In the wake of the Fall 2017 student protest, a First-Year Council was created, constituted by:

  • the leaders of each of the three programs: Jane Pierce Saulnier and Heather May (CC100), Steve Himmer (First-Year Writing Program), and Amy Ansell (IN-FYS),
  • the relevant Chairs: Greg Payne (Communication Studies), Maria Koundoura (Writing, Literature and Publishing), and
  • Deans Robert Sabal and Raul Reis.

The Council convened throughout Academic Year 2017–18 and Fall 2018 to discuss ways of strengthening diversity and inclusion content in each Program.

Last Update: November 16, 2018

Institute First-Year Seminar Program

In May 2018, Institute faculty approved a revision of the FYS Program curricular goals and students learning outcomes so that inclusive excellence is integral. These were further refined and approved by faculty in October 2018.

New Goals

  • Students will engage with different schools of thought and bring them to bear on the world of ideas, inclusive of contestation between dominant and marginal perspectives;
  • Students will develop competencies in critical thinking, analytic reasoning, and textual comprehension about power structures, social action, and cultural diversity from an interdisciplinary perspective;
  • Students will exercise their ability to form a position and defend it with evidence; to communicate and express their ideas; and to consider divergent perspectives.

New SLOs

  • Demonstrate a disposition to question, explore, and inquire;
  • Communicate clearly in written, oral and visual presentations and in interpersonal interactions;
  • Identify, evaluate, and use evidence in discussion, exploration, and analysis;
  • Exhibit an awareness of the importance of context and opposing perspectives in the analysis of issues and the construction of arguments.
  • Demonstrate engaged learning skills such as self-direction, time management, and adaptation in response to challenge and feedback.

During Fall 2018, faculty who teach First-Year Seminars will meet with Dean Amy Ansell during the semester to review syllabi (topic/description, readings, assignments, etc.) for preliminary assessment of whether or not they meet the new goals and learning outcomes. Based on these conversations, the faculty member will have an opportunity to revise the syllabus to strengthen alignment with the new goals and outcomes. The deadline for submission is February 1, 2019. Syllabi will then be reviewed for final approval by the LAC curriculum committee in Februar–March, 2019.

Initial review of topics suggests the following examples of FYS topics to be retained and strengthened further vis-à-vis diversity and inclusion:

  • Cultural Constructions of Identity,
  • Post-Racial America?,
  • Power and Privilege,
  • Making Monsters, and
  • Culture, the Arts, and Social Change.

In sum, prior to Fall 2017, less than half the FYS topics were linked in any explicit way to diversity and inclusion. By Summer 2019, a reduced number of FYS topics will be offered to incoming students and each of them will have been approved by faculty as meeting the new goals and outcomes that place inclusive excellence as a center-point.

Writing, Literature and Publishing First-Year Writing Program (WLP FYWP)

In November 2017, FYWP faculty revised Student Learning Objectives for both required first-year courses, WR101 and WR121, to more accurately reflect the program’s commitment to diversity and inclusion at the core of our curriculum. These revisions were incorporated into syllabi for sections of both courses in Spring 2018 and Fall 2018. Refinements were also made to WR600: Teaching College Composition, a graduate seminar required for all WLP graduate students before they apply to teach.

Revised WR 101 Learning Objectives

Emerson's strategic learning objectives state that our graduates should be ready to create, communicate, collaborate, critically think, and civically engage. In alignment with those SLOs, by the end of the semester you will be able to:

  • Understand the principle of discourse variation by examining how different forms of the essay—academic, literary, popular—enable writers to create authorial stances, position themselves in relation to texts, readers, and the wider culture, and come to terms with significant issues through analysis and interpretation.
  • Work with a range of texts to understand how writers negotiate linguistic, cultural, and political differences in a society divided along the lines of class, race, gender, sexuality, language, nationality, and so on. Understand the writer's responsibility to participate in conversations about diversity and to hold themselves accountable for their position and how it influences the conversation. (Previously: Work with a range of texts, media, and cultural practices to develop writing projects that identify and come to terms with significant issues through analysis and interpretation.)
  • Identify and work with rhetorical strategies that are typical of the reasoning in academic and intellectual writing, such as putting issues in context, stating propositions, giving reasons, evaluating evidence, justifying assumptions, negotiating differences, and pointing out implications.
  • Recognize that writing is a process by learning to write peer reviews that offer useful suggestions for other students' work in progress and to design effective revision strategies by reflecting critically on work in progress.

Revised WR121 Learning Objectives

Emerson's strategic learning objectives state that our graduates should be ready to create, communicate, collaborate, critically think, and civically engage. In alignment with those SLOs and WR101's commitment to conversations about diversity and an emphasis on negotiating cultural, linguistic, and political differences, by the end of the semester you will be able to:

  • Analyze rhetorical situations in order to identify the type of research needed to establish credibility and the genre best suited to the writer’s aims and the outcome of the research.
  • Analyze research findings in order to determine what discourses are dominant and what voices are marginalized or missing from the conversation. (Previously: Identify the type of research called for in different writing projects and use research to establish your credibility as a writer.)
  • Enhance your repertoire of genres of writing and your rhetorical awareness of the affordances of different genres, as well as use this genre knowledge when you encounter new and unfamiliar writing situations.
  • Develop flexibility as a writer, to understand how writers use research, choose genres, and invent rhetorical stances in academic contexts and in the public sphere.

