The Media School is committed to the pursuit of an inclusive environment for our community of students, faculty, and staff. To further that goal, The Media School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Staff Committee supported the Student Services’s initiative to plan and facilitate a series of focus groups for Media School undergraduates with underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds. This project was intended to serve as a test run for future Student Services focus groups and the team members were Eliza Erxleben, Quenshia Graves, Sharon Mayell, Rebecca Stanze, and Leya Taylor. This report reflects what was learned to help identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
In April 2021, invitations to participate in the focus groups were emailed to a list of undergraduate students, pulled from IUIE in early spring 2021, who self-identified as from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. The invitation was also included in The Buzz newsletter and on the school's Canvas page. Participation was incentivized with a $25 Amazon gift card. Six virtual focus groups and individual interviews were held, with each session lasting 30-60 minutes. The number of participants in each session ranged from one to four. Eleven undergraduate students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds participated in these sessions and each class, first year through senior, was represented.
Two members of the committee were assigned to each focus group session. A facilitator asked theinterview questionsand kept the conversation going while the other person took notes. The interview questions focused on the students’ expectations and experiences within The Media School and included a request for suggestions for improvement in regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Students were provided with the list of questions prior to their focus group session and were asked to consider them in the context of their racial or ethnic identities. Notes of student responses were finalized using audio recordings of the sessions, which were eventually deleted to keep all feedback anonymous and confidential.
While the original goal was to collect feedback related to diversity, equity and inclusion, these conversations covered a variety of topics related to the student experience, providing further insight into Media School programs through the eyes of these particular participants. The resulting insights are organized into areas of strength, areas for improvement related to DEI, and areas of improvement not specifically related to DEI, although based on comments shared by students from diverse backgrounds. Each section is supported by selected student quotes. In addition to listing specific recommendations made by students, team members also provided recommendations based on the accumulated feedback collected across all the sessions.
Themes identified as areas of strength:
- Students feel supported by faculty.
- Students feel supported by academic advisors.
- The Media School offers excellent programs, and the freedom to explore.
- Valuable opportunities are offered outside the classroom.
Themes identified as areas for improvement:
- There are too few people of color.
- Media School students experience microaggressions and discrimination.
- There is a need for diversity, equity, and inclusion education.
- There is a lack of community among students, and within student organizations.
While the focus groups produced many insights, the sample size was limited. There are over three hundred undergraduate Media School majors who self-identify as Black/African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, and/or Hispanic/Latino. The perspectives of the eleven students who participated may not reflect the perspectives of all. However, students were willing to speak openly about their experiences and the experience of their peers, and the general tone and content of the positive and negative comments were consistent across participants. Although the sample size was small, the focus groups provide the school with an additional resource to inform ongoing DEI initiatives.
Questions? Contact Eliza Erxleben, director of student services.