Welcome to Episode 106 of the Think UDL podcast: Systematic UDL Application in Disability and Diversity Programs with Zebadiah Hall. Zebadiah Hall is the Vice President in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming. Previously, he worked in Cornell University’s Office of Disability Services and his graduate work has focussed on Universal Design for Learning and how to apply the UDL principles systematically. He brings a wealth of knowledge in UDL, Disability Services and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to our conversation. We discuss how UDL can be applied systemically to the practices of a university, including the intake of students for disability accommodations, how to organize a disability office using UDL, how intersectionality affects DEI work, how to approach difficult topics equitably, avoid cancel culture, and practice free speech in all its forms.
Find Zebadiah Hall via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
UDL, students, people, disability, engage, DEI, intersectionality, barriers, thinking, important, disabled, identities, learning, accommodations
Lillian Nave, Zebadiah Hall
Lillian Nave 00:02
Welcome to think UDL, the Universal Design for Learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 106 of the think UDL podcast, systematic UDL application in disability and diversity programs with Zebadiah Hall. Zebadiah Hall is the Vice President in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming. Previously, he worked in Cornell University’s Office of Disability Services, and his graduate work has focused on universal design for learning how to apply the UDL principles systematically. He brings a wealth of knowledge in UDL, Disability Services and diversity, equity and inclusion work to our conversation. We discuss how UDL can be applied systematically to the practices of a university, including the intake of students for disability accommodations, how to organize a disability office using UDL, how intersectionality effects dei work, how to approach difficult topics equitably, avoid canceled culture, and practice free speech in all its forms. It is a great conversation. So thank you for joining us for such an enlightening discussion. Thank you to our sponsor Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. So welcome Zebadiah. I really excited to have you today on the think UDL podcast.
Zebadiah Hall 02:28
Thank you for having me. Excited to be in space and time with you.
Lillian Nave 02:32
Yeah. So let me start with before we get into the real meat here, start with what makes you a different kind of learner. Yes.
Zebadiah Hall 02:42
First of all, just start with Zebadiah Hall. Use he him pronouns identify as a black male. One of the things that makes me different learner is the fact that I can learn from anybody. Being at an institution of higher education, sometimes people only want to learn from PhDs only want to learn from people within the institutions. I’m an individual that is willing to learn from anybody, regardless of their identities, regardless of their age. But I’m just open to learning from anybody, if people can show me where to go get the information. Also very much a hands on learner also like things expressed in various different ways. And so that I believe what makes me a different learner. I think also, as much as I learned, I learned that I don’t know much. And so remaining teachable in the willingness to learn from anybody is what makes me a different learner.
Lillian Nave 03:42
Nice. And we really crossed paths because of the UDL space and a shared colleague that I’ve also interviewed on the podcast, that’s not working where you are. But you had a real introduction and use of Universal Design for Learning principles in several different areas of a university. And so I wanted to start with your previous position, and which was in an office of disability services. And I wanted to ask about how you applied UDL principles to your work there systemically. Because usually, I’m talking to professor’s and the learning, you know, environment, the classroom. And this is a slightly different approach for using UDL on that student services side. And so I’m really interested in what the barriers were that you saw, and how did you use UDL to remove them? Yeah,
Zebadiah Hall 04:43
really, really? Great question because most of the time when we think about UDL, it’s more so in the teaching form. Not necessarily in the systematic or staff side of the things when we’re talking about institution of higher education. One of the things that I did was Wonder What students were actually engaging with our office. And once I understood what students was engaging with our office, similar to doing disability work, so I was the Director of Student Disability Services at Cornell University, which is a private Ivy League institution. It’s one of the it’s the most diverse Ivy League institution. And so there was plenty of diversity at the institution. And what I wanted to do was make sure that the students that needed our services were able to receive them. And so what I started to do is unpack identity and identities that we hold as individuals, and what does that mean to them being barriers to our students. For example, there are times where a woman that has an eating disorder does not want to meet with Zebadiah as a male has nothing to do with my blackness in that situation, even though my blackness might be a barrier, or certain students, no different than white identity might be a barrier to our black and brown students. And what we wanted to do to see how do we take ourselves out of the process in such a way that we use universal design for learning to be able to engage our students. And so some of the things that we did was we took our names off the accommodation letters, and we just put Student Disability Services, which then it wasn’t connected to a specific person it wasn’t connected to a specific identity was connected to the students were connected to our offices. Where we also started to do to was recognized when we meet with students, if they held different identities, it might be really hard for them to engage in the interactive process, it might be hard for them to articulate what their barriers were. And so what we started to do is any questions that we would ask in the interview process, or the intake process, or them connecting with our office, we would send to them in writing. For one, they had the information in advance. For two, they didn’t have to physically meet with us in person or on Zoom, if they wanted to just write in that information. What we also did was we took time to change our disclosure. And so we ask very different questions. And so part of UDL is how do you engage with people? How do they have the chance to express themselves in different ways? And how are you articulating what you’re doing in different ways. And we tried to take that approach and what we did, one of the reasons it was really critical for me to think about that is we had at the time, five white women determine accommodations, in understanding that their identities were a barrier to some of the students and thinking about their intersectionality and who they were, as people gave us the chance to think about what our identities could what parts of our identities could be barriers for those students. And that’s how we kind of unpacked it a little bit.
