New ICARE Program Combats Unconscious Biases

Identity, Consciousness, Awareness, and Responsibility Education (ICARE) is a newly-implemented online course and training program at USF in order to help members of the USF community better comprehend unconscious bias and appreciate the University’s diverse community. The program aims to “equip students with the knowledge and skills to respond to microaggressions, as well as encourages students to develop a personal commitment to social justice,” according to the ICARE FAQ.

ICARE consists of an online quiz that all incoming students are required to take before arriving at USF, followed by an in-person session during New Student Orientation which includes a two-hour meeting in the Swig Gym at the Koret Health and Recreation Center. This year’s meeting consisted of education about and discussions on what microaggressions are and how identity is perceived, as well as a “diversity walk,” where Resident Advisors and GO Team orientation leaders were asked questions about their identities and told to take steps forward or back based on their answers. Following these sessions and activities, students went into small groups to further discuss topics of diversity and evaluate how others see them and how they want their identity to be perceived.

The program was created this past year by an ASUSF resolution and through strong commitment from senior leadership, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Engagement Lester Deanes said. His office will both oversee and financially sustain the ICARE program moving forward.

Two alumnae, Dom Brown ‘19 and former ASUSF President Reyna Brown ‘19, pioneered the ICARE program during their time at USF. They also worked together to train student leaders and present the first in-person student component, as “the committee believed having a peer to peer voice was important for the in-person workshop,” Deanes said.  

During the 2017-18 school year, Reyna Brown — a junior at the time — worked with other senators to pass a resolution tackling the issues they saw students facing surrounding unconscious biases. It was during this time that Reyna Brown started exploring why the University, as a Jesuit school with social justice values, should implement a program to combat these issues. 

She soon noticed that the release of the Campus Climate Survey in 2018 reflected the need for the program.

According to the survey, 19% of respondents had experienced conduct they considered to be exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, or hostile — with nearly all of this conduct being based on ethnicity, gender identity, or social status.

Reyna Brown then brought the resolution to USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald — she described the process to actually implement the resolution as being difficult because originally President Fitzgerald said, “no” to the resolution. After multiple meetings with President Fitzgerald, he agreed to provide funding for the ICARE program through the Department of Student Life after Reyna Brown used data from the Campus Climate Survey to demonstrate the need for the program.

In his faculty convocation address on Aug. 15, Father Fitzgerald even referenced one of Reyna Brown’s arguments in favor of the program — that the University needed to be more supportive of its students if it expected them to “change the world from here.” 

…the University needed to be more supportive of its students if it expected them to “change the world from here.”

Rayna Brown

“The ‘here’ is, as one would expect, multi-layered and manifold,” Fitzgerald said. “Beyond the geographic places I just named, the essential ‘here’ of USF is the hospitable space that opens within the heart of each member of this diverse community, as we meet each other with respect, curiosity and awe.”

The first in-person training session during New Student Orientation was a success, despite scheduling constraints limiting the depth with which each section could be covered, Reyna Brown said. Deanes specified that more than 30 faculty and staff members commended ICARE with full support.

“Tons of incoming students were thanking us and saying, ‘You should come to my high school!’” Reyna Brown explained. “We heard nothing but accolades and appreciation from students.” 

She also said that she hopes the new students understand that they are welcome on campus and deserve to be here.

“I hope this starts a shift in culture so that conversations about cultural diversity are happening outside of sociology classrooms,” Reyna Brown said. “If you’re truly ‘changing the world from here,’ you should practice what you preach.”


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