New Programs Equip University Leaders to Build Culture of Belonging

Category: Features

by Tyra Haag

For the past eight months, the UT Knoxville’s Human Resources, in collaboration with the Office of Diversity and Engagement, has conducted two new diversity programs for leaders, both employing a new assessment tool.

“We want to equip the university’s leaders—both existing and developing—with the competencies and thoughtfulness to build an atmosphere of respect and belonging across campus,” said Tyvi Small, vice chancellor of diversity and engagement. “The new Intercultural Development Inventory assessment tool contributes to the depth of these new initiatives.”

Mary Lucal, associate vice chancellor for human resources, said, “We heard loud and clear that the campus wanted more leadership development and diversity education. These programs contribute to serving that need and to supporting inclusive leadership on campus.”

The first new program, the Inclusive Leadership Academy, seeks to embody UT’s mission, vision and values while reinforcing the leadership behaviors that are essential for advancing diversity and inclusion.

Academy workshops—six two-hour courses during a semester—provide thoughtful and intentional learning experiences designed to equip leaders with the content knowledge, leadership behaviors and support to effectively lead a diverse workforce and create a culture of inclusion. HR began offering the program in fall 2019.

The academy uses the Intercultural Development Inventory tool to assess participants’ existing intercultural competence. Intercultural competence is the capability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities, a critical skill to managers in a complex and diverse institution such as a university.

The assessment tool helps to ensure that the cohort sessions are adapted to meet participating group’s competency level. The academy includes readings, video reviews, reflection assignments and panels. Participants are expected to make a commitment to attend all sessions and complete all work.

UT knoxville Diversity group: Seated left to right: Thura Mack, Lauren Wood, Andrea Joseph, JaNay Turner, Jada Russell. Standing left to right: Izetta Slade, Peter Fernandez, Javiette Samuel, Lisa Muller, Linda Smith, Sharon Couch, Nick Meanza, Brad Morgan, Alica Shamblin, Kristin Tocci, Jeannie Jones Tennant, Will Ploskonka. Not pictured: Caroline Wienhold, Jamie Baalis Coble, Demetria Mells, Melissa Brown

UConnecT is a yearlong immersive inclusive leadership and professional development program for highly motivated nonexempt staff. Selected through a cohort application process, the group embarks on a carefully constructed learning experience. With the participation of senior leadership, attendees learn about the complexity of higher education structures and practical leadership growth strategies during monthly meetings.

The 20-member cohort represents a wide variety of departments and roles. Each member organizes and undertakes a leadership role in a project within his or her department or unit to positively impact their area’s work.

The first UConnecT cohort will conclude in May, with a new group set to begin the program in August.