Lillian Nave 07:39
So it did that end up making it just more anonymous, or it allowed for multiple ways for students and for the office to be serving those students. Is that what you’re saying? Yeah,
Zebadiah Hall 07:55
it gave us multiple, multiple, multiple tutor ways of engaging with those students. So one of the things that happened is we went from service in about 2000 students to about 6000 students. And remotely, it wasn’t as if our staff did grow over time. But we’re never going to have enough staff to outgrow the pace of the numbers, which is which is engaging with our office. And so one of the things that it gave us the ability to do is most of the time, and disabilities offices. The people that determine disability, determine accommodations have a caseload, we removed the caseload from those individuals. And to your point of being able to not only have the staff engagement, have the students engage once we change that model, what we did also once again, different ways of engaging when it comes to UDL, we had people pick a specific day, and that was their access day. And that meant any student staff or faculty could access those individuals to ask questions around accommodations are how we determine accommodations. And so for those students that still wanted to meet that gave them a touch point to be meet. What it did in our system was it told what it did for us as it said, If a student wants to meet once every day, and seven days schedule is full three weeks out, that means that student doesn’t receive their services until four weeks. And what it started to do with the access time is the student can meet with the next available person. And so then whoever was available during our work hours to meet that person was able to schedule a meeting. So then it cut down the fact that if I have 600 people on my caseload, and my calendar is really full, that means I can’t actually get to those other students that’s on my caseload. Now that we don’t have caseload so now that they don’t have caseload the next available person was then able to meet with that student. So that means meant on our end, we needed to make sure that our case notes were up to date. We needed to make sure that anybody that was meeting with that student can pop into our system and see the information for that student. And once again, even for us, they gave us different touch points different ways. Have a gauging. Also the work can be really hard. And so what it also did for my staff was it gave them different ways to engage with the work. So I know if my day is Monday, I know that I’m going to meet with students, staff and faculty. And those meetings might be really tough. But I know on Tuesday, once again, a different way of gauging with the work, I’m just responding to emails, I’m doing it in a different vein. And so even for the staff, it gave them a way of checking the work, and gave them the ability to then pick and choose what days they’re going to meet with people, versus what days were they going to do behind the scenes things and stuff like that. And so not only was it successful for the students, and it gave them a better service, because we cut down our response time in half. But it also gave my staff that does really, really hard work, the ability to engage with the work in different ways and chunk their work as well.
Lillian Nave 10:47
Yeah, I thought that was just brilliant, how yours again, systematically looking at the problem, and allowing for the variability, not just in the learners, the students, but also the staff. So both sides of that equation is so important. And oftentimes with an Office of Disability disability, there are certain levels, or let’s say, doctor’s orders, or diagnoses, or, let’s say, barriers in how to get services. And you’ve already talked about dismantling some of those barriers. But when you said you, your first answer was about you can learn from anybody and you you love all these different information, sir. Sources, it seems like you apply that to that office as well.
Zebadiah Hall 11:38
Correct. One of the things that we did was, we did a poll, and it’s called Where am I from, and it’s kind of like a template, and then you add information specifically about you. And so as a team, we did that. And so what started to happen is some of the staff were talking about, my parents wrapped my gifts in the funnies. And what they’re really saying is, our family didn’t have the means to pay for wrapping paper. And so they use whatever paper that you had to be able to wrap the paper in that was a correlation to lower income individuals. And so that gave us the ability to say, for you with your whiteness, do you think our black and brown students understand that you actually are first year in our you actually did come from a lower socio economic situation with your family. And so it gave us the ability to pack that. And so what we did was we learned from one another. And so the way that you didn’t apply that is then we know that there are systems outside of us that help us in doing our job, for example, health care providers, and all of those things, we understand that there are health disparities. And so if we’re relying solely on this medical documentation or information and make those decisions, we’re playing into those health disparities that play out in the system, what we would then do is see that this student might be first gen, because they told us they’re a first gen, this student might be black or brown, or this student might identify an LGBT community. And if we had people that identify within those communities within our team, we then would go to one another and have conversations about how that might work. For example, there might be times where black and brown bodies cannot talk about mental health and do those things. But they also might have a pastor or a youth pastor that they’ve been working with. And that youth pastor can talk to us about the ways in which they engage that individual. That’s not a medical provider. But that’s a different way of engaging with that information that knows that individual. And so the more that we can unpack our identities, the more we can understand how our identities or barriers or how our identities gave us access to understand things that we did learning from other people, that gave us the ability to service our students in a different way. And I think that’s the one of the things that’s really important. We also did an exercise where they had to come up with three situations in which they engage with diversity, equity inclusion, how old were they when they happen? And what did they learn from those experience. So then it then taught us what peep where people were at as it related to diversity, equity inclusion. And now we can apply this from an intersectionality standpoint, when we’re engaging with our students. What we also did was went to a place where, since we didn’t have caseload and then since people weren’t individually, always meeting with students, it was a team that determined accommodations in a way that you now apply learning from each other is we might have a case that we’re looking at together, and then somebody can say, Well, I understand where that student is coming from, because when I was younger, I identify as this are identified now at this, and that’s why that information might be missing. We also know that our trans students are treated differently sometimes from a medical system standpoint, and that might be why that documentation is lacking. We also know that this is a first gen student And that student might not have access to clinical providers. So it helped us do our job because we learned from each other and we use our identities, and helped us then unpack from a larger standpoint. And so instead of Zebadiah, just holding the identities that I hold and working with that student. Now when I look at my counterparts and their identities that they hold visible or non visible, now it’s a plethora of information help making that decision from a group standpoint, also going back to taking care of our staff, I think that’s really salient. They gave our staff a different way of engaging with the material. And so in the one on one meetings with the students, we will start off and say, We’re here to get to know you, and understand your access barriers, because I’m not going to make a decision because we make decisions as a group. So it took the pressure off of my team to say, I’m individually making this decision. Now we’re making this decision as a group. And so it changed our relationship with the students that was engaging with us as well, once again, how do you engage with the material very different, this is already a really hard conversation, for me to come in and talk about my disability talk about what am I experiencing. And if I think that you’re taking this information just to make a decision now, that changes the relationship, but when I tell the student, we’re not going to make a decision that we’re going to take this information back to the committee and the committee is going to make this decision. It changes that relationship, but it helps the student engage differently. It also helps my staff engage differently. And so really thinking critically about our identities, how we show up, what are our barriers within our processes and procedure? And then how do we apply UDL to our system to kind of hit on all the different things that we’re talking about? Yeah.
