Cooking Up Community

December Potluck, photo by Jeff Ginger

There are lots of ways to foster inclusiveness, from mentoring to brownbag discussions, from one-on-one advising to implementing a student’s suggestion for a new approach, from listening carefully to helping to edit a research statement. Some of us at the Center for Digital Inclusion are mentors of Illinois Promise students, students from low-income backgrounds who would not otherwise be able to afford to attend the University of Illinois. Many of these undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college. They bring a myriad of talents and skills to campus, while also being somewhat unfamiliar with the jargon, traditions and behavior patterns of a college setting. CDI staff, along with many other resourceful people on campus, work to offer support, safe space, understanding, and referrals and connections. Ongoing interactions to learn about each others’ experiences are crucial for all of us involved in education. Mentors and mentees meet at museums, in coffee shops, at concerts, as well as go on walks together or share an afternoon at a nearby park. Often, there is food involved!

Over lunch every other week, a group of us meets for the Inclusions and Exclusions Reading Group. This fall we discussed a variety of readings as well as learning from guest speakers distributed along the East Coast who spoke about White Screen/White Noise: Racism on the Internet. The audio of that panel, first presented at the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, is here. We also met with Virginia Eubanks and Christine Nealon when they were in town in September to give lectures and offer a workshop on popular technology. Susan Gershenfeld, director of the Illinois Promise program, talked with us about mentoring as well.

The Task Force on Inclusion has met regularly this fall, exploring ways to make online classes more inclusive, successfully submitting a poster on those efforts to the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE), and working on language to include on syllabi and websites that defines and affirms our commitments to inclusion.  We will continue to meet, identifying better or new ways to transform institutional culture to provide multiple ways for people to become their best selves.

And sometimes we have potlucks! The food, conversation and conviviality are always plentiful and enjoyable!

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