< Go Back to Full Educator | Resource List

November 2020 Educator | Resource of the Month

The Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice Educator|Resource is a monthly feature that highlights curricular resources and social work educators who address diversity and justice.

Ten Ways to Create Racially Equitable Learning Environments

As we pursue strategies to advance racially equitable learning environments, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with resistance and securing buy-in within our universities. Yet equity is at the core of the stated purpose of higher education. As Vicki Lens’ classic article “Advocacy and Argumentation in the Public Arena: A Guide for Social Workers“ suggests, one way to advocate for our work is to invoke the value constellation of higher education. Higher education commits to student success in their personal, civic, and professional lives. We can help our institutions articulate and implement their missions and strategies to promote the success of all students. Higher education commits to truth and knowledge. We can help our institutions move toward more socially, historically, and culturally accurate narratives. Higher education commits to advancing knowledge for social good. We can help our institutions expand their vision of social good to encompass the realities of the full society.

In this Educator|Resource, we highlight 10 approaches that social work programs and colleges are using to create racially equitable learning environments in ways that support the missions of their institutions. Although specific to their campuses, the approaches are applicable across global minority serving institutions. What these approaches have in common is that they are systemic and driven by evidence and data and fundamentally change how things are done. Click on the example(s) under each approach to learn more about these efforts and to explore how you can apply the concepts to the unique context of your campus.


1. Make policy changes at the social work program level by revising admissions applications to further examine prospective students’ values with respect to equity.
Action Against Racism, Silver School of Social Work, New York University
Admission Application: Essential Abilities and Attributes, School of Social Work, Columbia University

2. Create interest and build engagement around equity in the classroom by asking students what issues matter to them and beginning there.
Social Work Action Lab for Social Justice, School of Social Work, Columbia University 
Anti-Racist Pedagogy in Social Work Doctoral Education—A Series Lead by and Created for Doctoral Students, Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work

3. Create culturally specific training programs that prepare social workers to provide effective interventions and work with communities on sustainable solutions to complex problems. 
The Latinx Leadership Initiative (Seal of Excelencia Example), School of Social Work, Boston College
Afrocentric Social Work Practice Model, Whitney M. Young Jr. School of Social Work, Clark Atlanta University

4. Use evidence-based programs, both campus- and community-based, to achieve equitable outcomes by accelerating student success. 
What Works for Latino Students in Higher Education, Excelencia in Education

5. Come together as a campus community to engage in collective visioning and planning.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week (Schedule of Events), University of Southern California
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan and Annual Progress, University of Michigan

6. Expand institutional capacity to implement a multidimensional “servingness” plan that responds to the unique needs and experiences of racially minoritized students
Seal of Excelencia Certification, Excelencia in Education

7. Participate in diversity officer professional development to gain proficiency in standards of professional practice and evidence-based strategies.
National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education 
Center for Urban Education, Race and Equity Center, University of Southern California

8. Participate in university leadership training that supports and reinforces institutional strategy to advance equity. 
Technical Assistance Institutes, Excelencia in Education
Annual Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success, Association of American Colleges and Universities

9. Bring together multidisciplinary researchers and practitioners to understand and solve the seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity and injustice.
Center for Antiracist Research, Boston University

10. Convene a group of stakeholders, including citizens, to articulate a vision of how to realize the mandate of higher education and best serve society.
The Commission of 125 (Undergraduate Curriculum and Academic Leadership), University of Texas at Austin
Task Force to Advance Anti-Racism in Social Work Education, Council on Social Work Education

Alicia Mendez, MSW, and Lalaine Sevillano, MSW, members of the CSWE Task Force to Advance Antiracism, provided valuable input in the development of this Educator|Resource. Mendez is a doctoral student at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. Sevillano is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

The views expressed in the Educator|Resource are those of the educator(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Social Work Education.

 Contact Dr. Yolanda Padilla, CSWE Diversity Center Director, at [email protected].