CFANS ECHO continues its impact

June 10, 2021

Three members of our faculty and staff complete the 10-course series

In order to build a more inclusive and equitable CFANS, our Office for Diversity & Inclusion (ODI) launched virtual educational programming—CFANS Equity Certificate Hosted Online (ECHO)—for faculty and staff in Fall 2020. Because of the program’s success, ODI continued to offer this opportunity to grow and learn, and now three people in the College have completed the 10 courses necessary to receive their basic Equity and Diversity Certificate. These participants share their experience with CFANS ECHO.

Aaron Reser.

Aaron Reser, Green Lands Blue Waters Associate Director in the Department of Agronomy & Plant Genetics

Why did you choose to complete a CFANS ECHO certificate?

Earlier in my career I did a lot of community-based work in agriculture, often focusing on food access and food justice. I love my job at UMN but as I've worked here the past several years I've often felt like direct conversations about race and equity were missing from my work. The CFANS ECHO certificate was a great way to re-engage with colleagues on topics that I care about but am not always sure how to bring into my daily tasks as a CFANS employee. 

How have these courses affected your personal perspective and professional actions? 

These courses were a good reminder that starting somewhere, taking small actions, is valuable. Sometimes we can get paralyzed by wanting to do things right, say things right, and feel confident that we know how to move forward before jumping in. In an academic environment especially, I think our culture of intellectualism, of being smart and capable, can get in our own way. I'm a white, cisgender, educated woman. I might not know the best way to do antiracism work or be a good ally to transgender students or be able to see my own biases around class. Chances are good actually that I don't know the best way to solve these big systemic problems! But that doesn't mean I shouldn't engage and approach the topics with humility and openness. It's ok to not be right and to not know. Jody and Tex created a very welcoming space to enter these courses from any perspective and experience level.

Erin Buchholz.

Erin Buchholz, Integrated Pest Management Specialist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Who should participate in CFANS ECHO courses? What would you want someone who hasn’t taken a course to know about them?

I think CFANS ECHO would be a great place to start for anyone trying to understand how current events impact us differently. You can really tell that the source materials we read and watched are constantly reviewed for maximum relevance. Jody and Tex also made sure that no one felt shame or blame. It is a safe space for all to be their authentic selves.

What was the most significant lesson you learned as a participant that remains with you today?

During the grounding assumptions, Jody would remind us that trainers are human, too. No one is perfect all of the time, and we all slip. As I facilitate the Arboretum's D&I-themed Lunch & Learns, I realize that it's okay to make mistakes. But now I know how to recognize them, acknowledge them, apologize and move forward.

Where do you plan to go from here to continue your learning journey?

I hope there will be an advanced ECHO certificate at some point. Otherwise, if the readings and videos are updated, I might enroll again! In the meantime, I attend the CFANS Diversity Community of Practice monthly meetings and Lunch & Learns, which are very helpful.

Becky Haddad.

Becky Haddad, Agricultural Education Lecturer

Why did you choose to complete a CFANS ECHO certificate?

This was the first training I committed to at the University of Minnesota after being hired in August last year. First and foremost, there are always opportunities to grow in this area, and this growth directly impacts my students. This is also a key initiative of our program and an interest for our stakeholders across the state.

Who should participate in CFANS ECHO courses? What would you want someone who hasn’t taken a course to know about them?

Who shouldn’t participate? One of the things I most appreciated about the CFANS ECHO courses was the encouragement to listen. I didn’t have to immediately change my perspective or defend a position, I just needed to listen; certainly that has transferred into additional thought, conversation, and action, but for someone who might not be so sure about how to engage in this type of course, listening is somewhere we can all start.

What was the most significant lesson you learned as a participant that remains with you today?

There’s power in owning our own vulnerabilities and allowing ourselves and others to be flawed. A willingness to have the hard conversations means a willingness to invest in a relationship.

Based on the University’s Office for Equity & Diversity (OED) in-person certificate workshops, CFANS ECHO will continue throughout this summer, fall and beyond. More than 50 people across CFANS have already participated in these sessions and more than 100 are registered for the 10-workshop summer series. Please monitor your email as new dates get announced for the fall semester. Visit this page to access current training offerings and learn more

While the participants featured here completed CFANS ECHO courses only, four additional people in the College have recently completed their basic certificate either through OED or in combination with our CFANS ECHO courses—Student Services Director Hal DeLaRosby, Academic Advisor Grant McCormack, Business Development Coordinator Regina McGoff and Norrie Zier from the Department of Animal Science finance team.  

To gauge future interest and participation, ODI invites all faculty and staff to complete this brief survey. Thank you for making diversity, equity and inclusion a priority in our College!