Working with Diversity and Inclusion Colleagues

A page within CATL Instructor's Guide to Inclusive Excellence


Students learn in many places, and student supports take many forms.  The more closely instructors work with our colleagues across campus, but especially in Diversity and Inclusion, the better we can together support student success and the more likely we are to retain especially our historically underserved students all the way to graduation.

The fundamental message here is that our colleagues are professionals and have expertise that can complement the expertise of instructors.  That complementarity can best be reached by talking to each other as equal partners who share the goal of student success.

The ways and the reasons to collaborate are many. Here are some ideas to consider.


  • Cocurricular learning:  identify a series of campus events related to your course and design assignments or learning activities in class around them.  Pulling in such learning opportunities can make the learning more lasting than assigning one-off events about which students write reaction papers. 
    • Teach students how to be "in the moment" rather than allowing them to assume they should focus their attention on taking detailed notes throughout an entire event. Prepare students in advance to understand the learning goal these activities aim to develop.
    • Diversity and Inclusion professionals are happy to help you work with diversity-related student organizations as you design teaching activities and or research projects that are likely to involve student orgs. Avoid assigning your students to attend student organization meetings as part of a "diversity experience" - the presence of observers taking notes about a meeting can make the members and leaders of student organizations feel like they are "on display" for the benefit of a majority group. CATL can work with you to design activities that best achieve your instructional objectives while respecting other individuals and organizations.
    • "Diversity panels" -- a small group of students who come to a class to talk about their own experiences as a member of a particular population -- can be an important learning experience for many students.  Please set those up through an appropriate Diversity and Inclusion professional, rather than asking students you know on your own. Instructors can place undue pressure on a student to agree to this kind of work by asking directly, and the work can take a toll.  Our colleagues in Diversity and Inclusion are better positioned to know which students are at risk of undermining their academic success by doing too much of this.
  • Coadvising: recording a quick note in Eagle Alert when you have spoken to a student about a learning issue or opportunity can help colleagues across campus work with that student more effectively. 
    • Exercise the highest professional standards when communicating in this shared system.
    • Some departments invite colleagues who regularly advise students (e.g., Office of Multicultural Student Services, Pride Center, ACCESS Center, Academic Advising Center) to a department meeting to discuss what is and is not working for student success. At the very least, the practice makes it easier to collaborate by having met face-to-face rather than solely over email.
  • Proactive ("intrusive") advising:  research indicates that intervening early and proactively (e.g., required and regular advising meetings) can help students by identifying problems before they become critical.  Our Student Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion colleagues are experts in proactive advising.  Some of the ideas in the next item can also be helpful to colleagues who advise, since proactive advising includes academics. 
  • Tutoring, study skills development, and other academic support:
    Ensure that every student in your class knows about the resources UWL has developed to support student success, but don't publicly single out particular resources to particular groups of students.  You can easily send the message that students from particular populations are not as capable as others, and that will help no one.
    • Help students understand that you expect them to seek help if they don't understand something.  Explain, more than once, that you hold office hours for a reason, and that they are that reason.  Explain, more than once, that learning takes time and is rarely easy, and that asking for help is a normal aspect of being a college student.
    • Don't simply refer a student seeking help from you.  Take the time to respond to every student who asks for help, especially if they have made the effort to find you outside of class.
    • If you have used "exam wrappers" or other methods that can help you correlate student success in your class with particular approaches to study, writing projects, or test preparation, sharing that information with our colleagues who also work with students can be extremely helpful.
    • A conversation about the learning process in a course that serves as your discipline's gateway to the major can be very helpful to our colleagues who  help support student learning outside the classroom.
    • Identifying particular dates (e.g., an exam that falls in Week 5) when it becomes evident to you that students have not understood critical concepts to our colleagues can help our colleagues intervene before it's too late for those students.
    • If you assign tasks to study groups in your classes, offer to share those assignments with our colleagues in student success offices. Consider assigning students to study groups so that the only visibly multicultural students or students with disabilities don't feel either targeted or ignored.  For study groups, as for any group work outside of class time, an effective way to assign students to groups is by their availability.
  • Specialized support services:  rely on colleagues who work with students from particular populations for the specialized services they provide. Veterans Services can help a student negotiate external bureaucracies, among other supports. The ACCESS Center can help both you and your student use the learning supports the ACCESS staff orders. The Equity and Affirmative Action office can help you understand the law. The Office of Multicultural Student Services, Campus Climate, and the Pride Center can help students negotiate a campus that feels overwhelmingly different from their prior experience, and they can help you understand what feels unwelcoming to historically underserved students in your class. The Office of Multicultural Student Services can also help with academic (e.g. peer tutoring, early warning), non-academic (e.g. financial aid) and related retention issues. Our diversity and inclusion and student affairs staff are excellent collaborators. A call to any of those offices might help you help a student in ways you may not even know exist.
  • Community-based and experiential learning opportunities:  partnering with International Education, Career Services for internships, and UWL's community portal offices can help you develop powerful learning experiences that also benefit our region.  The Office of Multicultural Student Services has provided community-based learning through their pre-college programs. They work very closely with the School of Education, Community Health, and Exercise and Sports Science in particular, and are open to additional collaborations. Our colleagues in these offices work hard to build connections to the community and to understand the needs of community groups.
  • Career and life planning and development: working collaboratively with colleagues who monitor job markets and graduate school admissions rate, who talk to employers and graduate programs every day, and teach courses on career development can help departments better understand how to prepare students to succeed in a complex and changing economy and world. 
  • Assessment of student learning:  students refuse to confine their learning to just their interactions with instructors.  Collaborating with colleagues from residence life to CAB to any of the student success offices can yield important insights into student learning.  Assessment in teams are opportunities for publishable research that can benefit other instructors.


Ahren, C. (2008). Closing the gap with student affairs staff: From margin to mainstream. New Directions For Higher Education, 2008(143), 83-91.

Banta, T. W., & Kuh, G. D. (1998). A missing link in assessment. Change, 30(2), 40.

Colwell, B. (2007). Building an Effective Student and Academic Affairs Partnership. Student Affairs Leader, 35(20), 01-04.

Hoskins, D. (2017). Collaborating with colleagues in student affairs. In Instructor's Guide to Inclusive Excellence. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from