Lillian Nave 16:38
And that that way of dealing with the system, I thought was, I think instrumental in cutting down on a lot of the assumptions that one might make right assumptions on both sides, so that if a student assumes this is what they’re going to get with one particular person, then knowing that it’s actually with a, a the office, the larger group, that’s going to change that. And also those those assumptions we might make about a student if they because of the way they look, or what they’ve written on their forum or something like that, that I really appreciate that about introducing the UDL multiple means and multiple ways of thinking even about the problem, or the issue has made me think that taking away those barriers has also helped us I think in that interpersonal communication, and understanding each other more. And it seems almost the opposite. Like oh, that seems less personal, because it’s not the one on one. But it also takes away I believe some of the assumptions and barriers that the one on one might bring. Does that make sense?
Zebadiah Hall 17:54
It does, because we all have our subset of biases that we hold. Here’s the nerd coming out in me, right. But I feel like it’s almost like algebra, what you do to one side of the equation you do to the other. And so this other guy is over here thinking this one way, then I have another one of my colleagues come in that thinks a different way. Now we’re starting to balance the table a little bit. And we’re kind of maybe speaking from both sides of the aisle. And I think that’s really fruitful in the work that we do just because nobody’s one identity. And sometimes there’s no one right answer. And what it also helps us do it when you mentioned the system, it helps us think critically about the system, and not put the emphasis on the student, because we’re thinking critically about our system in the way that that individual experience is within that system. And I think that’s that’s so important when we’re not making that individual just their disability, not that we shouldn’t be prideful about that. I’m all about disability justice identity first. But there’s other things and I clear that are black and disabled, or a woman and disabled are queer and disabled, those individuals are treated very differently based off the ethos of our actual environment. And if we’re not thinking critically about that intersectionality piece, if we’re not thinking about the environments in which the students are engaging in, then we’re never actually really servicing those individual students. And that’s when we can’t act like we don’t have isms that exist in our society and in our universities. And that’s why I think it’s important for us to think critically as a team, but broadly, and so it makes me feel like I’m not just the other day, I’m like seven people because I have these other six people alongside of me with their experiences helping us collectively think through it.
Lillian Nave 19:39
Yeah. And on that same topic about disability and in that school setting. I’ve had conversations with many, I’d say higher ed and beyond folks about that. The students who come to Disability Services Um, that the only place that they are either labeled disabled or feel disabled is in the educational setting. Outside of school, they’re not disabled, whether it might be dyslexia or a form of neurodiversity, that it’s only within that system and within that school setting, that somehow they’re disabled and need accommodations.
Zebadiah Hall 20:22
And that makes sense, because we’re assist them. And we’re an institution and the way that we go about things sometimes present barriers for our disabled community. And I tell people, if I was to build a new building, we may have three floors, and I put no escalator, no stairs, or elevator in there. As a person that can walk, I just became disabled to what’s on the second and third floor. And if we don’t think critically about our processes, our policies, our procedure in our culture, then we truly are not servicing the individuals that are coming to receive our services. And that also, from a UDL standpoint, having us think critically about what what expression is the university get given off? What means and modalities? Can the students engage in these processes? And how does it work? One of the things institutions seem to be big Artists Agency, where you can’t have agency no different than you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you don’t have a booth. And it’s that kind of thinking that well, we give our students agency and autonomy. Well, what you did was you gave access to certain people, but you denied others access. And I think that’s what’s really important when you start to really think about the systematic aspects of thing. And I think sometimes, we’re so insular in the way that we do our work in a disability office that we forget that these individuals are, inside of an ethos inside of a culture and inside of those things. And if we’re not thinking about those things, I think it just hurts. But you can’t do that by yourself, you have to do it together. Also, I know that those are the students that we service that comes to our office to receive services, there are plenty disabled community that will never come to the disability office. And so if we’re really trying to be socially just we need to be thinking critically of that system. And so sometimes, there are accommodations that we should put in place for students. And then sometimes there are conversations we should be having with the system, to make sure that they’re understanding that the barriers that they’re creating for no reason, case in point, you can’t look at a system unless you look at your own. One of our barriers was the fact that we felt that we needed to meet with every student, before we determine accommodation, that is a barrier. Students are different. Now, they don’t always want to meet with people, they just want their services. And so how do we look critically at ourselves to be able to say, part of our barrier within our system is the fact that we need to meet with every student. Now, if we do the math and say that we’re going to meet with every student, before they receive these accommodations, that mean, we’re probably in week four, six or seven, before we have met with every single one of these students. And so from a pragmatic standpoint, it didn’t make sense to do that, as our numbers also grew, once again, looking at the system itself and being critical on the system to see where you can apply. You do.
