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Timeline of the Engaged Pluralism Initiative

December 2015: Then-president Catharine Hill and Deans Marianne Begemann and Jon Chenette bring three ideas for possible development into full proposals to a meeting at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation offices in New York. Mellon requests that Vassar develop one of these into a project to create a more inclusive and equitable campus environment that promotes the success of all members of the community. They hope to see something innovative that could become a model for other campuses.

Spring 2016: Dean Chenette invites faculty to share ideas about inclusion and belonging that will contribute to a proposal to the Mellon Foundation.

July 2016: Dean Chenette becomes Interim President. He accelerates work on developing a vision of inclusion for the campus and begins to solicit broader participation in developing a proposal for the Mellon Foundation.

Fall 2016-Winter 2017: As Liaison to the President and Senior Administration for Race and Inclusion, Associate Professor of Anthropology Candice Lowe Swift meets with student leadership in ALANA Center organizations in order to gain a sense of the changes that students would like to see happen on campus. She and Interim President Chenette host dinner discussions that enable students to voice their visions and concerns to senior leadership directly.

February 2017: After consulting with students, faculty, administrators, and the incoming president, Elizabeth Bradley, a final proposal is submitted to the Mellon Foundation.

March 30, 2017: The Engaged Pluralism Initiative (EPI) is announced. (Read the announcement here.)

April 2017: Wendy Maragh Taylor, Director of the ALANA Center, is invited by Candice Lowe Swift and Jon Chenette, to co-chair the initiative.

May 2017: Students, faculty, staff, and administrators are invited to participate in the selection process that results in the hiring of Rankin & Associates as climate assessment partners. An email to the entire campus community invites all campus members to participate EPI-related working groups.

September 13, 2017: President Bradley sends a letter to the Vassar community about the new initiative. (Read the letter here.)

September 14, 2017: In the first EPI World Café, members of the newly-formed working groups assemble to share and generate ideas.

Fall 2017: The EPI working groups begin to meet regularly to craft vision statements and propose pilot projects related to their areas of focus.

October 23, 2017: Facilitators with Rankin & Associates Consulting come to campus to conduct focus groups, as part of the comprehensive Climate Assessment process.

November 9, 2017: Students, staff, faculty, and administrators from across the college gather to generate ideas with the EPI working groups at the second EPI World Café. This World Café also features the exciting work of students in the Fall 2017 Participatory Action Research course (ANTH 382), taught by Candice Lowe Swift and Wendy Maragh Taylor. Students present research projects on Mental Health Education and Outreach at Vassar, Dining Services, and Health Services. In conjunction with the World Café, community members have the chance to record their answers to questions about their Vassar experience in a sound-recording Cube set up on the lawn outside Main Building.

December 7, 2017:Student researchers in the Participatory Action Research course (ANTH 382) present their findings, having worked in groups to investigate the experience of Vassar community members, including Dining Services and Custodial Services employees, as well as students seeking health services on campus. The course, taught by Candice Lowe Swift and Wendy Maragh Taylor, focuses on methods for research on social organizations and on linking research to action.

February 28, 2018: Engaged Pluralism collaborates with the Campus Life and Diversity Office in planning the 18th annual All College Day. In addition to a full day of programming (including a workshop and keynote lecture on "Implicit Bias in the Academy and Workplace" by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University), EPI includes as part of All College Day 2018 an invitation to our community to recognize and appreciate the roles that staff play in our ability to live, study, and work on campus. 

March 28, 2018: In celebration of the Vassar Student Association's sesquicentennial, the President's Office, the VSA, and EPI co-hosts a campus-wide conversation about what it means to be a Global Campus. The event includes a panel discussion moderated by President Elizabeth Bradley with remarks by Ruoyu Li '19, Maya Sudarkasa '18, and professors Himadeep Muppidi, Jodi Schwarz, Lisa Paravisini-Gebert, and Maria Höhn.

April-May 2018: All Vassar community members are encouraged to share their perspectives via the Campus Community Survey.

