FIU ADVANCE trains faculty members how to be active bystanders

Faculty bystander training presentation. Photo by Patricia Menendez/PantherNOW

By: Patricia Menendez/Assistant News Director


The University’s Bystander Leadership Program has entered its second semester of workshops that aim to educate STEM and Social Based Sciences faculty on how to recognize and intervene in situations that involve gender and race bias.

The program is the result of a $3.2 million grant given by the National Science Foundation that is intended to fund the program for five years.

“What the National Science Foundation wants to know is if we have enough high-level people to really buy into this,” Suzanna Rose, associate provost and co-principal investigator of the program, said to Student Media.

There is a possibility that the program will extend to graduate students at the end of the grant and when the program is expanded.

BLP serves as a study that measures the impact and efficacy of its bystander intervention strategies to faculty members’ professional and social lives.

Intervention strategies include changing the subject during the situation, privately supporting the person targeted, suggesting new procedures to avoid the situation from happening again, and appealing to a higher authority.

The program was given the grant in 2016 and began to develop in 2017. It ran its trial dates during spring 2018 and had its official launch in fall 2018 with four workshops and a total of 80 participants, according to Ashley Garcia, account manager of BLP.

“The goal of the grant is to increase the number of women and minority faculty in the tenure track,” Rose said.

The tenure track is the process a professor goes through after six years of working in the university to earn a permanent job.

BLP held its first workshop of the spring semester on Thursday, Jan. 24. The workshop was held from

8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the morning, participants are taught concepts that might affect how they perceive a situation that involves gender or race bias, such as implicit or unconscious bias.

“To say that everyone has an implicit bias does not say that everyone is prejudiced or racist, it’s just that everyone has a set of associations and systems that they’ve grown up with that you kind of internalize as being normal,” Garcia said.

In the afternoon, participants and facilitators perform a variety of skits to practice different intervening options that can be applied in the real world.

The skits are based on actual experiences of FIU faculty members that were gathered by Research Associate

Dr. Sanaz Farhangi through a series of interviews and focus groups.

An example of a skit performed on Thursday’s workshop was the evaluation of a pool of doctoral candidates by a diverse committee of STEM faculty. The committee is deciding between three candidates in the skit and one of the members says an offensive comment regarding the race of a potential candidate.

The skit was intended to show how to approach racial bias within a committee meeting.

“I was a bit scared that it would be a bunch of lectures, but they really did use active learning,” said Benjamin Smith, graduate program director in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies. “I didn’t know what to expect but I thought it was really good that they forced you to act it out because if you’ve done it once you might be able to do it again.”

After three months of each workshop, the BLP team reaches out to the participants and asks them for an anonymous follow up to see if they have used the skills taught to them. Garcia said that most of the responses they received were positive.

Once the program has collected enough data to show its effectiveness and impact, it will be institutionalized and open up to faculty and staff outside of STEM and SBS, according to Kirsten Wood, lead facilitator of the program and associate professor of history.  

BLP is a part of FIU ADVANCE, FIU’s institutional transformation project, which is overseen by the Office to Advance Women, Equity & Diversity. It will hold its next workshop on Thursday, March 7.


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