University launches new series of unconscious bias workshops

In support of Vanderbilt’s ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion on campus, the university has announced a new series of educational workshops on unconscious bias. The workshops are customized to meet the unique needs of and issues affecting the Vanderbilt community.

“We are committed to mitigating the effects of unconscious bias and ensuring our communication, leadership, hiring, performance and promotion practices are inclusive,” said Dr. André L. Churchwell, interim vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “Fostering a welcoming environment where every person is able to thrive and is empowered to reach their full potential is key to success in our learning and discovery missions.”

Participants at the unconscious bias train-the-trainer workshop (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)
Dr. André Churchwell (standing) leads participants at the four-day unconscious bias train-the-trainer workshop in October. (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

The new series of workshops builds upon the recent four-day train-the-trainer workshop that Churchwell and Interim Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives William H. Robinson organized in early October. Participants in that workshop—including representatives from the Office of Faculty Affairs, the Office for Inclusive Excellence, the Division of Administration and the Office of the Dean of Students—will facilitate the upcoming unconscious bias training series.

“We all have a part to play in creating an environment where all feel respected and experience a strong sense of belonging,” Robinson said. “These workshops will provide an opportunity for community members to grow in their awareness and understanding of unconscious biases and learn how to disrupt them in their everyday activities, both as individuals and as a larger community.”

Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is defined as automatic decisions and judgments made about others based on differences in one’s own background, experiences, societal stereotypes or cultural context. Although bias can manifest in numerous ways, it is often exhibited toward individuals or groups based on class, gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability and other identities or factors.

The workshop series is being offered in phases across faculty, staff and student areas.

  • Faculty workshops will be organized by Robinson and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Tracey George. The faculty workshops are planned as part of the Faculty Development Workshop Series. Initial workshop offerings will be provided for faculty leadership within Vanderbilt’s 10 schools and colleges and then expand to the broader faculty.
  • Churchwell, in partnership with the Division of Administration’s director of learning and organizational development, Pam Brown, will work with trained staff who will deliver workshops in each of the vice chancellor areas. Workshops are already being delivered to Human Capital and Business Services staff. Ultimately, unconscious bias education and training will be made available for all staff.
  • Student workshops will be organized by the Office of the Dean of Students. Education and training will be provided to leaders of student organizations.

To learn more about the university’s efforts to address unconscious bias, visit the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion website. Individuals interested in learning more about the unconscious bias training process and stages of training can contact Tara Williams, executive assistant in the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.