Lillian Nave 23:04
Yeah, you’ve mentioned a lot about intersectionality, something we talked about. And they as it relates also to disability. And the next part of our discussion is going to look at your new role with Dei, which is not necessarily new, they’re very much intertwined. And the idea that you don’t just have the silos, you know, just the disability office, you serve students, we serve students who are disabled, and and then fill in the blank, right? So they’re intersectional first generation and queer or any number of things, right, or different cultural background, English language learner, all of those things. But there’s just the disability office, and then do they then go to Alright, now I’m gonna go to the cultural center. And now I’m gonna go to, you know, is this, like five stops on a way to get services? Yeah. And so how can we make, you know, think about that systemically, as well. And I know, that’s what you’re up for.
Zebadiah Hall 24:14
Definitely. Part of it, too, is one of the reason this was so salient as we make this transition. A lot of chief diversity officers struggled to bring ableism into the conversation. One of the reasons I was excited about this current position that gave me the ability to raise ableism, with the rest of the isms, think about this work from an intersectionality standpoint, but also not lose the roots of the UDL and the disability work that I do. One of the things that’s really salient to me is if you think about disability justice, and the individuals that created that that was most of the time in the queer space, where those people of color felt comfortable enough to talk about their disability and that’s where you get disability justice from. I think when you think About the late great mother, a disability, Judy human, which is so salient to me. One of the things that she talks clearly about it, one of the things that we know, if you think about section 504, of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Also you think about the ADEA, that civil rights work. And she was very clear on the fact without the Black Panther Party, supporting them without the LGBTQ community supporting them. It’s hard to get those laws passed. And so intersectionality was happening all the time. And that’s what I think is so important. Part of being able to raise the conversation in this vein is I think that UDL don’t only help disabled people, and they’re disabled and black, or disabled and queer, but just step back and not using intersectionality. You think about our black and brown bodies in these predominantly white spaces. UDL helps them engage with the work as well and help our women engage with the work and misogynistic spaces, right. And so when we start to broaden UDL and think about it as a form of social justice tool, right, a tool that’s in my toolbox is UDL because as the VP of diversity, equity inclusion, I need to think critically about how do I say? And how do I engage in different ways for people to be able to receive these messages? UDL is really salient. And if I’m utilizing UDL in this spaces, then I might be talking to more of the masses, versus just a little subset of people. And I just think that’s really, really important. But when we have these black and brown students in these predominantly white institutions sitting in class, if the faculty member is quick to use UDL, that black student, or Brown student might be able to express themselves without saying, since you’re the only black student in this class, speak for all black people, right? Yeah, if we were thinking critically about that, that individual might be it or write in their response, they might be the journal, they might not be in the spot when they’re the only person that identifies and then need to respond. And that’s a way in which when we use UDL, we actually give people the ability to participate in different ways. And that’s also what’s really important as we think about UDL and those kinds of things. Also, think about, there are a limited number of people in my office right now. And so if we don’t use UDL, there might be a subset of people that can’t use our office, because their identities being barriers in those kinds of ways. And so constantly thinking about what am I doing? In whatever I’m doing? Am I making sure that I’m applying UDL, so people have different ways to engage with the material with different modalities to participate? Different ways to express themselves? I just think that’s really important.
Lillian Nave 27:39
Yeah, you know, it’s similar to that our previous discussion about taking those barriers down with that, and an anonymity so that we lose some of the assumptions or biases that we might have some that we don’t even know. But if we have a lot of ways to communicate within a classroom, whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous, face to face, in a on the ground, or in cyberspace, having ways for lots of ideas to be presented, like multiple ways. There’s not just one, let’s say systemic, provided way, I think, yeah, many of us have learned that you shouldn’t call on the first hand up all the time, it’s usually the same. And those are the students who are good processors, they can, you know, quickly process the question. And they, they probably have really good ideas, too. But there’s also 20 Other ideas out there, that if we only use that one determination, like whose hand came up first competition, we’re going to lose out on a much more nuanced understanding. And so if we had nobody can answer for the first minute, and then lots of ways for people to answer either online or through a back channel, you know, those sorts of things. I think it’s similar to what you’ve done systematically with the Office of Disability Services when you’re at Cornell, and thinking about that space. But I mean, you bring so much into the DEI, space, they’re at University of Wyoming now you’re the vice president of Dei, and that marriage of disability and Dei, I think is kind of new on the horizon. Would you say that?
Zebadiah Hall 29:28
I totally think it’s new. One of the things that I’m always aesthetic about is thinking about the people that do disability work. We’re always looking at policies, procedures, cultures, to make adjustments, accommodations for people to have access to participate. And we don’t take that skill set in institutions and and promote those individuals that’s been looking at your policies and procedures and actually making them accessible. And so naturally, I’m used to looking at systems policies and procedures and doing that work in elevating, I think one of the things that makes the conversation really hard around ableism is because sometimes when we’re talking about Dei, and we’re not looking at it from an intersectionality lens, you might have some of your marginalized identity said, I’m already struggling. And now you Amina embrace this disabled community or this disability identity as well. And I think that makes that conversation hard. And so some people might feel like I already have one strike. Now I have two strikes against me. And one of the things that I try to inform people all the time, say that I’m working with LGBT community. And maybe they’re not receptive of talking about disability, because they’re focused on some of the concerns that they have around the LGBT community. I would always say to those individuals, if you think that the LGBT community is struggling, what do you think about your disabled LGBT community? If you think that black students are already struggling on campus, what do you think that are black and disabled students are struggling? If you think that our women are struggling in a field like engineering, what do you think our disabled women are doing? And making sure that we’re always bridging that gap and making sure we’re not separating that out? Right, it’s not like I’m going to cut somebody’s body in half and say, half of you is disabled, and the half of the other half is a woman, right. And so those are one person with intersecting identities. And I think that’s one of the things that Kimberly Crenshaw, when she talked about intersectionality, was really big on one of the things that she stresses, this is not happening to me, because I’m black. Because black males might not be experiencing this, this has not happened to me, because I’m a woman, because white women aren’t experiencing this is happening, because I’m black in woman at the same time. And that’s what’s actually happened. And if we’re not thinking critically in that vein, and we’re separating that out, I don’t know, if we’re really doing dei work, any justice. And so I think that’s one of the things as a black male, when I think about police brutality, I think about what our disabled blacks are going with what our black and disabled are going through, if I’m already struggling as a black man, I can only imagine what a black man that might have autism might struggle with as the cops is coming to engage. And so we’re not thinking about those things, if we’re thinking about somebody that has mental health, in their own windows, marginalized identities, a way in which they might be treated in the healthcare system. And so all of us in all of our work should be thinking about it in those critical ways.
