Foundational Dialogues

This FAQ has useful information for units as they start their Foundational Dialogues work.

In his remarks at the September 13, 2021 faculty meeting, the Dean of the Faculty asked that all departments and programs engage in Foundational Dialogues by the end of the 2022-23 academic year.  The goal of these dialogues is to help units build the intellectual and emotional capacity as well as the background knowledge to begin or continue curricular transformation work. What follows is a high level description of the process as well as the steps necessary to begin the process. The details of the process will differ for each academic unit.

Program Description

A foundational dialogue engages departments and programs on race, power, privilege, white supremacy, and colonialism as they relate to the academic unit’s curricula and pedagogies. The engagements will involve at least a day’s worth of work (8 hours) for departments and programs with a disciplinary expert while addressing one or more of the following topics, according to the needs of the unit:

  • Begin examining the “historical,” “traditional,” “foundational,” “inherited,” or “colonial” framing of disciplinary content and curricular trajectory. 
  • Discuss predominating mindsets and attitudes within the academic unit and how those relate to the academic unit’s curricula and pedagogies.  
  • Discuss the experiences of students and barriers they encounter in the current structure of the curriculum (including policies and practices within the unit).

The key component of the foundational dialogue process is the identification of and engagement with a disciplinary expert(s) who can help a department or program reflect on its curriculum and chart a path for transformation. As an academic unit draws up its plans, it should prepare a list of 3 to 5 possible experts with whom it could consult.

This type of work cannot be accomplished during a seminar or an afternoon. It is necessary that academic units take time to work through their curricula, policies, and practices. For this reason, the engagement with the disciplinary expert should total at least 1 day’s worth of work (8 hours). This could occur in a single day, or as several sessions over a period of time.

Starting the Process

A department or program will take the following steps to initiate its foundational dialogue:

  1. Meet as a unit to review the topics above as it writes goals for its dialogue, the timing of the work, a budget, and the names of experts in the appropriate disciplines or fields. The Dean of the Faculty’s Office is happy to share resources to units that might help facilitate this work, including helping units interface with Institutional Research if that is desired. Please contact Mathieu Duvall for more information. The list of experts should include a short justification for the inclusion of each expert on the list as well as a link to their CV.
  2. Submit a short application of no more than 1 page that briefly describes the department and program goals, the timeline, a rough budget, and the list of 3 to 5 experts.

Upon submitting the application, the Dean of the Faculty’s office will work with the unit to select an expert or experts. The dean will solicit advice from the applicable committee working on curricular transformation. Information about the administration of the program is on this web page. Once an expert(s) has been chosen, the department or program will contact the expert, negotiate their services, and proceed with the work. The Dean of the Faculty’s Office will provide administrative support to departments and programs for this work. We have allocated a maximum of $8000 for each unit to do this work.

Communication and Reporting

We aspire to substantial and sustained change to the curricula of the college’s academic units. As the work begins for a department or program, their expert will have a brief meeting with a representative of the Dean of the Faculty’s Office to hear the institutional context for the work. Upon completion of the foundational dialogue, the academic unit should produce a curricular transformation plan. The plan should be discussed with  the disciplinary expert and submitted to the dean. At the completion of the dialogue, the expert will also submit a brief (no more than 2 pages) report to the dean reviewing the work that was done with the unit and suggesting next steps for the unit and its curricular transformation.

Deadline for Submission:

Academic units must submit a plan for their foundational dialogue to the Dean of the Faculty’s office by February 15, 2022. We encourage early submissions for those units that want to start sooner.

Use the form below to submit your Department or Program’s application.

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