Developed by: Iowa State University


STEM graduate students spend the majority of their time in their research groups and departments. Hence it is critical to improve the inclusive climate of these communities, especially since considerable research indicates that microaggressions, isolation, and advisor and peer conflicts are the leading causes of attrition of graduate students from historically marginalized groups.

To start conversations within departments about an inclusive climate requires a critical number of department members to reflect on what inclusion is and how its absence can impact students. Inclusion workshops at the department level could be achieved through full-time staff members who rotate through each department. For many universities, this is not viable. An alternative approach is to train a cohort of ~20 faculty and a similar number of graduate peers on how to run inclusion workshops and then have pairs of faculty and pairs of graduate students run these workshops in their home departments.

The advantages of trained faculty and graduate facilitators are that they can bring authenticity to the workshops they lead, and it diffuses complaints that sometimes outside facilitators receive that they don’t know the department. The downsides are that it can put the insider in a difficult position given the existence of relationships that need to be maintained. For these reasons, when running a workshop in a department one of the pair of facilitators was from that department while the other facilitator was not.

The materials for the workshops and facilitator guides were made available for facilitators. They included introductions to identity, privilege, micro-aggressions, and real case studies derived from interviews with ISU graduate students.

Another advantage of the train-the-trainer model is that it builds a cadre of trained faculty and students who have a deeper knowledge of inclusion and are in a better position to lead other diversity and equity initiatives in their department or partner with others on equity grants.

Goals & Objectives

  1. Start departmental-level conversations about inclusion
  2. Increase the knowledge of faculty and graduate students about inclusion, privilege, and micro-aggressions

Partners, or Who to Engage, and Why

  • Department chairs and directors of graduate education
    • These leaders need to be the main champion for local efforts. If the department chair fully advocates for these workshops then attendance will be high.
    • Nominate faculty and graduate students as facilitators
  • Center for faculty professional development
    • Coordinate efforts on inclusive mentoring, teaching, and advising, especially those that already may be going at the departmental level. Multiple department workshops on inclusion may cause participation to drop and there to be a sense of annoyance at the lack of coordination.
    • Provide additional names of faculty and graduate students as facilitators
  • Graduate school/college
    • Recruit departments
    • Host the train-the-trainer workshops, co-develop workshop material, and distribute reading material in advance as needed for preparation
    • Help with accountability, i.e. that workshops inside the department are conducted
  • Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    • Ensure this initiative dovetails with others going on at the same time
    • Co-develop the workshop material

Planning & Logistics

  1. Recruiting departments and department chairs as advocates
  2. Recruit faculty and graduate student facilitators
  3. Identify the trainer who can conduct train-the-trainer workshops
  4. Develop the workshop materials before the train-the-trainer workshops so the faculty and graduate student facilitators know what material they will be using.
  5. Conduct the train-the-trainer workshop, likely 1.5 days
  6. Match pairs of facilitators
  7. Provide facilitators with assessment tools for the workshop for their private, formative feedback
  8. Facilitators schedule and conduct workshops in their department
  9. To reduce power differentials, faculty-only and graduate-student-only workshops should be both scheduled.

A Pilot / Initial Rollout

A train-the-trainer model does not readily lead to a pilot phase, i.e. once ~20 faculty and graduate facilitators have been trained, they will want to run workshops in ~10 departments relatively soon after the training.

On the other hand, the workshop materials need to be well-developed and tested. Hence a critical step before the train-the-trainer rollout is to test and improve the workshop material in a few departments, perhaps facilitated by experienced facilitators.

Full-Scale Solution

To reach most STEM departments, the train-the-trainer cycle may need to be repeated three times. In year-1, approximately 10 departments can be recruited along with one faculty and one graduate trainee facilitator for each.

Before the academic year, the train-the-trainer workshop can take place. The facilitator of this must take care to support the development of a wide range of participants who have different experiences with equity, and inclusion, as well as facilitating workshops. In addition, the train-the-trainer must be alert to the power differential between graduate students and faculty.

The department chair and director of graduate education need to strongly advocate for the importance of the department workshops to encourage strong attendance. They should also provide administrative help for the facilitators in terms of scheduling, rooms and advertising.

The graduate school can help with printed material and formative assessment tools for the workshop. Being engaged in these ways has the additional benefit that the graduate school knows that a department has scheduled its separate workshops for faculty and students.

Associated Costs

ItemUnit Cost# of UnitsCost
Catering for train-the-trainer workshop1 annual event (1.5 days)20 participants$500
Consultant fee if needed for train-the-trainer workshop$20,000

Attribution Statement

For those that might adapt and adopt this program model, please provide attribution to the ISU Train-the-trainer inclusion workshops established in part with support from the National Science Foundation funded CIRTL AGEP Project.

Contact for More Information

Craig Ogilvie,