May 3, 2018: As a follow-up to the workshop and keynote address presented by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity on All College Day in February, EPI hosts a lunch workshop for administrators and faculty about implicit bias. Psychology faculty members Michele Tugade and Abigail Baird present research on implicit bias and the potential uses and limitations of Implicit Association Tests, and attendees brainstorm possible next steps for addressing implicit bias on campus.

May 10, 2018: At the third World Café of the year, EPI working group members present projects they have been working on, and students in the Spring 2018 Community Engaged Research course (Anth 260) present research projects on nightlife at Vassar, the history of Campus Life and Diversity, sexual assault, and rituals at the president's house. President Bradley and other senior administrators in attendance are excited about considering recommendations that students make based on their research. In addition, Vassar community members responding to a call for proposals for new projects that will advance the aims of the initiative have the opportunity to present those projects and solicit new group members to work with them on realizing their ideas.

May 15, 2018: Members from all the EPI working groups meet in the Vassar Farm Barn to share experiences from this year. Consultant David Berg leads the group in a workshop where administrators, faculty members, and students have the chance to reflect in groups on what about the EPI process has worked well, what challenges different constituencies face in participating in the working group process, and what we have learned together from an amazing year of community building and thinking big.

May 18, 2018: After pitching the idea of a The Global Campus and Studies Initiative at the World Café on May 10th, the student organizers of the initiative jump into action, holding a gathering of faculty, students, and administrators from different disciplines, perspectives, and experiences just a week later. The group engages the question “What does it mean to be a global campus?” and the dilemmas that higher education in the US faces as our campuses try to become more "global."

July 2018: Wendy Maragh Taylor is promoted to Associate Dean of Student Growth and Engagement. Sam Speers, along with Wendy, are invited to co-chair. Candice Lowe Swift steps into role of EPI Director.

August 2018: After being proposed at the May 2018 EPI World Café, the Global Campus & Studies Working Group, chaired by Professor Bill Hoynes, launches.

August 28, 2018: Consultant David Berg leads the Coordinating Committee through a half day retreat to reflect on the past year and refocus for the work to come.

September 28-November 6, 2018: Vassar alum and independent filmmaker Jackson Kroopf, ‘10 returns to campus to film underrepresented narratives and practices of engaged pluralism in our campus community, and to share his practices.

October 22-29, 2018: The EPI Capacity Building Working Group, in collaboration with the Carolyn Grant Committee and the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices, holds a Labyrinth Week with programming from longtime activist, Donna Schaper.

October 24, 2018: Rhonda Fitzgerald presents the Sustained Dialogue Institute model for dialogue facilitation and building meaningful engagement around difference and difficult topics. All are invited to attend and to give feedback.

October 26, 2018: The Inclusive Pedagogy and Curriculum Working Group of EPI and the Office of Teaching Development present the first in a year-long workshop series called Partnering Pedagogy, asking the question, “How might we explore the ways pedagogy creates the intellectual and social contexts in which we all cultivate our place at Vassar?” The first workshop focuses on the reimagining of our LTRC (Learning, Teaching, and Research Center), with guests from Amherst College sharing their own work and facilitating exercises.

October 30, 2018: EPI holds a half-day retreat with David Berg to provide administrators with an opportunity to share space, and begin to unpack the perceptions, expectations, and experiences of being an administrator at Vassar.

November 7, 2018: Ira Baumgarten from the National Coalition Building Institute leads the campus community in a workshop sharing a sample of NCBI techniques and practices on dialogue facilitation on college campuses.

November 14, 2018: External consultants, Rankin & Associates, present the findings of the survey conducted in Spring 2018.

December 13, 2018: EPI co-hosts a World Café with the Priorities and Planning (P&P) Review Process introduced by President Bradley. The event includes findings of previous P&P World Cafés, a summary of recent survey results, and an opportunity to gauge community enthusiasm around specific issues and initiatives.

