Great Place Initiative Promotes Sensitivity to Others
In 2014, the senior administration of the university collected data to measure experiences and perceptions of constituent groups across the campus. These findings, in turn, sparked a campus-wide initiative designed to bring faculty, students, administrators and staff together in an affirming and supportive environment promoting equality, fairness and inclusion. Called The Great Place Initiative, it is now in the implementation stages, and Tina Bhargava, PhD (Assistant Professor, Social and Behavioral Sciences) has a two-year appointment as a Provost Fellow to lead the charge for the CPH.
“As part of the 25-member committee, I’m focusing on high-impact teaching and learning practices,” said Bhargava. “The questions we face as an institution and college are ‘how do we improve equity in high impact practice’ and ‘are we being culturally responsive’ while doing it.” Bhargava and the team have identified a few practices that have been particularly effective in retention and engagement. For example, evidence indicates that students who engage in writing intensive classes feel more involved.
Another program on which Bhargava focuses is DEEDS—Dynamic Education & Engagement of Diverse Students. This University-wide initiative is designed to make sure all students receive the same opportunities.
Dr. Bhargava spends 50% of her time working on the Great Place Initiative. Besides teaching, the other half of her workday is spent researching educational equity—namely mental bandwidth recovery. Mental bandwidth is defined as a person’s capacity for work or mental focus on work before he or she runs out of steam. If other things, such as food insecurity, health issues, or family problems take up some of that bandwidth, a person’s ability to capacity for other things, such as learning, diminishes.
“I focus on how we can change the teaching environment to help students be successful which means changing the environment outside the classroom to increase mental bandwidth,” explained Bhargava. It’s no surprise that Bhargava was selected for The Great Place Initiative. After all, removing the feelings of insecurity brought about by unfair treatment just might increase a student’s mental bandwidth and therefore open the capacity for better learning.