Students seated to attend their Nutrition 10 class in California Hall.

New ‘Coffee Chat’ Series Aims to Build More Inclusive Learning Environments

CA&ES Faculty Hold Informal Conversations to Share Ideas

Students often thrive when they feel seen and heard. Faculty members from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are launching a new discussion series for educators to explore ways to further encourage inclusivity in the classroom and ensure all voices are heard.

The first “Coffee Chat” event is scheduled for 4 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28 in the Plant and Environmental Sciences building (details here).

The series is being led by Sue Ebeler, associate dean of CA&ES Undergraduate Academic Programs; Kristin Kiesel, associate professor of teaching with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics; and Jorge Rodrigues, professor with the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. They participated in a workshop earlier this year that focused on facilitating discussions about inclusive teaching strategies. Ebeler said after that experience, they decided to start this series of networking events for CA&ES faculty to learn what colleagues on campus are doing to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“By having these conversations, we can start to have a culture in our college where people are curious and sharing ideas with each other about the best ways to make students feel supported,” Ebeler said.

To start, the group plans to meet once a month at different times and locations to accommodate busy schedules. Kiesel said the coffee chats are designed to be informal gatherings where people can share solution-based, practical ideas and experiences. She hopes faculty members who participate can ask questions and collectively learn how to better serve students.

“We won't be able to serve our students from diverse backgrounds if students don't feel like they belong and, as a result, do not speak up, and feel comfortable enough to ask their questions,” Kiesel said. “There’s so much our students can teach us, especially those with experiences that are different than ours, and we often forget that.”

The organizers say one of the goals is for participants to provide easy-to-implement teaching strategies that engage all students. Ebeler said an example may include encouraging professors to give students more authority in the classroom to lead discussions and raise important questions. Another way to foster a sense of community among students is to provide a space in the classroom where they get to talk to each other and hear about different experiences and perspectives.

“There’s data that shows when students feel a sense of belonging, they will be more engaged, which will lead to better student outcomes, better grades and higher graduation rates and retention,” Ebeler said.

A lot can be said over a cup of coffee. And Kiesel hopes that launching this series is one step along a pathway to building environments on campus concentrated on learning that is question-driven, rather than instruction-based.

“Our shared curiosity connects us more than our differences will set us apart,” she said. “Inclusivity makes a commitment to learning from each other.”

Media Resources

Primary Category

Secondary Categories

Student Life