Special Assistant for Inclusive Excellence Barb Lundberg
Special Assistant for Inclusive Excellence Barb Lundberg
Northland College is conducting a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Sense of Belonging (DEIS) Climate Study to get a current pulse of campus and the experiences different populations have. This will be a qualitative study, and Northland has partnered with an expert in climate studies—Rankin Climate—to conduct focus groups and analyze themes from them.
Climate Study Timeline
The DEIS Climate Study will include four primary phases. The first involves planning and developing focus groups, followed by conducting focus groups on March 20, 2023, data analysis, and presenting of findings towards the beginning of the 2023 academic year.
The DEIS Climate Study will involve conducting focus groups around affinity identities. The focus groups will be conducted on Monday, March 20, 2023. Northland’s partner for the DEIS Climate Study, Rankin Climate, will bring outside facilitators to campus to conduct them. Refreshments will be available for participants.
Focus groups are open to students, faculty, staff, and employees in dining, maintenance/facilities, and security.
People may only participate in one focus group. Many people will find that they fit into more than one of the groups, and we recognize that it may be difficult to pick just one. However, it is important to ensure that the findings are representative of the overall campus to ensure that they are valid. The questions the facilitators will ask are the same for each group, and while each focuses on a particular population or identity, participants are not restricted to talking only about that identity. When you complete the Focus Group Interest Form, you will be able to choose multiple groups and rank your preferences.
Focus group participation is confidential. Only one person will be able to view form responses. Paula Bonk, executive assistant to the vice president for academic affairs, will receive them and assign participants to groups based on availability and how each person ranked the groups when they signed up. She is the only person with any access to the form—Rankin Climate does not have access, and entries are not viewable by any other department.
You’re only committing to ninety minutes. There are no other expectations of participants aside from attending one ninety-minute session on Monday, March 20.
You will learn your group’s meeting time in a follow-up email to confirm your availability. To maintain confidentiality, the focus group schedule will not be shared. After completing the interest form, you will receive a follow-up email inviting you to participate in one of the groups you selected. That email will indicate the meeting time and ask you to confirm that that time works for you. If it does not, you may be invited to participate in a different focus group if another group you selected on the interest form meets at a different time and has not filled yet.
Dr. Susan Rankin of Rankin Climate, which is serving as the outside consultant for Northland College’s DEIS Climate Study, defines campus climate as “the current attitudes, behaviors, standards, and practices of employees and students of an institution.” The climate is often shaped through experiences, perceptions, and institutional efforts.
Dr. Rankin’s research maintains that positive personal experiences with campus climate and positive perceptions of campus climate generally equate to successful outcomes. Examples of successful outcomes include positive educational experiences and healthy identity development for students, productivity and sense of value for faculty and staff, and overall well-being for all.
The DEIS Charge issued by the College’s Board of Trustees called for conducting a study. In addition, it’s imperative to assess the current environment to inform where improvements can be made.
The DEIS Task Force’s Climate Working Group was charged with spearheading Northland College’s DEIS Climate Study. After a review of potential vendors, the institution selected Rankin Climate to conduct the climate project. Rankin Climate reports directly to the Climate Work Group.
Dr. Susan Rankin (Rankin Climate) is the consultant overseeing this project. Dr. Rankin is an emeritus faculty member of Education Policy Studies and College Student Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University and a senior research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. She has extensive experience in institutional climate assessment and institutional climate transformation based on data-driven action and strategic planning. Dr. Rankin has conducted multi-location institutional climate studies at more than two hundred institutions across the country. She developed and utilizes the Transformational Tapestry model as a research design for campus climate studies. The model is a “comprehensive, five-phase strategic model of assessment, planning and intervention. The model is designed to assist campus communities in conducting inclusive assessments of their institutional climate to better understand the challenges facing their respective communities.” (Rankin & Reason, 2008).
In reviewing efforts by other universities to conduct comprehensive climate studies, the Climate Work Group identified several best practices. One was the need for external expertise in this type of project administration. A project of this type, relating to a very sensitive subject like campus climate, is likely to yield better results and provide more credible findings if led by an independent, outside partner. Some members of a college community may feel particularly unable to respond honestly to a project administered by their own institution for fear of retaliation.
The consultant will present the project findings to the campus community at the begging of the fall 2023 term.
Your questions and comments are very important as we move through this process. You can share questions or feedback any time by contacting the special assistant for inclusive excellence.