Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The Department of English at the University of Minnesota is committed to the goal of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of departmental operations.

2021-2022 EDI Activities

Numerous action items are underway relating to EDI Committee report recommendations and/or the English department three-year plan (see below):

  • The MFA program in Creative Writing received a second Creating Inclusive Cohorts Training Grant, a rare consecutive year of CIC funding from the Graduate School; the grants, which assist graduate programs in their efforts to increase and sustain student diversity, will allow Creative Writing to admit up to six students for fall 2022 who qualify for the CIC first-year fellowship.
  •  The Department of English staff outreach to BIPOC communities in hiring for 2021-2022 lecturers resulted in increased BIPOC representation among our adjunct instructors.
  • The English department is presenting a 2021-2022 event series responding to increased and continuing violence against Asian Americans. The series began November 15 with a panel on "Asian American Visibility & Science Fiction: Reimagining Visions of the Future" (recording available). Further events in spring semester will focus on AAPI experiences in K-12, writing and activism, and the relationship between anti-Asian American and anti-Black violence.
  • The department's 2020-2021 collaboration with Mixed Blood Theatre to bring diverse actors to English classrooms to perform course texts received new funding to continue and expand the program through 2021-2022 from the Liberal Arts Engagement Hub of the College of Liberal Arts. In addition, Mixed Blood was honored with a CLA Civitas Community Partner Award for the collaboration.
  • English brought in Dr. Jessica Horvath Williams as the President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in English for 2021-2022; she taught the fall class ENGL 3090 “Disability and Nineteenth-Century US Literature." Co-chair of the University’s Critical Disability Studies Collective, Horvath Williams is also helping to oversee the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Workshop “Refusing Disposability: Racial and Disability Justice Toward Another World.”
  • The graduate student workshop series "Virtual Room, Open Door: Conversations on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the English Department" is being continued in 2021-2022 with the goal of promoting a deeper understanding of EDI issues, especially as they intersect with the graduate training of MA, PhD, and MFA students in English. The series began November 29 with a presentation by the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and will resume in spring semester.
  • The department has organized 2021-2022 presentations for all faculty, staff, and instructors through the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) on understanding and effectively teaching Generation Z students.
  • Creative Writing's Edelstein-Keller Visiting Writer series continued its commitment to showcasing Black, Indigenous, and writers of color with fall events featuring authors Terese Marie Mailhot, Kawai Strong Washburn, and Solmaz Sharif. The series continues spring semester with Nafissa Thompson-Spires.

2020-2021 EDI Activities

  • Graduate students, lecturers, and faculty collaborated with Senior Lecturer Eric Daigre to create The Syllabus and Early Weeks: Suggestions and Ideas for Building Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) into Our CoursesA Rough Guide, which was distributed to all instructors before spring semester 2021 and continues to be available as a department teaching resource.
  • The department organized 2020-2021 presentations for all faculty, staff, and instructors on anti-racist pedagogy (through the MLK Advising Program), facilitating challenging classroom conversations (through the Office for Equity & Diversity), and Islamophobia (with CAIR-MN).
  • The department collaborated with the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) & Circle of Indigenous Nations to generate teacher resources to give BIPOC students a great classroom experience.
  • In consultation with department graduate students, the graduate student workshop series "Virtual Room, Open Door: Conversations on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the English Department" was offered in 2020-2021, with the goal of promoting a deeper understanding of EDI issues, especially as they intersect with the graduate training of MA, PhD, and MFA students in English. The workshops focus on issues of race and social justice as related to reading, writing, teaching, academic administration, mentoring, and publication. English faculty and staff also attend, and graduate students from other units are welcome.
  • The MFA program in Creative Writing received permission to admit up to six students for fall 2021 who qualify for the Creating Inclusive Cohorts first-year fellowship.
  • The department was awarded funding to support BIPOC English undergraduates in completing a spring 2021 survey on their needs and perspectives.  
  • In spring 2020 the department approved changes to the undergraduate English major that created a "Diversity" requirement, while combining requirements in “Textual Analysis” and “Language, Theory, and Criticism” into a single course in “Critical Theories and Methods.” The change went into effect fall 2021.
  • The department is following the College of Liberal Arts’ equitization procedures to eliminate sex-based salary disparities, as well as any other disparities that have arisen.
  • Both MFA and PhD graduate programs have eliminated the GRE requirement as a potential barrier to diverse applicants; program applicants are also now required to submit a diversity statement.
  • The 2019-2020 faculty search required applicants to submit a diversity statement. All search committees receive extensive instruction in implicit bias; search chairs and departmental administrators have implicit bias training.
  • An EDI-related book club met in 2019-2020 until the University shut down in March. Titles included Claudia Rankine's Citizen, Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries, and Kali Fajardo-Anstine's Sabrina and Corina.

2019 EDI Report

In the spring of 2019 English Chair Andrew Elfenbein intiated an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. This initial EDI Committee worked over the summer of 2019 to create a comprehensive report of the department's climate, representation, and programming "as a means of creating recommendations to help guide and compose aspects of our department’s three-year plan." The resulting document, "We Are ALL in This: A Report Re: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion," is an extensive overview, noting strengths and weaknesses. The report was presented to the department in fall 2019.

We Are ALL in This: A
Report Re: Equity, Diversity
and Inclusion (PDF)

The committee recommended, and the department approved, that a standing department committee on EDI be established, The EDI Committee is composed of three tenured and two tenure-track faculty, one staff member, one MFA graduate student, one PhD graduate student, and one graduate student alum. The role of the committee is to advise the department about specific actions and changes English can make to forward the goal of improving EDI within the department.

As envisioned, the 2019 report informed the department's three-year plan submitted in spring 2020 to the College of Liberal Arts, which included a list of action items pertaining to consultation and collaboration with other units, improvement of departmental media and communications, training and mentorship, curriculum redesign, support of EDI-related research and creative projects, and dedicated recruitment and hiring of faculty, staff, and students (both graduate and undergraduate).