dr Paola Ehrmantraut believes in the power of inclusive space. Ehrmantraut, Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Endowed Chair in Humanities at the University of St. Thomas, is dedicated to creating spaces where everyone is welcome — whether it’s in the classroom, break room, or boardroom .
“When people truly engage with diversity in a meaningful way, it creates places where we can all thrive,” Ehrmantraut said.
Professor Paola Ehrmantraut will lead the new MA in Diversity Leadership program. She believes the program can provide professionals with the tools they need to create community-wide change. (Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas)
As director of the university’s newest degree offering, a Master of Arts in Diversity Leadership, Ehrmantraut says the interdisciplinary program aims to prepare leaders for meaningful work and to embed diversity, equity and inclusion in the culture of their organizations.
“I said ‘yes’ to leading this program because it directly expresses my passion for making this world a more inclusive place for everyone,” said Ehrmantraut.
While DEI degrees and certifications are growing across the country, St. Thomas is one of the few universities in the country to offer a graduate degree in diversity. It is an innovative program that responds to the growing needs of organizations seeking competent leaders who can execute DEI strategies.
“We are at a pivotal moment where many organisations, businesses and establishments are incorporating (DEI) elements into their strategic plans…but now they have realized that this may be due to the skills of their people or the people responsible for it.” are responsible for ensuring that these changes are actually implemented.” simply not there,” said Ehrmantraut. “They are now looking for that knowledge and those skills.”
To encourage interdisciplinary learning, the courses bring together eight university departments from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Opus College of Business and the School of Education. Course titles include Navigating Political Polarization and Storytelling for Inclusive Cultures. Several leadership-focused courses are also offered, such as Equity Focused Leadership and Leading Self and Diverse Teams.
dr Heather Shirey, Professor of Art History and Diversity Leadership, developed the Street Art and Social Justice course to challenge students’ perceptions of the world in which they live.
Professor Heather Shirey speaks to students in her art history class during a trip to observe and discuss street art in Minneapolis. (Liam James Doyle/University of St Thomas)
“Murals, graffiti and stickers — all of these things are in the spaces that we move and live in every day, and they communicate with us, and people often ignore it,” Shirey said. “I really hope that people take it seriously and perceive the world around them differently.”
A core component of each course focuses on understanding and connecting with culture within communities. It’s a lesson that should resonate with every student, regardless of their goal – whether they’re new to their careers or looking to take on a DEI-focused role.
“To learn to live together and create a more just and just society, we really need to learn to engage with multiple perspectives,” Shirey said. “It’s so exciting to see how this program at St. Thomas engages in these really nuanced and complicated dialogues about identity.”
Designed for busy students with families and full-time jobs, the degree is entirely online and asynchronous. Students enroll in a single course at a time, for a total of 12, and can complete the course in just two years.
Executive Vice President and Provost Eddy Rojas had the original idea to develop the MA in Diversity Leadership. He believes the experienced faculty will be the biggest draw. (Christopher Fahey)
The program is the brainchild of Executive Vice President and Provost Eddy Rojas, who was looking for a new way to bring about change in our communities.
“When developing educational programs, we always strive to achieve a multiplicative effect,” said Rojas. “We want to educate individuals who will return to their organizations to educate others and become agents of change. In this way society can be changed – one person at a time, one student at a time.”
Students can complete the program with the support of their employer or start directly after completing their bachelor’s degree. Regardless of how they get to the program, Rojas is confident they will take away lessons they can use for years to come.
“If you want to be an effective leader, if you want to be able to understand the people you work with, really leverage their strengths and differences, understand your clients, understand society in general, this is it a success in my opinion “Fantastic program for you,” said Rojas.
Applications for the first semester of the program, which begins on September 6, 2023, are now open.