Since Fall 2017, FYWP has created and curated new teaching materials for instructors of WR101, with particular emphasis on scaffolding core readings and assignments to avoid a sense of diversity and inclusion being engaged in isolation rather than holistically. Hundreds of tagged, sortable texts and examples are now available to 50+ sections of WR101 offering specifically useful materials to complement primary course texts and to bolster discussion. Of particular note, graduate instructor Zoë Gadegbeku used the support of a Service Learning Innovation Grant to curate a curriculum resource titled, “This Feminism Is Vast: A Black Feminist Writing Classroom.” This includes readings, classroom exercises, and other materials all instructors can now draw from to deepen engagement by extending conversations and to supplement core texts sometimes perceived as isolated.

In WR600, a required course for WLP graduate students who wish to teach WR101/WR121, we have increased our emphasis on the diversity and inclusion goals of the FYWP curriculum, with heightened attention to and practice of how these goals can be achieved in assignment sequence design and syllabus planning. New graduate instructor orientation for 2018–19 and the weekly teaching practicum for first-time instructors have focused on preparing faculty to moderate challenging classroom conversations in effective and inclusive ways. We also held a workshop on this topic for returning faculty at our Spring 2018 program meeting.

Efforts continue toward teaching the evaluation of research sources to include assessment of the diversity of sources, authors, and represented voices. We are in the planning stages of a review of student performance of the research essay in WR121, which will include attention to diversity and representation. Also, examples and teaching materials are being prepared for use in 50+ Spring 2019 sections of WR121, and we are working with instructional librarians to revise and refine the library workshop included in the course (and that new workshop model was piloted for instructors on November 13, 2018).

Communication Studies CC100 Oral Communication

In the Spring 2018, members of the CC100 faculty met with members of the administration and student leaders of Emerson Power. It was agreed that CC100 would take immediate and meaningful steps to better integrate Cultural Competency, both within its curriculum and in the instruction of that curriculum. Faculty adopted a three-tiered approach:

  1. Adding evaluative criteria that speaks specifically to cultural competency;
  2. Emphasizing the cultural considerations that must be acknowledged and addressed in a speaking situation; and
  3. Providing training to all CC100 instructors around Inclusive Excellence, best practices in culturally competent teaching, and managing micro-aggressions in the classroom.

As of November 2018, CC100 has made significant progress in all three areas:

1. Evaluating and updating the CC100's learning objectives to include the following SLO

Change: “Students will be able to understand and adapt messages to diverse audiences considering factors such as race; gender; ethnicity; religion; economic' social; geography; language; age; health disparities; disabilities and family circumstances."

2. Emphasizing the cultural considerations that must be acknowledged and addressed in a speaking situation

Change: CC100 has paired with the library to help integrate the ideas around Inclusive Excellence and culturally competent research into student speeches. The library will address how students can best find sources that go well beyond “google”, in an effort to locate sources that provide a better understanding of how an issue/topic/solution might affect people of different races, cultures, and/or marginalized groups. In particular, students will explore the idea of “constructed authority”, how a source comes to be considered authoritative, and who makes these decisions. This is an ongoing endeavor being piloted this Fall in all CC100 classrooms.

3. Providing training to all CC100 instructors around Inclusive Excellence, best practices in culturally competent teaching, and managing micro-aggressions in the classroom

Change: At the CC100 retreat August 29, 2018 Sr. Lecturer Heather May lead a training for the CC100 faculty explaining the role of cultural competency and inclusive excellence in the curriculum and the classroom. This included topics such as: how to identify and grade the new Inclusive Excellence based criteria, generating ideas for creatively integrating these concepts into lectures and activities, a thorough discussion about micro-aggressions in the classroom, what they are, how to handle them when they arise, and some ideas on how to have difficult conversations in areas related to race and culture in the classroom when necessary. These were accompanied by easily implementable guidelines for classroom management in these areas.

To further help the CC100 faculty bring more diverse and inclusive examples into their lectures and activities we have added information to the CC100 Faculty Knowledge Base on Canvas. This includes extra readings, for both faculty and students, a plethora of diverse speech examples from which to choose for analysis, as well as new activities centered on exploring cultural bias in Public Speaking.


In summary, CC100 has made significant strides towards the implementation of new ideas, information, and instruction centered on Inclusive Excellence and Cultural Competency. We’ve adopted new readings for both instructors and students on the need for culturally competent speeches, assigned a new textbook (Speech Craft, by Joshua Gunn, 2018) with chapters that focus on both inclusive excellence and speaking for social justice, added culturally relevant evaluative criteria for each of the major speaking assignments, created a new partnership with the library on culturally competent research and have initiated training on Inclusive Excellence for all faculty.  

Of course, we fully realize that this work is not done. As with all shifts in community norms, changing the culture and integrating new concepts into the CC100 curriculum is sure to be an ongoing process both in CC100 and at Emerson College. Therefore, we expect to continually review and revise these changes and others over the next few semesters to better understand what our students and our instructors need to achieve Inclusive Excellence.