Inclusive Academic Introduction

Providing a start for students that facilitates sense of belonging
Man standing in front of full lecture hall

Inclusive Academic Introduction 2019

What is an Inclusive Academic Introduction?

This toolbox is an easy-to-implement intervention that is inviting and aims to foster a sense of belonging for diverse students. Sense of belonging is an important indicator to student retention and satisfaction.[1][2] We use the definition of the sense of belonging as the feeling of being a welcome and contributing member of a community. [3]

Above is an example of how the session was run by DISCO in 2019, at the end of this webpage is a downloadable template to be able to run the session yourself.

Use this guide as an inspiration and adapt it to fit your program to conduct an inclusive academic introduction on the first day of class. This exercise contains three main elements:

  1. Icebreakers – Use an icebreaker that makes space for community building and empathetic interactions. Allow the new students to meet in pairs and use the questions in the PowerPoint to guide the conversations. As students discover what they have in common with each other, they feel more aligned and supported.
  2. Sharing of Vulnerabilities – Through this activity, the teacher, and the senior students who are helping run the session can tell stories about their vulnerabilities related to, e.g., doing something for the first time, being in a new environment, and/or not feeling at ease in a group.
  3. Providing information to new students about building a support network – Let students know the different support groups and programs, including peer support in the form of mentoring programs, available for them and how to reach these programs. Some of the support services for students in EUR are:
  • Student Wellbeing: The EUR Student Wellbeing programme aims to help students grow and thrive during their life here at the university by providing help with practical matters, personal matters, workshops, and social activities.
  • Student mentor programmes such as Connect Mentor in Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (ESSB) and Mentor Me in Rotterdam School of Management (RSM).
  • Student Associations and Organizations: Each faculty in EUR has a study or faculty association and associations focused on social activities. They provide opportunities of community building, networking, and support in general.
  • Confidential counsellors for students: EUR has a network of confidential counsellors at faculty and department level. They serve as the contact person for anyone who has been confronted with unwanted behavior or unequal treatment in their study or work environment.

The exercise below was created by us based on the "Introduction hour" session by DISCO (Diversiteit en Inclusie Studenten COmmissie) of the Erasmus Medical Centre (EMC). The PowerPoint document explains the activity in more detail.

- Increased Student Retention - Dr. Kerstin Perez, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that small interventions, like the one provided here, have a big impact on the retention rates and grades of all students. You can find a link to listen to her talk during Leiden University's Annual D&I Symposium 2021 here. (Timestamp: 31:13-43:35)

- Open Doors for Community Building – You should be able to start positive interactions with and amongst students, which is an essential component of community building, by focusing on:

  • cultivating a sense of belonging through shared experiences and
  • building empathy by providing emotional, social, and cognitive support.

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