Lillian Nave 32:24
Yeah, you know, thinking systemically again to and we think I’m thinking about the history of higher ed, which was only for the few, and really only for the privileged and, and those whose families could afford to do it, those whose cultures also believed that you should send your kid away, you know, to live on a campus far far away, maybe that’s a very individualistic idea, cultural idea, as well. And those, those ideas are changing, but the system may not be changing as quickly as, let’s say, those ideas about who goes to college, where they go to college, how they go to college, whether it’s staying at home, or you know, going to a campus across across the country. And so that kind of older system was very much based on a hyper ableism, like, You got to be the best of the best. And, yeah, and you’re gonna prove that and you have to have the grades. And, you know, you have to demonstrate this hyper ability, but very much in academia. And that is, I can see that is in some ways, in contrast to the idea of, we’re here as a, me as a faculty member to help you learn, not necessarily for you to show off or, you know, demonstrate this hypermobility, but I’m actually here to teach you know, how to do things and bring everybody along to a particular point or to learn these things. And it’s just, they are not necessarily at odds, but sort of different objectives, I guess, is what I’m saying.
Zebadiah Hall 34:12
Yes. And it’s a couple of things that come to mind. Hear you speak about that. One of the things I think about when I was at Cornell and our work with Cornell Weill Medical, college and medical school, and working with the physicians. Now, I’ll never forget one of the physicians that since I’ve been working with you, and engaging with you around accommodations, the way that I write my doctor’s notes is different, right? Because I think it begins to unpack that a little bit and say, Yeah, I need to teach these individuals, but part of education itself is transformation. Part of education itself has to do with character, right in the Greeks would call this Pi Day, right? And so I’m not just going to give you cheap information because I’m just here to teach you it’s about teaching you about your character. And the reason I use the example of the physician is because then that makes them engage differently with their bedside manners. Because cultures are different when it comes to medicine, when it comes to medical, the way in which people have been treated over time is very different from experimentations. And those things on black and brown body experimented on our black women in our brown women experiment on our disabled community. If we’re not thinking about those things, the way in which we might give the facts and walk out in a room might be okay for one identity, the way we might give the facts as a physician and stay in talk might be really needed for one identity, and helps us think differently about it. Another thing that it helps me do from a UDL standpoint, connecting it back to the diversity, equity inclusion stuff, is something that you mentioned. And this is what’s helpful for me from thinking about things from a UDL brain. Right? When I think about you talking about students not leaving their families not going away. That’s something that’s really salient for us at the University of Wyoming that salient for our native and indigenous community, because they don’t want to leave their families, and they want to make sure if they do get educated, whatever they do come back to help their tribal community. Yes, the same conversation for our poor white students. Yes, that need to be able to stay in help with finances. It’s the same for our urban kids that are coming from lower socio economics that might need to help support financially, the way in which those three groups are going to articulate that is very different, even though it’s very similar of the rationale about why they need to stay. And if I’m not able to receive my poor, rural white students in the way that they will say it, if I’m not able to receive my native Indigenous students in the way that they would say it, if I’m not able to receive my urban black and brown students in the way that they will say it, I might not realize that there’s a correlation here. There’s some similarities here. And being able to say from a UDL standpoint, they all just expressed this very differently. But it’s coming to me in the same vein. And that’s another reason why I think that UDL is really important, because then I can engage with these different identities, but still be able to support them and not feel like I can’t engage because they said it differently. And that’s another reason I think, from a DI standpoint, is understanding UDL, because I just know that these three groups just engage with it differently. Right, how they spoke to me about it or wrote to me about it is very differently. And so given them different modalities to be themselves and articulated from their vantage point, I think is really, really important as we’re thinking about the AI. And I think sometimes people don’t make those correlations, and not understanding some of our students, once again, not monolithic. I’m not saying that. But also, they’re just giving me the information in different ways. But there are some similarities with the ways in which they’re giving it to me, they’re just speaking in a different language.
Lillian Nave 37:59
Right, right. And we can make some changes. And certainly since 2020, there have been huge systemic changes about how we can access education, maybe students who need to be at home for a semester, and can take some can, that won’t necessarily interrupt their entire course of study, they can take some online courses, that that sort of idea that we really did not have in the forefront of our minds, until the pandemic. And then we started to realize, well, what this helps right now during a global health pandemic, also will serve those three groups you mentioned, and so many others, especially like disabled students, and, and all of our students who are very complex, they’re just super complex. Everybody, every human is we’re all come from different cultures, different backgrounds. And even, you know, students that may look exactly the same on the outside, right, some visible identities look exactly the same. But like that rural and urban divide is, is really large. And it really shapes the way you think, who you trust, what you’re looking for, how you go about things, and that’s just a cultural background, you wouldn’t be able to see it from the outside at all. And neither should we, like, I don’t need to ask my students are you from a city? Are you from the country? You know, I do I talk you know, I talked to them. We talked about that in our cultural class. But if I can create flexible means, or ways to communicate, where as you said, all those different ways of expression can get to me. Then I have that at least not in that way disenfranchised. Some students that I didn’t even know I might have been disenfranchising because of the way I structured something in the class.
