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A Dialogical Change Process for Strategic Planning to Diversify Academic Departments
Jim Nolan, Jennifer Kasi Jackson, Melissa Latimer, Leslie Tower, Awilda Borres

Last modified: 2012-06-07


The described intervention engages academic departments in a dialogical change process that promotes collective engagement in institutional transformation and the achievement of gender-equity and diversity goals. It links departmental and university strategic planning to attain “purposeful development of a workplace/organizational climate” to “encourage people to contribute to success and retention”.

We introduced, facilitated, and assessed a dialogical process for organizational change in university departments. The dialogical process promotes the development of interdependence and collective efficacy. Our objective is to positively impact department climate to enhance the retention of women faculty. Departmental climate, particularly interactions with colleagues, remains an area wherein women continue to feel excluded. To secure senior leadership and faculty buy-in, we linked the process to the university-wide strategic planning process. We will eventually target sixteen STEM departments at a rate of four per year; this panel will present preliminary results from the first four departments. In addition, we developed a consensus measure to compare climate survey results across departments. West Virginia University’s Vision 2020 contains 19 strategic action steps, three of which relate to diversity; these became the starting point. Prior to the first departmental meetings, we asked faculty members, via an e-survey, to select one of the three diversity- related action steps and two additional Vision 2020 action steps which were most relevant to their departmental strategic planning. At our first meeting the faculty reached consensus on three actions steps to focus on for the remainder of the semester. The remaining three to four meetings were comprised of activities to generate ideas and compile them into a strategic planning document with goals, actions, strategies, targets, leadership and dates. Working in collaboration with the Provost’s Office, the Office of Strategic Planning and the Arts & Sciences and Engineering Deans’ Offices, the team developed an accountability structure, which includes funding for departments to implement aspects of their plans. This panel will consist of a series of five short presentations, followed by a 20 minute question and answer period.

  • Jim Nolan, Associate Professor, Sociology, “Dialogical Change Processes in Academia”
  • J. Kasi Jackson, Associate Professor, Women’s Studies, “Implementing Change in STEM Departments”
  • Leslie Tower, Associate Professor, Social Work and Public Administration, “Survey Development and Implementation”
  • Melissa Latimer, Director, WVU ADVANCE Center, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, “Leadership and Accountability”
  • Awilda Maria Borres, Organizational Development and Executive Coaching, Ventura LTD, “Strategic Planning and Coaching Change Architects in Academia”

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