These courses provide a much needed opportunity to engage in dialogue, self-reflection and community building. Doing so replaces misinformation with empathy, compassion and belonging.
The university’s social justice education efforts transcend the campus. Through the Center for Professional Studies, local educators and businesses are also learning about how to discuss these issues and support increasingly diverse students and customers.
One course that has been offered multiple times through CPS focuses on cultural competency for educators, helping them serve their increasingly diverse classrooms, facilitating personal growth and understanding the impact of equity and bias.
“There is always a benefit to improving relations between people,” said instructor Angele Goss, who has taught the course with Lynn D’Agostino from the Education Department. “These courses provide a much needed opportunity to engage in dialogue, self-reflection and community building. Doing so replaces misinformation with empathy, compassion and belonging.”
Goss has also taught courses on cultural competency for local Realtors, who also serve an increasingly diverse customer base.
North Central Massachusetts Association of Realtors President Kendra Dickinson welcomed the series. “Every day we are looking for opportunities such as this to further expand our knowledge and professionalism so that we can better serve our community and clients,” Dickinson said. “I would like to thank Fitchburg State University for all of their hard work putting this program together.”
In addition, the CPS has twice offered a course for area educators on supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and gender-diverse (LGBTQIA+) students in the K-12 environment. Taught by CPS Assistant Director of Professional Studies and Extended Campus Programs Dani Langdon, the course helps educators understand the terminology, historical context, and preconceived notions that we carry about the LGBTQIA+ community, thereby helping to create intentional, inclusive, and supportive learning environments.
“Though the introductory course on supporting LGBTQIA students is designed to give educators concrete tools to support students, one of the most impactful outcomes is a deeper understanding of one’s self, and the ability to see the world through a new lens,” Langdon said.
“When we began, I was expecting to learn something new about the lives of LGBTQIA youth and how I could support and nurture them in my school environment,” said Sizer School teacher Pam Sweeney. “While it’s true that I've learned a lot, the biggest ‘aha!’ moments have been about myself.”
CPS also offered free webinars introducing concepts surrounding social justice, led by consultant Faustina Cuevas.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Contact magazine.