The ASPIRE Racial Equity and Inclusion Speaker Series continued in August with a workshop led by Dr. Liza Talusan, faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she teaches in both the Masters and Doctoral programs in Education. Dr. Talusan’s presentation on The Identity-Conscious Educator: Building Habits and Skills for More Inclusive Schools explored what an identity-conscious practice is, why it matters, and how to create action that builds more inclusive communities.
Dr. Talusan’s workshop was inviting, centered empathy, and prioritized actionable and attainable steps that participants could take to create a more inclusive, equitable, and just community at their institutions and organizations. The workshop then coached participants on how they can build knowledge, engage in reflection, and ultimately move to action to create more equitable environments. The workshop also demonstrated how to use critical check-ins that could be used in classrooms, or other group environments, to identify and address individual concerns or obstacles that might be limiting a student or participant’s ability to engage and be fully present in a conversation.
The workshop emphasized that having conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, can foster a spirit of curiosity and collaboration within a community, and encourage compassion and critical thinking. Participants were then asked to reflect on their identities and experiences as well as their proximity to the identities and experiences of others. Through mapping proximal relationships to various experiences and identifiers, participants were able to reflect and walk away from the presentation with an awareness of their own blind spots that would inform their decision- making responsibilities in their classrooms and at their institutions. One participant shared that this helped them “think about the populations who I may be overlooking while I lead my staff in meetings and trainings.”
Dr. Liza Talusan is an educator, strategic change partner, leader, writer, leadership coach, with over 25 years of experience in PreK-20 education and organizational leadership. Dr. Talusan has been invited to more than 350 organizations across the country to deliver keynote addresses, and facilitate training workshops, strategic planning, and change management. Dr. Talusan earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Child Development from Connecticut College; Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from New York University; Ph.D. in Higher Education from University of Massachusetts Boston; Certificate in Human Resources, Stonehill College; and PCC Coaching Credentials. Dr. Talusan’s research interests include identity-conscious practices; the experiences of underrepresented populations; Asian American and Pacific Islander students; socialization to graduate programs; navigating academic parenthood; interracial relationships; recognizing and reducing unconscious bias; and the impact of federal financial aid policies. Dr. Talusan serves as a faculty member in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she teaches in both the Masters and Doctoral programs. Her recent book, The Identity Conscious Educator: Building habits and skills for more inclusive schools, was published by Solution Tree Press in 2022 and earned a Gold Medal from the IPPY Awards in 2023. Learn more about Dr. Talusan’s work here!
The creation of the Accelerating Student Progress and Increasing Racial Equity (ASPIRE) project was in response to the Developmental Education Reform Act (DERA) which aims to address inequities in college completion among students of color and first-generation students. Passed in March 2021, the act requires public colleges in Illinois to reform their developmental education (dev ed) programs — the introductory math and English classes students may need to improve their skills, before they can take a college-level math or English class — so that students can enter a credit-bearing, college-level math or English course by their second semester.
To read our refresher on the ASPIRE Project, click here.