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Inclusivity in Collegiate Communication Classrooms

Professors want students to experience inclusivity both inside and outside of the classroom.

This requires professors to be intentional and educated about inclusivity and cultural responsiveness.

Below, learn more about inclusive pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching from a downloadable infographic. Then, meet communication professors from big and small universities across the nation sharing the realities of inclusion, where they are getting it right, where they still need to grow, and their tips and tricks. Finally, a resource library at the bottom of the page will link you to external resources, websites, books, and more.

Inclusive Pedagogy and Culturally Responsive Teaching

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Meet Communication Professors Striving for Inclusion

Professor Tara L. Smith, M.S., APR

University of Delaware

Instructor and M.A. Program Director- 5 years

Professor Tara L. Smith teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Delaware. “Inclusion plays a huge part of the courses I teach both in person and online,” said Professor Smith.

Mindset and mindfulness are touchpoints throughout the interview as Professor Smith reiterates how important it is to know how to communicate and what students are trying to accomplish. “Having the mindset of having different voices at the table…is so important because it can make or break the success of the campaign, the reputation of their client, or their organization.”

In an insightful interview, Professor Smith shares the innovative ways she interacts with students and how she uses a variety of techniques to give everyone in the classroom the chance to respond.

Professor Matt Prince is an adjunct communications professor at Chapman University in Orange, California. He is also the Director of Marketing Communications and Public Relations at Taco Bell where he leads promotion, brand strategy and narrative for its largest campaigns, partnerships and activations. 

Professor Prince sees inclusion as an important part of teaching. "I bring in a lot of speakers in my class and I'm making sure that I'm bringing in speakers that are reflective of the people who are in the class and reaches the goal of diversity that the university is reaching for."

In an 11-minute interview, Professor Prince touches on different ways of providing opportunities for participation with class, how he is working to address diversity in how people think and learn, and his biggest "ah-ha" moment after becoming a professor.

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Professor Matt Prince

Inclusion InterviewProfessor Matt Prince
00:00 / 11:33

Chapman University

Adjunct Professor- 3 years


Interview starts at 0:27


Professor Ken Hagihara, APR, Fellow PRSA, MCM

California State University, Fullerton

Full-time Lecturer- 5 years

Professor Hagihara believes "communication for each person is pretty unique." When teaching a capstone class that requires a large group project, he places students into groups rather than allowing them to choose their own. "This makes students who might not otherwise interact and take everyone's input." He also sees the benefit of including diverse perspectives in their project. "For example, even though I’m reaching out to business owners ages between 30 to 65, there are so many different audiences in there, depending on how you were raised and what your culture is like. Having those diverse voices in these groups helps."

Professor Hagihara also highlighted the need for inclusion of students with disabilities. "I’ve had students who are hard of hearing and who have sight issues, and I’ve had to adjust. I now make my presentations visible on Canvas (Learning Management System) because there are some students who need to have that with special tools they use."

Taking a look at the way he assesses student's work is also an opportunity for inclusion for Professor Hagihara. "I have one student who has a writing and communication style that is completely different than my typical college and corporate style. I have spent time trying to figure out, 'How do I assess him without trying to change him?'" He relies on looking at the course objectives to determine if the student is meeting them. "My criteria is subjective and not the world’s criteria, and I can’t take down someone’s confidence just because they’re not writing the exact way I think they should. That’s always a challenge."

Professor Jennifer Heinly is an adjunct professor at Vanguard University of Southern California and the University of Delaware teaching both in-person undergraduate classes and online graduate courses.

Utilizing resources available through the college for services like translation has been important for Professor Heinly when she has had international students in her courses. “I make sure the university provides tutoring, so they don’t fall behind.”

In this interview, Professor Heinly highlights the importance of getting to know students outside the classroom whenever possible. “I think once you understand their family and cultural background, it’s a lot easier to form a mutual trustworthy relationship.”

Professor Jennifer Heinly

University of Delaware & Vanguard University

Adjunct Professor- 10 years

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Professor Heidi Ochoa

Saddleback College

Professor of Communication- 17 years


Professor Heidi Ochoa is a Professor of Communication at Saddleback College in Orange County, CA. Professor Ochoa has been teaching at Saddleback College since 2006 and has seen her role in the classroom and the college evolve.

"We start from the very first day talking about how education is a space for us to rehearse our identities. My job is that no matter where you come from, to get you to be more confident."

In this insightful interview, Professor Ochoa shares the unique way she starts class at the beginning of the semester, and technical and psychological tips to increase inclusion in your classroom.  

Inclusion InterviewProfessor Heidi Ochoa
00:00 / 16:42

Interview starts at 0:07

Resource Library

Happy College Student

AAC&U Inclusive Excellence Commission and Excellence Experiment Podcast

AAC&U’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Student Success supports college and university campuses by developing and implementing evidence-based strategies that elevate high-impact teaching and learning experiences. The Excellence Experiment is a nine-episode podcast series that affords listeners an exclusive look into Inclusive Excellence.

College Library

University of San Diego

Teaching for Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity in the Classroom Series

The University of San Diego offers a variety of online, self-paced courses to provide educators with skills and strategies on how to create a culturally inclusive classroom, while teaching students to value inclusion and promote cultural respect and tolerance. While focused on K-12 educators, courses will benefit all teachers and students.

Students Sitting on Staircase

Georgetown University Inclusive Pedagogy Website

Georgetown University's Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship offers a comprehensive website on inclusive pedagogy, including an IP Toolkit with 21 concrete ideas for inclusive practices. The Toolkit focuses on course content, pedagogy, assessments, climate, power dynamics, and mentorship.

At the Library

DEI Resource Library

Shop a curated Amazon list of books centered around critical communication theory, inclusive pedagogy, and culturally responsive teaching.

Teacher Assisting a Student

Online articles

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