion. What we're currently working on is essentially a set of training initiatives that are squarely aligned with that mission. The sexual harassment and discrimination prevention program that we're working on called Groundswell is something that we've already launched into the world, but we're actually expanding it and will continue to evolve it as customer needs change or as customer needs are actually being discovered.”

“We recently completed a course for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a program that is designed to prepare employees to provide people with disabilities with accommodations to be able to do their jobs. One of the reasons why the ADA training is incredibly important to us is that the problems associated with the community of people with disabilities and employment are massive, and they're actually psychologically based. So this is a great opportunity for us to release into the world attitudes and perspectives that will hopefully help to not just prepare people who are in a position to have to provide the framework for providing people with disabilities an accommodation, but also hopefully convince that individual and other individuals in the workplace that being an organization and being an individual that is, in fact, not hostile towards people with disabilities working in their in their workplaces, which that's the way it is right now. It's an opportunity for us to hopefully help address the stigma associated with providing an accommodation for them to do their work.”

Poole: “The ADA training is very importantly filtered through the lens of disability diversity. Disability as a diversity subject is an important one to consider and often one that is forgotten. Other types of diversity are celebrated or can be celebrated, but it seems, in certain spaces, that disability is not one of them, it’s not included in the initial inventory space of diversity. That's absolutely something that we wanted to address and speak to. And so it's not only a course about accommodation (it's certainly a course about accommodation), but it is one that is looking at disability as a diversity issue as well.”

Get Inclusive is also working on refresher courses for their Title IX and bystander intervention programs for higher education.

Beckman: “We're creating refresher content that is a follow up training for, say, subsequent years for faculty and staff who took training on Title IX and for students who have taken our product called Voices for Change, which is the Campus Save/Title IX training that students and incoming freshmen students take. We're currently engaged in the creation of this ongoing training effort.”

“Also, there is a goal for us to develop training topics on in other areas for students; specifically, that is expanding to specialized training perhaps for Greek life and for student leadership and possibly some others. Essentially population-specific, targeted education in the same subject area. That is an area of enhancement that we're hoping to develop.”

Question: What drives your enthusiasm and your interest in this line of work? Why is it important to you?

Poole: “For me, the challenge and the joy has everything to do with wanting to contribute. Not just ‘doing my part,’ but being able to contribute to workplace culture or campus community culture or an individual's ability to tap into their own power and to use that power to … make the world a better place. It's this exciting space where we can take really big problems and break them down to individual-level contribution to sort of mitigate the impact of those things. So if we're talking about sexism and racism and these great big topics that are hard to solve on a global scale, they are possible to address on a one-to-one or one-to-10 or one-to-20 or whatever it is...that being that little drop in the ocean is still a drop in the ocean.”

“For me, the passion comes out of the notion that change is absolutely possible and to remind people that individual actions and individual efforts do make a huge difference in the world, and the more people who believe that the better. If one person reads one page in one training and that alters their path or alters how they respond to the person walking through the door, that's a huge thing for me. Being able to contribute to culture change and to the way people think about their place in the world is really what keeps me going.”

Beckman: “I want to be able to see myself as an instrument for good in the world, and I'm hoping that that's what I'm able to actually fulfill here working at Get Inclusive on the subjects that we're working on.”

“I’m astounded by how astounded I sometimes am by little ‘aha!’ moments I have. Those ‘aha’ moments have led to incredible insights that have changed how I see the world and how I see myself in it. And if I’m not being delusional in thinking that there’s a possibility that we might actually provide these kinds of ‘aha’ moments, whether they’re minor or they’re major … I want to be able to do that. I believe that in doing so, that’s the way in which we possibly do have the ability to make a difference in the world in this doing good sort of sense.”

“I also love and, to be quite honest — I’m often intimidated by just the massive scale that is the multitude of considerations that we have to incorporate to do what we do. That in and of itself is actually compelling. I’m compelled by the nature of the challenge that is producing an actual commercial experience for organizations who don’t necessarily want to spend the money on what we make, for people who have not asked for it, is in fact part of the challenge that is compelling to me."

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