Diversity Intensive Guidelines

The Guidelines and Proposals are adapted from March 14, 2016 “The Choice Model for a Diversity Requirement: A Proposal by the Arts and Science Diversity Committee” with minor updates from the Diversity Curriculum Committee.

Guidelines for Diversity Intensive Courses

The College of Arts and Science is looking for classes that employ diversity as a vehicle for learning. As such, diversity intensive course requires students to express, reformulate, or apply the concepts of an academic discipline, through inclusive excellence.  Accordingly, A&S diversity intensive courses demonstrate intentional and substantive integration of core learning objectives and fundamental criteria throughout the entire course, not merely as an additive or addendum.

Specifically, the core learning objectives of DI courses are to provide students with vital competencies and skills necessary to: describe and explain complex worldviews, policies, and issues from multiple perspectives; critically analyze cultural myths and stereotypes about underrepresented groups through an in-depth analysis of other cultures and life experiences; and, to promote transformative thinking that equips students with practical strategies and tools that can help them to communicate and work effectively, reasonably, and with an open mind with people of varied backgrounds, points of view and cultures.

Consequently, the success of a Diversity Intensive course depends more on the teacher’s commitment to core objectives and fundamental criteria of the diversity intensive mission of inclusive excellence through diversity across the curriculum, than adherence to any particular formula. Because of the importance of this commitment, the Diversity Curriculum Committee encourages courses from willing faculty participants.

The Diversity Curriculum Committee approves Diversity Intensive courses that meet the following two basic criteria: 1) Focus on understanding differing social groups (locally, nationally, and/or internationally), and 2) Explore at least one form of social inequality, broadly defined to include class, race, age, ethnicities, disabilities, genders, sexualities, veterans, rural and urban communities, economic and/or resource disparities, indigenous cultures, among others. 

“Diversity Intensive” status is conferred on a by-instructor, by-semester (up to academic-year) basis.

Instructors teaching a course as Diversity Intensive for the first time (whether their first time teaching a previously existing course, or the first time the course is held) need to Add a new course by submitting a New Course Proposal form and the required items in Guidelines (question 5 below) to the Diversity Curriculum Committee. Returning instructors teaching a previously approved DI course will meet the same guidelines as new instructors.

Frequently Asked Questions: (You may skip to “How can I make my existing course diversity intensive” if you only want guidelines for submission of DI proposal)

What is inclusive excellence?

Answer: Put simply, the concept of inclusive excellence refers to making excellence inclusive by intentionally integrating diversity and excellence in the curriculum to improve the quality of education for all students.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities “understands diversity and equity as fundamental goals of higher education and as resources for learning that are valuable for all students, vital to democracy and a democratic workforce and to the global position and wellbeing of the United States. AAC&U's commitment to make excellence inclusive—to bring the benefits of liberal education to all students—is rooted deeply in commitment to a diverse, informed, and civically active society” (AAC&U statement on “Diversity, Equity, & Inclusive Excellence”).

Inclusive excellence acknowledges that “meaningful engagement with diversity benefits students educationally,” and therefore operates within a “comprehensive framework for excellence that incorporates diversity at its core.”  That is, inclusive excellence encompasses “the academic excellence of all students in attendance and concerted efforts to educate all students to succeed in a diverse society and equip them with sophisticated intercultural skills” (Williams, Berger, and McClendon 2005). 

Do diversity intensive courses have to deal with only race or gender?

Answer: No. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of A&S DI courses is that they are studied through very diverse perspectives, in a broad range of disciplines (e.g. humanities, social sciences, and STEM—including economics, biological sciences, math, etc.). After all, what would be the point if all diversity intensive courses were limited to the same form of social inequality or social group? Importantly, DI courses approach the study of diversity in ways that avoid reducing or limiting the vastness and complexities of diverse human experiences. Indeed, some of the most effective courses take an intersectional rather than an isolationist approach to the study of various forms of social justice and differing social groups.  An intersectional approach focuses on ways that various forms of social inequality combine, overlap, or intersect, especially in the range of experiences of differing marginalized people or groups. An isolationist approach tends to separate various aspects of social inequality or groups, and thus misses the important opportunity to teach from a perspective of inclusive excellence that encourages critical thinking about the complex nature of difference and its consequences in our society.  Consequently, we strongly suggest intersectional rather than isolationists approaches.

What are social groups?

Answer: A social group is a collection of people who interact with each other and share similar characteristics and a sense of unity. Important: A social group is different from a social category, which is a collection of people who do not interact but who share similar characteristics. For example, women, men, the elderly, and high school students all constitute social categories. A social category can become a social group when the members in the category interact with each other and identify themselves as members of the group. Falling between a social category and a social group is the social aggregate, which is a collection of people who are in the same place at the same time but who otherwise do not necessarily interact, except in the most superficial of ways, or have anything else in common. The crowd at a sporting event and the audience at a movie or play are common examples of social aggregates. These collections of people are not a social category, because the people are together physically, and they are also not a social group, because they do not really interact and do not have a common identity unrelated to being in the crowd or audience at that moment. Note: Definitions are meant to provide clarification of DI terms as you move through the course approval process. However, the committee acknowledges that there will always be “gray” areas with regard to terms. As such, we encourage instructors to submit any specific questions about terms or related issues to (muasdiversity@missouri.edu). Remember, our goal is to work with and support instructors as they adapt their courses to DI (diversity intensive).

