Governance Matters

In her doctoral work at Vanderbilt University, Jodi Porter, Ed.D., studied diversity, equity, and inclusion tools to help schools have helpful conversations on the subject. She ended up developing a tool to help drive a school’s conversation. In Trust’s Matt Hufman talked with her for the Good Governance podcast. You can find the tool and the conversation at on episode 39. This is an edited version of the conversation.


Why did you develop this tool?

There aren’t as many resources in our field as we might think. That’s part of the reason we’re struggling at times, or at least looking for additional insight and support for these conversations.

I read a broad funnel of literature from management, psychology, sociology, higher education, and theological education, and have had three broad observations. The first is that we think about doing this work institution-wide, as opposed to siloing it in particular departments, such as student affairs.

The second observation is there are a couple of values that the literature highlighted. The first is often called the instrumental value; in education, we often talk about this as effectiveness. The other value that can be and should be emphasized in diversity work is the moral value – what is right and how can we pursue justice in this work? Both of those types of values are important.

And then the third broad stroke that I noticed is that if we want to do diversity work well, then how can we implement those sorts of suggestions?

I discovered that, at least for the case of this study, there’s not one tool that combines those in an especially accessible way for our work. So I set out to use two frameworks from the literature that would each represent either success or justice, put those two together and then eventually create a related tool that our schools can utilize around those couple of values.


How can schools use the tool in their particular contexts?

There are different components of this work that any given institution might engage. And one of those is the access and success piece. Who is on our campus? Do we have enough faculty of color? Do we have enough students of color? But that’s really just a question about representation. It’s not a question around thriving. And I think that’s the better question, a more robust, even more faithful question. We’re getting people here, but are they thriving in their work?


What do you want a board member or senior leader in a school to know?

Sometimes we talk in our industry about being in a liminal space. What is next for theological education? I think it’s important for us to look around, especially folks who look like me. I’m a white woman. I think it’s important for us to notice the diversity that’s been among us all along and take a moment to figure out if we are we being faithful in our work in light of that diversity? And if not, how can we do more? Are we talking only about access and inclusion on our campus? Are we talking only about concord on our campus or are we talking about thriving and belonging? There are still persistent inequities across our industry, and we have a chance to do something about that and not just check the box that says we’re being effective, but to move beyond that and say, “we’re also being just,” and here’s a place where we can start with this sort of a resource.

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