Spring 2019: Throughout the semester, EPI presents a Semester of Storytelling, consisting of events, residencies, and homegrown programs aimed at building new ways of learning about one another in our community, of building knowledge, and of bringing us closer together.

January 2019: It is announced that Wendy Maragh Taylor and Sam Speers step away from their roles as co-chairs of EPI Coordinating Committee in order to dedicate their full attention to their newly appointed Associate Dean positions.

January 25, 2019: Having been proposed at the at the May 2018 EPI World Café, the student-imagined and organized EPI initiative, Vassar Voices, holds their inaugural event, giving space for people across identities, roles, and experiences to share their stories, be heard, and convene in community. The event, featuring 18 speakers, including students, staff, faculty, and administrators, is attended by approximately 100 members of our community.

February 1, 2019: EPI Director, Candice Lowe Swift and Cecilia Hoang, EPI Administrative Fellow, hold their first Coffee Chat, an open invitation to the whole campus to come by to meet someone new in the college, ask questions about EPI, and share their experiences.

February 1-3, 2019:  Thirty-two administrators, students, and faculty participate in a three-day Undoing Racism Workshop led by the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. The event is co-sponsored by EPI, the Dean of the College Office, the Office of Student Growth and Engagement, the Dean of the Faculty Office, the Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources Office, the Office of the Senior Associate Dean of the College for Professional Development, the Department of Athletics, the Office of Communications, and the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development.

February 15, 2019: A group of EPI administrators, students, and faculty from the Inclusive Pedagogy & Curriculum Working Group take a road trip to Philadelphia to learn more about the Teaching and Pedagogy Centers at Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania. Following the trip, the Inclusive Pedagogy & Curriculum working group holds an open meeting to share the lessons they learned, and determine next steps.

February 21, 2019: Through EPI Library Studio Project, yet another successful community-imagined initiative which emerged from the May 2018 EPI World Café, library staff members continue to create more space for student art, performance, and expression in the library. As part of this work, they collaborate with members of the Vassar Asian American Working Group to compile a collection and book display to mark 40 years since the start of the movement for Asian American Studies at Vassar.

February 24, 2019: The College approves the launch of an EPI Summer Bridge Program pilot for Incoming First Generation and Low-Income Students. The Transitions Program and Office of the President are EPI’s primary partners on this pilot.

February 25, 2019: Jerry Stropnicky, a theatre-maker, a writer, director, actor, instigator, and community organizer, has his first of several campus visits as part of the Semester of Storytelling. Stropicky leads story circle workshops to help us learn how to gather a story and to engender and facilitate community conversation and healing.

February 25, 2019: The Capacity Building working group begins their three-part series of film screenings aimed at building our community’s capacity to learn, live, work, and interact with one another in conversation, connection, and community.

March 1, 2019: Rhonda Fitzgerald from the Sustained Dialogue Institute holds a full-day workshop entitled “Navigating Conflict through Dialogue” at Alumnae House for 40 administrators, students, staff, and faculty.

March 27, 2019: Writer, director, activist and instigator, Jerry Stropnicky returns for an all-campus lecture titled “Civic Empathy: A Field Report,” on community story applied to community healing and progress.

March 28, 2019: Supported by EPI Thrive!, the Athletics department brought in the organization LGBT SportSafe to lead a day of workshops for the Athletics community and their campus partners on LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

April 4, 2019: Roughly 120 people from across campus participate in the 2018-2019 World Café. EPI working groups and other initiatives hosted discussions at tables, and Vassar Haiti Project and Priorities & Planning gave presentations on their work. Associate Dean Luis Inoa & Antonella DeCicci '20 announce the re-launch of the Living at Vassar working group for 2019-2020. 

April 10, 2019: The EPI Global Campus Working Group hosted an event called “What in the Wor(L)d?: Imagining a Multilingual Campus. Panelists included Kaiqing Su ’21, Ananya Suresh ’21, Swahili instructor Connie Ndony, Political Science Professor Andrew Davison, Japanese Professor Peipei Qiu, and biology Professor Colin Aitkin.