What is the difference between social inequality and social justice?

Answer: Social Inequality: Social inequality is characterized by the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions or statuses within a group or society. It contains structured and recurrent patterns of unequal distributions of goods, wealth, opportunities, rewards, and punishments.

Social Justice: The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice

How can I make my existing course diversity intensive?

The following guidelines can provide helpful suggestions about how to adapt your course into a diversity intensive one. Importantly, they also provide a list of items to submit for your proposal (Guidelines 2-6 below). Of course, please contact us at muasdiversity@missouri.edu if you have any questions at all. We welcome the opportunity to help you have a successful DI course proposal.

  • Guideline 1: Diversity Intensive courses must be designed and taught by MU faculty members for courses in the College of Arts & Science. Specifically, DI instructors must come from the following categories: tenure track, teaching, NTT, Non-Regular, Visiting, and Post-Doctoral Fellows. Graduate instructors who wish to teach DI courses must meet first meet their department requirements for teaching and then submit signed letter from their Department Chairs, Directors of Graduate Studies, or other departmental approving authority.
  • Guideline 2: Submit a completed New Course Proposal Form. It will require you to upload and submit the following items in Guidelines 3-6 (below):
  • Guideline 3: Submit a complete syllabus that includes a “Diversity Intensive” statement (maximum two paragraphs) which explains in detail and describes specifically how your courses meet each of the following two fundamental DI criteria: a) focus on understanding differing social groups (locally, nationally, and/or internationally) and b) exploration of at least one form of social inequality, broadly defined to include class, race, age, ethnicities, disabilities, genders, sexualities, veterans, geographic disparities (e.g. rural and urban), economic and/or resource disparities, indigenous cultures, among others.

Note: Everything you always wanted to know about the Diversity Intensive Statement but hesitated to ask

We understand a short statement cannot possibly convey the richness or complexity of your course. So, it might be helpful to think about this statement as a way to let your students know what is unique about your course and why it qualifies for A&S DI credit. The Diversity Intensive Statement should be a brief and clearly articulated (200-350 word) description of how assignments, assessment, and other elements of the proposed course demonstrate that the fundamental DI criteria are distributed through the semester rather than concentrated in one area or section of a course. We encourage you to resist revising existing templates from previously approved courses with similar topics or range of material. We each have unique ways of teaching what may seem like the same course.  This is especially true of lower division undergraduate courses that require us to cover specific material in a given field of study or discipline (e.g. Principles of Economics, Freshman Composition, Introduction to Religion, etc.). The Diversity Curriculum Committee may ask instructors to elaborate (as needed) on their assignments or methods of assessment (e.g. rather than observing that a particular assignment asks students to compare statistical data about the rising number of women in biology or STEM, it will be important to provide information about how this “new” information about gender is used by students to analyze what this means for the continued gender gap despite the fact that more than half the biology majors are women). Hint: This note is approximately 250 words.

  • Guideline 4: Submit a completed schedule/calendar or other materials to be covered, with specific titles of articles and studies, and make available copies (links) or related materials as needed by the Diversity Curriculum Committee for a thorough review of the extent to which proposed DI course meets requirements and fully integrates DI criteria above throughout the course. Important: Please indicate whether or not the schedule/calendar is included on the syllabus or as a separate document.
  • Guideline 5: Grading scale or rubric should demonstrate that diversity intensive assignments constitute a major component of the course grade. Specifically, diversity intensive courses are diversity-centered, rather than diversity-inclusive or enhanced Important: Please indicate whether or not the grading scale or rubric is included on the syllabus or as a separate document.
  • Optional:  While current guidelines do not require sample assignments, instructors have the option of submitting up to three assignments that indicate how their discipline applies elements of diversity to meet both the course objectives for the discipline and the DI criteria for A&S. Any assignments submitted should be complex enough to engage the student in demonstrable efforts to grapple with complex issues related to issues raised by core objectives related to difference and social inequality, as applied through the lenses of the specific discipline. Neither required discipline specific, nor student learning outcomes for diversity intensive courses should be sacrificed. These optional sample assignments will aid the Diversity Curriculum Committee in considering the extent to which a course, based on its context, scope specific objectives, fully integrates DI criteria.
  • Approvals: A copy of any service-learning or IRB approvals as needed, as well as any graduate student instructor approvals should be submitted.

What’s next?

  • Initial Review: You will receive a response from Megan Merrill letting you know your proposal was received. Don’t worry, if you forgot to include anything, or we need any additional information, we will let you know right away,
  • First Round Review: The subcommittee chair will review your proposal and will forward it to the subcommittee for the second round review. As with the initial review, if we need any additional information, we will let you know right away and we will help guide you to the next round. If your proposal is complete, the subcommittee chair will send you confirmation that your proposal has progressed to the second round review.
  • Second Round Review:  The subcommittee will review your material and send you a confirmation that it has been placed in the final full committee review. Again, if we need any additional information, or if we have any questions, we will let you know. And, we will work with you and give you all the support you need to make your course diversity intensive.
  • Success! The committee co-chairs will send you confirmation of your course’s DI status.

Feedback: We will follow-up with you to learn how we can improve the proposal process. We will typically ask you to rate your experience (what worked best, what needs improvement, any other comments you would like to share).