Zebadiah Hall 39:57
And when we talk about disenfranchised As and we saw that happen over the pandemic, in a multitude of ways, right? We saw it happen over the pandemic, when some of the disability offices started to say, we’re going to be relaxed on medical documentation because I know these students can’t get into providers to receive the documentation that we want. mislike Newsflash, before the pandemic, there was plenty of marginalized identities that could not get the appropriate evaluations or couldn’t pay for them or what have you. So a lack of medical documentation wasn’t a phenomenon from the pandemic, it was already happening, but the pandemic helped them open their eyes to engage in that way. Another way we disenfranchise people was around internet service, right. So it was this whole push to go remote. And in our rural communities, they might not be they might not have the Internet access to do it. In some of our urban spaces, they might not have the Internet access to do it. In our lower socio economic spaces, they might not have access to laptops and computers to be able to do it. And then what goes on within our households are very different. Right? So it expose all of this intersectionality expose all these different ways in which we needed to utilize UDL. Yeah, I want you to be synchronized, but understands have a dire background might not be appropriate for synchronize. And it’s not that they’re his family can cut off what they’re doing, because they have to do these things. And so maybe this class needs to have a synchronized component and a synchronized component, right, once again, illuminate the UDL based off identities, and what are people in intersectionality, and what’s going on, if my mom is at home for work, and that’s how we pay our bills, and she needs to do her job, we both might not have the space to be on a computer and have a meeting. And she might be in a meeting. And I might need to sit in class. And if we’re not thinking about Zebadiah and saying well, because you can’t come to the synchronized class, I’m going to fail you. Going back to the privilege that you mentioned, it’s a privilege to have your own room, it’s a privilege to have a laptop, it’s a privilege to have a space that you can just do your work, homework or be in class at home. And if we’re not thinking about those things, and unpacking that a little bit, once again, different ways of expressing ourselves different ways of articulating what we need, then I think we’re disenfranchised and a subset of our population, and we’re not realizing it when we’re doing
Lillian Nave 42:22
that. Yeah, you know, and that made me think, you know, of course, that’s probably why we have these bucolic campuses where you go, and all you have to do is learn, and you’re on campus, and you have everything you need, and you have the Wi Fi. And that, but that also requires so many things that that didn’t allow people to get there. Like when you just have that kind of quintessential view of a college campus, there are so many students who can do the work, who are willing to do the work who can, you know, want to improve themselves and learn about this, that being on that in that particular place isn’t happening, and can’t you know, for them in their particular culture or circumstance or, or whatever.
Zebadiah Hall 43:06
Yeah, and part of that I think about, once again, I know this is ETL. So it sounds so cliche, cliche, but the way in which we express ourselves as administrators, one of the things I saw us do as administrators, and it’s administrators all over and not probably guilty of it as well, right. So not separated out, not trying to put it on a certain institution. But what we begin to do sometimes is talk about our students that are excellent. And sometimes those students that are excellent are the students that are in 25 credit hours, the President or Vice President or Chief of Staff for three or four organizations, right, which I think that is an excellent student. But that student that can only take 12 credit hours, because they need to work 40 hours a week, and they need to send money back home is also an excellent student. And if we only express that this first student that I described, that’s in 25, credit hours, sit on all these clubs, that organization are excellent students who are disenfranchising that student that’s working really, really hard, just as hard if not harder, sometimes. And that student that has enough privilege to go to school and only focus on that, right we’re disenfranchising this student that doesn’t seem like they’re cutting the mustard, because they’re not in all those clubs and organizations because they’re not taking that many credit hours, because they can’t go to the network and even at seven o’clock because they need to go to work and make money. Right? We’re disenfranchising all the time. And if we step back and utilize UDL, we would think about how do we express right in these different categories of what our excellent students are? Because it’s not to your point, one excellent student. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us to talk about eugenics, right. Most of the time, when we talk about eugenics, we talk about it from a Hitler standpoint, right? So they’re got eugenics from the United States of America. And if we’re not careful at institutions, we will institutionalize people And what we will begin to do is express what we think that our ideal race is at this institution. And we will start to talk about in which students are excellent students and air quotes, and disenfranchised, disenfranchised, these other excellent students, that’s just done in a different way. Because they have a different pathway, and they’re not as privileged as others. And that’s why it’s important for us to make sure we don’t lose sight of eugenics in a way that educate us to make sure we think differently about the way in which we express who our excellent students are. And that’s once again is wrapping all of that up in a different way. And it’s also strategic on using the eugenics piece to have a conversation that do we want our students to look, talk, move and engage in a certain way? If we don’t want that, then we need to be careful in how we express ourselves. And are we expressing our excellent students? In all these different modalities?
Lillian Nave 45:53
Yeah, in fact, recently, in the last month, I’ve seen on social media, several folks in the higher ed space being really critical of having that word excellence in like the Center for Teaching Excellence and, or calling, like different areas, because what, what is it that you’re defining as excellence? You know, how about we teach for our students or, you know, teach so they can learn? And so that I hadn’t thought of it before. And then it started to be a little problematic when I saw that brought up on social media, because you would have to define that, and who are you disenfranchising when you define it in a particular way? And yeah, we just have to keep that in mind as we’re, as we’re teaching, as we are creating services as we are, you know, creating our system or recreating it, maybe?
