Indiana State University Newsroom

Bayh College book club builds discussion on creating inclusive environments

November 11, 2015

A Bayh College of Education book club offered faculty and staff space to dialogue about inclusive environments throughout the fall semester.

The book club was part of the college's Diversity, Inclusion and Global Engagement Task Force. As part of the initiative established by Dean Kandi Hill-Clarke, the book club was opened to the entire college and nearly 50 faculty and staff members participated in the six-week activity.

"I hope we begin to see each other and understand our differences as well as what we have in common to create common ground," said Kandace Hinton, chairperson of the task force and an associate professor in the department of educational leadership. "We are all at different phases of our lives, but we're hopeful that we can acknowledge, talk to each other and not build fences to block each other off and share who we are."

The participants were divided into nine groups and asked to read Paul Fleischman's "Seedfolks" - a short novel told by a diverse cast of characters living on or near Gibb Street in Cleveland, Ohio. The characters, who are each from different ethnic groups, describe the renovation of an empty lot into a community garden which leads to each character's personal transformation.

Beginning in September, participants were assigned pages to read and discuss at weekly group meetings. Hinton prepared weekly questions for the group's to use as a springboard for discussions around diversity, multiculturalism, sustainability and other aspects of developing an inclusive environment were covered.

"This created that moment where we were able to relax and learn and talk about some difficult issues - how we make assumptions about people that aren't true and we stereotype," Hinton said.

When book club concluded in October, the groups planted seeds in a pot in the upper level of the college's atrium to simulate the garden created by the characters throughout the book.

Hinton said there is interest among the taskforce to invite the Seedfolks author to speak at the college and host a performance of the theatrical version of the book. The taskforce would also like to bring students into the discussion by offering leaders of student organizations in the college diversity and inclusion training that they can complete and facilitate among their group members.

As people responsible for carrying out the university's mission and strategic plan, the book club allowed faculty and staff in the college the space to discuss personal values as well as those of the college and departments, said Ryan Donlan, assistant professor in the department of educational leadership.

By the book club's conclusion, Donlan book margins were inked with comments and discussion points that developed during group meetings as well as his two, individual read-throughs of the novel.

"I looked forward to Monday at noon because I was inspired personally and professionally by our discussions when my group got together," he said. "It's important to discuss what we stand for and being given the opportunity to discuss important issues like that speaks well of our leadership and faculty and staff in the college."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or