Incorporating Diversity into Course Content

Effectively diversifying course content includes incorporating a diverse set of identities, countries, and industries, and doing so in a way that avoids tokenizing or relying on stereotypes. This can be done by inviting guest speakers from diverse backgrounds and nationalities, ensuring that the examples used to introduce or explain a new concept do not inadvertently reinforce stereotypes, and selecting case studies that feature a broad spectrum of protagonists and contexts.

Course content becomes more meaningful when students feel connected to guest speakers, examples, and case studies featured in your course. For example, bringing in diverse leadership examples that range in gender, race, or ethnicity and include members of the LGBTQ+ community reminds students that success comes in many forms. Selecting case studies that highlight a concept’s application in a variety of industries or countries emphasizes the importance of exposure to a diversity of contexts and environments. Engaging with diverse content also helps students develop skills to promote diversity in their future leadership roles and to question stereotypes and biases that may emerge.

Diversifying content aligns with the GSB Action Plan for Racial Equity, as part of our commitment to inclusion and belonging as well as empowering students to make change beyond the GSB.

Intentionally Diversify your Teaching Content

  • Seek opportunities to supplement your course content with examples representing people of diverse backgrounds. Assistant Professor of Operations, Information & Technology Jann Spiess has approached this by highlighting the contributions of women and underrepresented minorities to the field of statistics. He also leverages the fact that he teaches in the winter quarter, a time he can highlight Black History Month in February and International Women’s Day on March 8. Jann explains:

I’m basically just taking a few minutes to tell my students about the impressive life stories [of contributors to the field] and what it shows about both the challenges and the accomplishments that in this case, specifically, African American research efforts have faced in the 20th century.

  • Include course readings, cases, and examples that consider diverse perspectives, such as materials written or researched by authors from diverse backgrounds or case studies with diverse protagonists. When certain perspectives are systematically underrepresented or absent, be upfront and invite students to consider why this is the case.
  • Leverage diversity in the classroom by asking students to share their experiences with course topics. Associate Professor of Marketing Szu-chi Huang does so by inviting students to meetings outside of class and encourages students to share their insights on particular topics. Szu-chi explains:

It is very important to build one-on-one relationships with my students. Usually, those are the contexts where difficult topics come up… That helped me realize that there are many stories or experiences [that are important to] bring to the class and give them a voice, especially those underrepresented students.

  • Evaluate the presentation of material to avoid tokenizing marginalized experiences or reinforcing stereotypes. When choosing examples and texts for your course, consider questions such as: what gender or race is being represented in leadership roles, consumers of specific products, or those in disadvantaged situations such as poverty? If an assigned text or resource includes problematic examples or stereotypes, be transparent about these shortcomings with students and explain why the example is relevant from a pedagogical standpoint. See Writing Content Notices for further guidance on alerting your students to potential problematic material in course content.
  • Be authentic and open, acknowledging you may not be an expert, and that you are willing to learn. Here is what Jann Spiess has said about this:

I struggled a bit with how I should even go about talking about these topics, especially as somebody who is white, who is a man, and whose native language isn’t English. I never quite know which terms to use and how to use them. In the beginning, I shied away from having any discussions, but I decided it is too important to not do it. I try to be authentic about it even if I don’t have the right words.

Watch Jann Spiess’s Faculty Showcase presentation about how he diversifies his statistics course content.

Bring in Guest Speakers with Diverse Perspectives

Inviting guest speakers from many different backgrounds introduces diverse perspectives and demonstrates that success comes in all forms.

  • Bring in founders of diverse backgrounds as guest speakers. The industry leaders students meet in their courses implicitly communicate what success can look like. When guest speakers come from diverse backgrounds, students of underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to see themselves in those leaders. This also opens up opportunities for all students to see how success can be represented through diverse leaders.

Student Quote: It’s good to have the big CEOs be people who look like us a bit more. I think it’s kind of frustrating when we don’t see people from diverse backgrounds because it sends a message that maybe we don’t have the right look to be in one of these positions.

  • Increase the pool of guests with diverse backgrounds by mixing in remote visits via Zoom. Students are open to connecting with guests in-person and virtually, so geography doesn’t need to limit inviting a remote

Student Quote: Instructors do a great job of facilitating, so I think we can still have really great discussions over Zoom.

  • Bring in international perspectives. GSB students will go on to work in global contexts and hearing from international speakers helps set them up for success. Additionally, this may offer an opportunity for international students to identify with speakers and connect with guests in their home regions. If time zones aren’t well aligned with the class, students find value in small groups joining a Zoom call, then sharing the recording with the class later.
  • Invite student feedback on guests’ content after each session to discover what’s working and what may still be missing from the student experience. Some available tools for collecting feedback with options for collecting submissions anonymously are Poll Everywhere, Google Forms, Qualtrics, and Canvas surveys.

Communicate with Guest Speakers about DEI in Your Classroom

Making sure experiences with guest speakers are inclusive and welcoming will help maximize the impact of including guests in your course. Ensuring students have equitable opportunities to connect with guest speakers will give more students the opportunity to learn from and network with these leaders, especially those who may not share the speaker’s identity or may not perceive themselves as having an “in” with the guest.

  • Share with guests the strategies you use to be inclusive during discussions so that they can do the same during the Q&A portion of their visit. For example, you might offer to continue to have your CA/TA (if you have one) monitor questions to ensure everyone gets an opportunity, or suggest a strategy of waiting for 2-3 students to raise their hands and then beginning with the last person to raise their hand. It may also be helpful to simply state that it can be easy to miss calling on students who sit on the sides or toward the back. Also, share with guests why you care that they are inclusive when they call on students.

For example: “I’m very conscious of fostering an inclusive atmosphere in the room, and this year I’ve been explicitly asking guest speakers to please try to be consciously inclusive in choosing from whom they take questions, to make sure that students from different backgrounds (gender, race, program of study, etc.) are all called on equally.”

  • Plan Q&A strategies ahead of time if your guest is joining via Zoom to an in-person class because it may be difficult for them to see individual students and students sitting on the sides of the room. For example, you or your CA/TA can call on students on behalf of the guest, or you may ask students to populate a Google sheet or a PollEverywhere channel that is shared with the speaker.
  • Work with your guest speakers to create open and inclusive opportunities for students to connect and network with them. Students who don’t share the speaker’s personal or business background may not feel comfortable breaking the ice. You might suggest drop-in lunches open to all students in your class to attend.
  • While you’re planning your guest’s visit, invite them to openly share with your students any unique challenges they may have faced on their professional journey. Invite guests to share anything that can inspire students who may have similar experiences or identities: a first-generation college student, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a refugee, an expat, etc.

Additional Resources