Zebadiah Hall 46:53
Or are breaking it all up and just redesigning all together? Right,
Lillian Nave 46:57
right, right, because, yeah, the UDL part has the design, we need to redesign things. So they work a lot better, I think, rather than fixing it on the endpoint.
Zebadiah Hall 47:07
And part of that is, who designed the table, and who was the table designed for? Who is the environment designed for and who designed that environment. And if we’re not thinking about those in a critical way, we’re probably being very exclusionary. And when I heard you make the statement about excellence, maybe we don’t really need to remove the word excellence, maybe we need to apply UDL to excellence, and talk about it and all these different modalities. So then all of our students can see their excellence within the way in which we talk about it. And that’s another way of maybe approach it not that I love the word Excellent. But sometimes if it’s going to be in the literature, maybe what we do as professionals is we apply UDL, and then we talk about in a different modalities. And so students have different ways to engage in their excellent. So being that student that is working 40 hours, only taking 12 credit hours in making sure that there is also excellent as well. And our faculty member, then understand the fact that maybe that student did sleep a little bit in your class, because they just got off work a few hours ago, but their situation is different. Not because they don’t care about your lectures, not because they think that they don’t have to pay attention or not that they’re blowing it off, but their circumstances different. And maybe they still made it there physically, even though they were asleep. And maybe there’s something in that conversation that we have not that we want students sleeping in class, but that also still might be an excellent student. That’s also excellent. It’s providing for their family, and also trying to balance the two.
Lillian Nave 48:34
Yeah. And that’s, again, with the assumptions, like what assumption are we making about our students when you see something, and, oh, maybe they don’t care. But that may be an incorrect assumption. So the third part I wanted to talk to you about to it relates to your dei role, but also broadens it out. So already, I love the fact that you’ve brought this disability role, you know, part into your new position here. Well, it’s not that new, but to your role as the DEI, Vice President of the diversity, equity inclusion at University of Wyoming, but you’ve also applied UDL to freedom of expression, let’s say. And I do think that all of my colleagues who work in this space as a chief diversity officer or the DEI, it is a very difficult role that’s under the microscope. And there are lots of ways to do that role. And I really appreciate how you have thought about freedom of expression and specifically with UDL. So can you talk to me about that?
Zebadiah Hall 49:49
Yeah. There are going to be times from a freedom of expression standpoint, whether it’s in the classroom and you’re having discussion, dialogue. Whether you’re bringing speakers to campus is As a part of the freedom of expression, academic freedom is a piece of that. And how are we giving our students, staff and faculty different ways to engage with the material? One of the things that salient to me is I’m not about counseling voices. I’m also not about people saying things that are going to oppress other people, too. I just want to be clear on that. But when you think about the UDL, if we have a speaker that’s coming to campus, and say that you maybe disagree with that speaker’s point of view, part of UDL is in how do you protest appropriately? How do you go to the actual session that they’re given the presentation in the next questions in appropriate non disruptive manner? How do you sit in appropriately, if you’re going to somewhat try to be disruptive? How do you do these things? And how do we engage with this material in different ways? And I think that’s really important to bring in the UDL piece, because there’s going to be things all the time that we disagree with. But how do we engage with those things in such a way that we can be participatory to get our point across without necessarily saying, we’re going to counsel, this specific speaker from coming in as the vice president for diversity, equity inclusion, I have conversations all the time about not canceling voices, not that I agree with every speaker, I’m not going to agree with everything. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be able to speak their piece, because education itself is about different visions and viewpoints. And so I’m not here to silence voices. I’m also not here to tell you that you can’t participate. But you can do that by protests. And you can do that by sitting in, you can do that by engaging in the q&a session. And that’s the piece of the UDL is bringing different modalities and ways in which people can engage with the freedom of expression similar to the example I gave, if I’m in the classroom, and we’re talking about a specific identity, and that it’s only one person that identify with that identity. Are you given that student or that staff or that Falconer ability to write in to give their answer up front, and the faculty member then says what they’re speaking but part of the freedom of expression is how do we give our students staff and faculty, different modalities and ways in which they can express themselves or engage with what’s going on from a freedom of expression standpoint.
Lillian Nave 52:12
Yeah. And that is a really important topic on campuses today. I mean, I read about it all the time. And the, and I see it, and there are, you know, really loud voices, that then have really, really loud protests. And it seems to me just opposite of what a university or education is supposed to do, which is to hear from all of all of the sides, I talked to a lot of people, and I love it, I love to get the chance to hear these new ideas, and I can’t follow all of them, you know, to their the nth degree, I don’t even I may not even agree with everything any one of my guests have to say, but I do you think it’s so important to be able to get those voices out? Because it’s a really interesting idea. And I want to share that. But I don’t necessarily and we don’t. And as educators, I think we don’t have to necessarily agree with everything right? 100%, right. So we can express that.
