All first-year students have begun the second unit of the Education through Global Engagement (EdGE) program, a part of the College’s efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programming.
The EdGE program was designed by Willy Oppenheim ’09, leader of non-profit Omprakash. Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for Inclusion and Diversity and Director of Multicultural Student Life Eduardo Pazos connected with Oppenheim last year in regard to student volunteer opportunities with the organization. They then explored the potential of Omprakash tools for first year programming and collaborated to design EdGE programming.
“This curriculum really is built out of Bowdoin,” Pazos said. “This is a very Bowdoin-y curriculum in a very positive way, reinforcing a lot of the values that are very present here for our community. This is not just a third party with their own understanding of how to talk about DEI work.”
The program requires first years to engage with 90 minutes of media aimed at beginning conversations over DEI every month. Each unit is hand-selected by Pazos and Oppenheim and culminates in students using a class-wide discussion board to reflect on the material.
Senior Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity Benje Douglas asserted that the implementation of the EdGE program is representative of the College’s broader goal of working toward a more inclusive and equitable Bowdoin community.
“Our two main aims for institutional inclusion work is to build a sense of belonging for students and employees and to build an equity of opportunity for our community members as well,” Douglas wrote in email to the Orient. “Those two things in tandem animate the way we think about this work at every level of campus.”
While some students have found the program to be a valuable learning experience, not all members of the first-year class have taken the program seriously.
First years Chase Lenk and Jeremy Tewari witnessed peers posting cursory responses on discussion boards, clicking quickly through lengthy articles and videos and joking about program content. Lenk noted the difficulty of enforcing more contemplative engagement with the course.
“A lot of people did take it seriously, but not everyone. I know a lot of people who didn’t want to do it and were almost annoyed that they had this extra work to do,” Lenk said.
Last week, Bowdoin Student Government discussed the pitfalls of the system, including what many students view as its excessive time demands. While 99.9 percent of first year students completed the EdGE program last semester, Tewari noted that a number of his friends failed to devote the expected 90 minutes to the training and participated only after Pazos informed first years that students who did not meet the program’s deadline would have OneCard functionality revoked.
I’ve heard from some people that you can do it in three minutes, just clicking through,” Tewari said. “It was just something people did to do and then moved on and didn’t think about again. It feels like a waste of time and resources at the moment.… Making it a thing that people perhaps had more engagement with could make the program more enticing would be beneficial.”
The second unit of the EdGE program, beginning this semester, includes the requirement of an in-person or virtual live session in addition to modular engagement; Pazos remarked that students will have a number of timing options to select from and that the total time commitment will not exceed 90 minutes. He emphasized that spending just an hour and a half each month on the program is a small sacrifice given its ability to create an inclusive College community.
“I firmly believe that any time we can spend doing this work matters,” Pazos said. “Our students are busy but being able to have a 90 minute commitment … I would hope that all of us would agree that is pretty doable.”
Lenk noted that his experience with the program was beneficial overall, particularly because it provoked him to think about challenging previous ideas, habits and assumptions.
“I enjoyed the articles and videos and I learned a lot, especially last semester,” Lenk said. “I really like the messages that the EdGE program is allowing us to think about as a community and to have conversations about.… It’s not perfect, I think there’s a lot of things that could easily change to be better, but I don’t think we should ditch the idea.”
Pazos is in the process of planning for the EdGE program’s likely implementation next year, and hopes to take student feedback into account in altering the program for the Class of 2027.
“I want the program to work for students, so hearing what students think matters a lot,” he said. “If we can commit ourselves to treating each person in our community with dignity, respect, compassion and empathy, that will have met the goal for this program. We don’t all have to agree, we don’t all have to believe the same thing about everything, but we can all treat each other with a lot of dignity.”
Pazos noted that, while the course represents a new system for first year DEI work, it is meant to be only a first step in students’ connection with the Office of Inclusion and Diversity over their time at the College. Opportunities such as Real Talk on Class sessions for sophomores in College Houses and Multifaith Fellows programming aim to continue the relationship between students and the Office.
“Part of our goals as the Office of Inclusion and Diversity is to have multiple touchpoints for all students at different times in their experience. This is the … beginning touchpoint for all first years,” Pazos said.