Tips for Grads: Promoting inclusive spaces

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

After getting used to the much-reduced summer campus population, I am struck by how busy things have become since classes began. I’m reminded in these times that despite the vast size of our community, we as graduate students have the ability to make a huge impact on the areas of campus we are most involved in, particularly in the arena of furthering inclusivity and diversity efforts.
There are so many ways we can contribute to a more welcoming campus environment, whether in our positions as students, teachers, supervisors, or any other role we take on at UW–Madison. This is not a definitive list, but here are a handful of suggestions to get you thinking about the everyday ways you have the power to make the spaces you inhabit on campus more accessible, safe, and inclusive to all your fellow Badgers!

  • Consult the Digital Accessibility Program: To help make sure the content you are disseminating is digitally accessible, check out the UW–Madison Digital Accessibility Program, which is under the umbrella of the Center for User Experience. With guides on user experience, tips for accessibility compliance, and the ability to access self-guided training and resources, this is a phenomenal place to look to make sure your materials are usable for everyone!
  • Include your pronouns: If you are comfortable doing so, add your pronouns to your email signature. Also, Canvas features a “pronouns” tab under “Settings” that allows you to identify your pronouns, so they’ll come up next to your name in course lists, to your course instructor as well as other students. There is also an option to indicate that you would like to be asked privately about your pronouns.
  • Be aware of holidays while scheduling: It’s an excellent idea to add “check for religious holidays and observances” to your mental checklist while you’re scheduling meetings, events, or anything you’re putting on the calendar that involves other people. There are a number of ways to keep up to date on the timing of these observances (sometimes you can enable a “Holidays” setting on your online calendar). The university’s fall 2022 Religious Observances Policy includes a list, though not exhaustive, of dates it would be best to avoid when scheduling.
  • Take a micro-course for more ideas: The Libraries offer a number of fantastic online micro-courses, like “Including & Navigating Race in the Classroom” which can help equip you to make the learning environments you are a part of and lead more inclusive, safe, and productive. The Libraries also recommend the micro-course “Reflecting on Social Justice” for additional foregrounding information on the topic.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.