By Morgan McCormack – [email protected]
CSB/SJU each received a $100,000 grant in 2015 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of faculty formation and supporting the liberal arts learning.
Both grants are looking to improve the experience for American students of color on the campuses.

The CSB grant focuses on the professional development for humanities faculty and addressing successful teaching, advising and the engaging of both CSB and SJU’s diverse student body. Jean Keller, CSB/SJU professor of philosophy and gender studies, oversees the operation of the CSB program.
The SJU grant provides professional development for all faculty who teach First-Year Seminar. The grant focuses on
addressing classroom experiences, navigating the available resources on campus and skill development of CSB/SJU students. Kyhl Lyndgaard, director of First-Year Seminar and the CSB/SJU Writing Center, oversees the operation of the SJU program.
The grants are also conducted in partnership with Phil Kramer, director of Academic Review and Curricular Advancement, and the external assessment team headed by Dr. Rodolfo Rincones, professor at the University of Texas, El Paso.
Over the last two years Keller, Lyndgaard and their team have been working with and training the FYS and humanities professors at CSB/SJU to create inclusive classrooms that allow students to have equal chances of success.
Before any of the grant activities began in March 2016, researchers administered the first survey. It was used to gather understanding of how CSB/SJU’s American students of color were being represented in the classrooms, what professors were doing and what changes needed to be made in the classroom.
The survey was created specifically for CSB/SJU by Rincones and his team. The surveys were then distributed to three different focus groups on campus: faculty, white students and American students of color.
Shortly after spring break, and only weeks after student protests erupted on campus after several Johnnies chanted “build that wall” on the Link, a second climate survey was administered to the focus groups to gauge any improvement.
“We’re still learning,” Lyndgaard said. “We got really interesting data already from that first year. Basically, showing that indeed students do have uneven experiences. Students of color do have a different experience in the classroom, and just in student life in general. We also saw some places where faculty needed to improve.”
Rincones and his team are still working on the final reports of the second survey, which they will present to Lyndgaard and Keller in late May.
“It’s still early in the process, but we did see some noticeable obvious shifts already. Some of it was the classroom experience actually has improved in this one year,” Lyndgaard said. “We’ve seen some results suggesting we’re on the right track, but we’ve also seen overall the situation hasn’t improved. Students’ experience of college isn’t just what they do in an eighty-minute class, it’s what it’s like between classes, in the dorms and on the weekends.”
With this knowledge humanities and FYS faculty have continued to revise their classes to be more inclusive. This has included running discussions differently to ensure that the classroom is a safe and open environment for all.
“We’ve been offering training for faculty to learn how to facilitate conversations that they may have [avoided] in the past, because they were nervous about hurt feelings and about people getting upset by the topic,” Lyndgaard said.
The grant team has also discussed changing the reading material for courses.
“We’ve talked a little bit about diversifying the reading list of courses so that students from a variety of backgrounds can look at the variety of required readings and see themselves reflected in that,” Lyndgaard said.
In the next few months Lyndgaard and Keller hope to extend their training to all CSB/SJU faculty. On May 25, they will be have their first workshop open to all faculty.
“The things that make a class more inclusive for the students of color make it more inclusive for all students. These are our best practices for teaching, and if you’re teaching in this manner it’s going to improve things for all the students in class.”