UNA Pressroom

Students Receive Badge Of Diversity And Inclusion In Education

Dec. 27, 2019

Michelle Eubanks, UNA, at media@una.edu, 256.765.4392 or 256.606.2033

Michelle Eubanks, UNA, at meubanks@una.edu, 256-606-2033 or 256-765-4392 FLORENCE, AL - Two students were awarded a unique badge as part of the University of North Alabama's recent commencement ceremonies. Elisa Coker and Erin Creasy earned the Badge of Diversity and Inclusion in Education. They are the first to achieve this goal. A badge is similar to a micro-credential for students; it is designed to focus on experiential learning opportunities outside of traditional classroom instruction. "It's within the best interest of our students not only to have classroom discussions about this topic but to have culturally immersive experiences outside of their comfort zone," said Dr. Leah Whitten, Chair of the Department of Secondary Education at UNA. "For our state and national education systems to advance, we must become more sensitive to the diverse needs of others. These experiences will have a ripple effect on our community and society." Created from a partnership between the Department of Secondary Education and the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion, the badge requirements provide students with additional experiences in diverse educational settings, according to Dr. Andrea Hunt, Director of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion and Associate Professor of Sociology. "Students who receive this honor in the College of Education and Human Sciences complete extra training in both urban and rural classrooms, along with training in working with underserved and underrepresented students," she said. "They also have cultural immersion experiences through study abroad where they see what education is like in other countries." Coker and Creasy agreed that the work they did to earn the badge thoroughly broadened their educational experience and prepared them for their careers in the classroom "Teaching in a multicultural environment has taught me that education is truly a privilege," said Coker. "When I returned from Niger, West Africa, I started a homework lab for inner-city students in Birmingham. We all learn differently, and it's my responsibility as an educator to learn how my students learn. Earning this award means that educators are taking the necessary steps in learning how to interact with our future students and their parents. It means we're beingactive in learning how to become culturally aware of differences while maintaining respect and rapport, all while helping students become academically successful." Coker and Creasy said the work toward earning the badge allowed them to see differences in learning, understand the challenges students face, and adapt their teaching in order to accommodate those needs. "My immersion experiences were life-changing and opened a door to rewarding encounters and opportunities that I never thought were possible," said Creasy. "I truly believe these experiences have made me a better person and a better teacher. I will work hard to relate the content to children's interests and experiences in order to make the learning meaningful for all students." The components of earning a badge also strengthen the skills often sought by employers, according to Dr. Gary Padgett, Associate Professor of Secondary Education and Director of UNA's Center for Student Research. "Employers consistently list soft skills as an area of improvement for new employees," he said. "The Badge of Diversity and Inclusion in Education was developed as one method to address this need, by providing students an opportunity to work with, and in, situations that may be unfamiliar to them." Students may pursue the Badge of Diversity and Inclusion in Education upon entry into the Secondary Education Program. More information about the badge can be found at una.edu/socialinclusion/badge.html. About The University of North Alabama The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Sciences, and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professionals. Occupying a 130-acre campus in a residential section of Florence, Alabama, UNA is located within a four-city area that also includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. UNA Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I's ASUN Big South Conference. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin. For more: www.una.edu and www.una.edu/unaworks