Zebadiah Hall 53:19
And I think there’s some part of us losing the fact that we can agree to disagree. I think that’s really salient in this work, I think also what we try to do as humans, which we’re all guilty, because us as humans, tend to put things in boxes, so we can conceptualize those things, right. And when we do that, what we tend to do is make it binary. This is how I believe and that’s wrong, or this or that in which certain things that is true, but going to the UDL pieces, this in that and not making them binary, but making it a polarity. Right? It can be this in that. And so how do we have those conversations that we can bring this speaker to campus? And you can disagree with this speaker? And these are the ways in which you can do it. It doesn’t have to be I disagree with this speaker? And can you Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, this person for being able to come, they can come in, you can disagree. And these are the ways in which you can do it. And that’s going back to that UDL approach just in my mindset of a gauging around these topics. And we have to be at a place where we can have civil discourse, we can agree to disagree. And we can do that in such a way that I still humanize you as a person. And just because we disagree doesn’t mean we can’t have these conversations in intelligent educational way. Because that’s what education is truly about. There’s plenty of times where in scientists, or just in theories in general, where a person will come up with a new theory and they’re like, no, no, no, no, no. And then you’ll come back 10 years later, and actually that individual or that theory was actually right. And that’s what By you don’t want to suppress these voices. And we shouldn’t be doing this seeking truth. And so that’s another reason why freedom of expression or academic freedom is so important, as long as we’ve given people, different modalities and ways in which they can express engage in these things.
Lillian Nave 55:15
Yeah. And it seems that’s the way we can get at the ideas. Because, as you said, as your position as the chief, or head of Dei, that people might come up to you and say, Hey, we don’t want this on our campus, like, you have to cancel this or you have to stop it. But it really is about taking away the, they’re separating the idea from the person, like we’re here to listen to these ideas. Now, you may think this person is an absolute jerk, right. And I’m not going to be friends with that person, or I completely disagree. But there’s a right to freedom of expression wonderfully in our, you know, in our country, and then many around the world, that we have the chance to hear it and decide for ourselves, whether or not that’s something we’re going to abide with. Or maybe we’re going to start our own talk the next week or, you know, in a different place and say, Well, what about these ideas, and then let our students choose for themselves.
Zebadiah Hall 56:13
And I just think it’s so important. Right now things are so polarized. Yeah. And it’s more of a point the finger it’s more of a being really aggressive. It’s more of a harming people. And I think people can talk theory, practice and all of those things without harassing or pressing a specific group. And I think that’s what’s also important, you might have beliefs that you disagree with something, right? I don’t want to say what anything, something that may be great, because then people will take that and run with it. But if you do disagree with whatever that something is, how do you do that in a way that’s fruitful, to get your point across, but to also engage those individuals, when we talk with people that have different opinions, it makes us uncomfortable, but you got to be uncomfortable to learn. And I think that’s what we tend to forget, as we’re in these spaces, and that’s what we’re here to do is to learn. And that’s why we’re an institution of higher education.
Lillian Nave 57:06
Yeah, you know, one of the first things I learned when I started to work with intercultural communication, and intercultural competence is a little diagram, that’s a bullseye. And in the middle of that smallest concentric circle is our comfort zone. And then the next circle is our learning zone, when we’re a little bit uncomfortable. And we’ve stepped outside of maybe what we know for exactly, you know, and we can try on a new, you know, a new idea, like a new suit set of clothes. And then we can go back into our comfort zone. But that learning zone is just outside of our comfort zone, but it’s not in the, the out the outside circle is that panic zone, which is, you know, you a very forceful, not helpful space in which to learn, where you just want to kind of run away, it’s a, let me introduce these new ideas, they’re probably a little different, they may be uncomfortable, and then you can decide where you are with this. And one of the things I say a lot is, in my classes, I want everybody to feel uncomfortable a little bit, and not the same people to be uncomfortable all the time. Right. So yeah, we’ve went all over the people to be just as uncomfortable at Darat throughout the course.
Zebadiah Hall 58:26
And I think that’s really important. One of the things I tell people all the time, they say, how do you do this dei work, and I said, I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. Literally, I have gotten to a point in my life and in my career that I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. And that’s just part of the ethos that I’m going to be in. And that makes it okay to operate in these spaces. Because I know that I’m learning all the time. And some of the learning is learning what you don’t want to do, what you don’t want to be a part of what’s really salient to you. Also, learning is really important for me to say, I have all the answers and I have it right. Going back to your very first question. If I’m willing to learn from anyone, I can at least learn their point of view. So then I can meet them where they’re at. Because this this thing called zone of proximal development, my narratives coming out of the zone of proximal development, what do they learn on the owner versus what do they need that teacher or a faculty member or individual to teach them? And how do you meet people where they’re at. And if it’s truly about doing the work and truly about doing it in a socially just vein, we do want to meet people where they add it and we want to not shove it down their throats and we want to help them get to a different space when appropriate. But the only way that you do that is through UDL, the only way that you do that is your willingness to learn from other people.
Lillian Nave 59:45
Yeah, I really appreciate this, this conversation and all the ways that you have applied universal design for learning in a much broader and unsystematic way. So I’ve really appreciated the chance to have these conversations Asians and I know we’ll continue to have them and really looking forward to all the things you have planned to at University of Wyoming. So thank you. I really just thank you so much that Zebadiah for giving me a chance to talk to you and sharing this with our listeners.
Zebadiah Hall 1:00:16
Not a problem. Thank you for allowing me and it’s really cool that there’s a podcast on UDL, think UDL, and the more we can get people if they can UDL, I think we should always use it to make sure that we’re taking care of our disabled community. But if we can expand UDL across to use it as a tool for system thinking, I think it’s a cool way to make sure that we take care of all people. And most of the time, if you take care of the least of them, you take care of the rest of them. Thank you for being allowing me to be in space and time with you.
Lillian Nave 1:00:47
Thank you so much. You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released. And also see transcripts and additional materials at the think udl.org website. Thank you again to our sponsor, Texthelp Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include read and write equation CO, and orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Coachez as an I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast