The new diversity, equity and inclusion certificate-program is focused on making sure faculty, staff and students feel welcomed on campus. Credit: Joseph Schmittgen | Lantern Reporter

A new program at Ohio State will aim to give students the skills needed to thrive in diverse workplaces, teams and other social environments. 

The College of Arts and Sciences has developed a 12-hour interdisciplinary diversity, equity and inclusion certificate — open to undergraduate Ohio State students, as well as those with a bachelor’s degree — made to create future leaders with an in-depth understanding of contemporary social inequalities.

Wendy Smooth, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer for the College of Arts and Sciences, said she thinks the program will be attractive to students who are interested in “cracking the puzzles” of institutional racism in the United States and how gender influences income and health disparities that attach themselves to society’s inequalities.

“We know that employers are interested in future employees who are adept in working in very diverse groups,” Smooth said. “Our employers want students who understand these backgrounds, so to be able to have that marker on your transcript that you are graduating with a specialized certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion is a real statement to employers that you are ready to engage with some of the 21st-century questions that employers are grappling with.”

The certificate program began development more than a year ago and was spearheaded by Reanne Frank, a professor of sociology, and Townsand Price-Spralten, an associate professor of sociology. It was made official this semester. 

Frank said the idea for the program stemmed from the fact that post-millennial students of today are the most diverse group of students in U.S. history. Consequently, she said, society has begun to open up to conversation about inequality, and it is important to create a program that will help supply students with the necessary tools to tackle these issues.

“Our society is in the midst of opening up on issues of sex-identity, a societal reckoning with sexual harrassment — there’s increases in income inequality,” she said. “These are all social issues that have captured the nation’s attention and have become a pronounced undercurrent in today’s polarized politics.”

The certificate is administered through the Department of Sociology, and current Ohio State students interested in the program can contact their advising office to enroll in the program and schedule the proper certification courses for completion, according to the Arts and Sciences’ website. Some courses include Introduction to African American and African Studies, Introductory Sociology and Introduction to Sexuality Studies.

Smooth said the program is reaching out to students who have already taken courses relevant to the certificate to encourage them to join the certificate program.

“You may find out that you’re already halfway to this amazing designation,” she said.

Those with a bachelor’s degree seeking extended education may apply through the Office of Distance Education and eLearning. Alumni, graduating seniors and former transient students may join the program by following the instructions on the “Returning Students” page of the Arts and Sciences’ website. 

Frank said that after a long process of curating the program, she is excited to see it come to fruition. 

“From the beginning of it, we really believed in this certificate,” she said. “Students and participants, people who are enrolled in the program, are really going to benefit from exposure to this curriculum.”