Tim
A Stack of Cards to Build Community

There are many ways to create healthy, inclusive, and welcoming academic environments. MindHandHeart worked with offices across campus to compile this series of “Community Cards” showcasing actions –both big and small– that departments can take to strengthen their communities. Search by category (Academics, Community, Inclusion, and Wellbeing) and consider what actions may be right for your department, lab, or center.

If you would like more information about the cards or the campus resources described in them, reach out to us at mindhandheart@mit.edu.
 

classroom
Increase Dating and Domestic Violence Awareness
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
classroom
Increase Dating and Domestic Violence Awareness
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Domestic violence is a common and serious problem. Help to educate members of your community on this important issue and provide them with tools to seek help if they need it.  

Action:

Ensure print materials from the Violence Prevention and Response (VPR) office are visible and available to office visitors. VPR is MIT’s primary on-campus resource for preventing and responding to interpersonal violence, including sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment. 

Invite VPR to deliver a training to your community on topics such as gender roles, bystander intervention, communications, and healthy relationships.

Take time at a team meeting to review the Title IX policy so that everyone is aware of what to do and who to contact if some one discloses an instance of violence to them. For more information visit T9BR’s website.

Read about domestic/dating violence, consent, and more on VPR’s website.

Result:

Increasing awareness of domestic violence resources helps keep the entire MIT community safe.

funny dogs
Support Laughter and Joy
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
funny dogs
Support Laughter and Joy
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Humor has the potential to bring people together, soothe tensions, and reduce stress. Find ways to bring humor and joy to your department.

Action:

MindHandHeart commissioned a series of cartoons related to wellness, mental health, and community at MIT from world-renowned cartoonist Larry Gonick. We encourage you to share them with your networks and brighten someone's day.

Encourage members of your community to apply to the De Florez Fund for Humor and undertake projects that make MIT a happier and more welcoming place.

Result:

Finding small ways to bring humor, joy, silliness, and play into your academic environment can have a positive impact on your community.

group photo
Define Research Group Expectations
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
group photo
Define Research Group Expectations
Academics
The Basics:

Work to establish clear expectations for your research group. When students don't know what is expected of them and what will be necessary to be considered an effective group member, this can result in unnecessary stress and challenges that inhibit the learning of research techniques and productivity.

Action:

There are many ways to define research group expectations, some may include:

  • Sharing the specific times when everyone is expected in the lab/office.
  • Establishing a preferred process for resolving group conflict.
  • Determining the desired notification period before a planned absence and who to notify.
  • Articulating policies and expectations around authorship/credit for collaborative work, which can help to reduce stress associated with working in teams.
  • Informing group members of the most effective communication method to reach the PI.
  • Articulating the learning goals and values of the research group.
  • Communicating the priorities, milestones, and deadlines for the group and its members with the group as a whole.

It is important to routinely revisit group expectations in order to determine if the expectations are accurate and understood by the group.

Result:

Setting clear and shared group expectations can assist in reducing conflict and maximizing learning and productivity.

classroom scene
Establish Discussion Guidelines
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
classroom scene
Establish Discussion Guidelines
Academics
The Basics:

At the start of the term, work to establish clear guidelines for class discussions.

Action:

The University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching created classroom guidelines to encourage inclusive and respectful discussion:

  • "Be aware of how much you are contributing to in-class discussions. Try not to silence yourself out of concern for what others will think about what you say. If you have a tendency to contribute often, give others the opportunity to speak. If you tend to stay quiet, challenge yourself to share ideas so others can learn from you."
  • "Listen respectfully. Don’t interrupt, engage in private conversations, or turn to technology while others are speaking. Use attentive, courteous body language." More guidelines are available on the University of Michigan's site.

You may wish to use this or collaboratively establish ground rules with your students. You can also visit the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab’s website for additional ideas.

Result:

Establishing clear ground rules at the beginning of the semester helps to make classroom discussions more respectful and productive.

water plants
Decorate to De-stress
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
water plants
Decorate to De-stress
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Studies have shown that office plants offer some psychological benefits. Add greenery to common areas to create a sense of calm.

Action:

Borrow ideas from the student-run UA Compton Lounge (26-110) and consider adding legos, fidget toys, coloring books, yoga mats, plants, and free coffee and fruit to your department's community spaces.

Result:

Creating lively and welcoming common areas can help boost morale and encourage friendly interactions.

inclusion image
Establish Faculty Diversity Officer Role
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
inclusion image
Establish Faculty Diversity Officer Role
Inclusion
The Basics:

Departments can establish a role for a faculty member to oversee diversity issues and initiatives.

Action:

Issues of diversity and inclusion vary by discipline as well as by department at MIT. Faculty leadership is key to effective and sustained efforts with regards to governance, search committees, pipeline issues, and optimizing the experiences and contributions of every member of the department community.

Result:

A faculty diversity officer can help foster increased understanding of the experiences of underrepresented groups, of factors influencing inclusion, and of steps necessary to promote diversity.

people leaving MIT
Conduct Exit Interviews
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
people leaving MIT
Conduct Exit Interviews
Academics
The Basics:

Foster departmental growth, development, and dialogue through confidential conversations.

Action:

Arrange to hold safe and confidential exit interviews with departing students, faculty, and staff. Collect, analyze, and share anonymized data from these interviews to gather ideas for departmental improvement. Connect with Human Resources and the Office of Graduate Education to learn what others have done, questions already asked, and for guidance on the process.

Result:

Confidential conversations can illuminate climate strengths as well as areas for increased attention and growth.

students
Pause and Reflect
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
students
Pause and Reflect
Academics
The Basics:

Taking short, active breaks during class can help students to process and clarify new information.

Action:

Consider giving students a 2-3 minute break 1-3 times during class. Encourage students to use this time for catching up on their notes or formulating questions. Short breaks can also help students focus more clearly during the remainder of the class. 

Avoid introducing new material in the last 5-10 minutes of class. Instead, use that time to help students incorporate their new knowledge in the context of their prior knowledge.

Begin lectures with a recap of the previous class or by asking students a question that encourages a review of the previous class.

For more information on building inclusive and welcoming academic environments, contact the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab.

Result:

Providing opportunities for students to pause and reflect on course material can improve learning outcomes.

people wearing rainbow capes
Consider Sharing Your Pronouns
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
people wearing rainbow capes
Consider Sharing Your Pronouns
Inclusion
The Basics:

Give space for students' pronouns by sharing your own.

Action:

Share your pronouns at the start of class ― if you feel comfortable doing so. This can serve as an invitation for students to share their pronouns, but does not force them to make their pronouns public knowledge. 

Say "these are the pronouns I use" as opposed to referring to "preferred pronouns." Pronouns are not a mere preference for many people, so avoid using this term.

Visit the LBGTQ@MIT website for more information on understanding pronouns and using them correctly.

Result:

Sharing your pronouns can help create a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable learning environment.

student saying hello
Encourage Conversation
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
student saying hello
Encourage Conversation
Community
The Basics:

Support lunches or teas where community members have the opportunity to connect with each other in a casual setting.

Action:

Students in the Chemistry Department started a 'ChemChat' program to encourage members of their department to connect with folks from different labs. "ChemChat's goal is to facilitate connections, collaborations, and conversations within the department. We offer gift-card funded lunches for people to reach out and make connections with peers outside of their laboratories and years."

Encourage students to sign up for MIT Connect, an app connecting members of the MIT community for platonic, one-on-one lunches. 

Inform undergraduate students about an Office of the First Year (OFY) program where they can take a member of the MIT faculty out to a nice dinner or coffee, reimbursed by the OFY.

Result:

Making connections outside of one's lab or research group can build friendships and reduce isolation.

RAK Week
Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
RAK Week
Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week
Community
The Basics:

Participate in Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week.

Action:

Every March, the MIT community celebrates RAK Week through a series of loosely-planned events and small, spontaneous acts of generosity known as “RAK hacks.” From a “kindness crawl” to a rainbow-colored ball pit, the week is full of fun activities, giveaways, and surprises. Connect with MindHandHeart in the fall and come up with ideas for ways your department, lab, or center can mark the week.

Result:

Participating in events like RAK Week can help build community and make people feel supported.

women in math
Showcase Women's Achievements
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
women in math
Showcase Women's Achievements
Inclusion
The Basics:

Use the web to promote gender equality, community, and academic rigor.

Action:

"The Women in Math website celebrates the many female students, postdocs, and professors of mathematics at MIT. Here, we showcase our mathematicians' new projects and achievements. Current and prospective students will find news, upcoming lecture series, and ample resources. Alumnae can reconnect and stay updated. Browse through the in-depth biographies to learn more about what these mathematicians study at MIT and how they got here." -Women In Math

Download and print these STEM Role Models posters and raise awareness of women's achievements in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Result:

Sharing the depth and breadth of MIT women's successes conveys MIT's commitment to excellence as well as the welcoming community of the department itself. 

girl
Stop Microaggressions
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
girl
Stop Microaggressions
Inclusion
The Basics:

"I'm surprised you're so well-spoken." "Can I touch your hair?" "How come your English is so good?" "What are you? You're so interesting looking." "You don't look like a scientist." 

The American Psychological Association notes that microaggressions like these are common on college campuses. Learn how to confront them in and outside of the classroom.

Action:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a microaggression as "a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)." Microaggressions are often frequent, so a single microaggression can contribute to a broader experience of unwelcomeness.

Read about the damaging effects of microaggressions and stop them from happening at MIT. 

  • Messiah College created a useful list of "Microaggressions in the Classroom."
  • The "I, Too, Am Harvard" photo campaign highlights the experiences of black students at Harvard University and the microaggressions they have faced. 
  • The New York Times article "Campuses Cautiously Train Freshmen Against Insults" describes ways colleges are working to prevent microaggressions. 
  • The Atlantic article "Microaggressions Matter" describes how microaggressions are indicative of deeper problems in America related to race, social class, gender, and sexuality.
  • The Inside Higher Ed piece "A 'Chilly Climate' on Campus" describes a new report showing how American colleges are more diverse than ever, yet a "subtly hostile environment for women and students of color" persists.

Do not ask a student to speak on behalf of their identity group or single them out because of their background ― this is a harmful microaggression. For example, do not ask the sole woman in a class to speak on behalf of all womankind.

Result:

Learning about microaggressions can help you effectively confront them, and make MIT a more just and equitable learning environment

girl on computer
Use the Faculty Guide
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
girl on computer
Use the Faculty Guide
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Don’t know where to refer a student with a concern? Use the Faculty Guide! 

The MIT Faculty Guide can help faculty and staff to better understand and support students. It outlines campus resources and ways to help students who are in distress.

Action:

If you would like to request a training for your department on how to recognize and respond to students in distress, email facultyguide@mit.edu.

Result:

Read through the Faculty Guide and help connect students to key resources.

Math Retreat
Host a Weekend Retreat
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
Math Retreat
Host a Weekend Retreat
Community
The Basics:

Host a day or weekend-long retreat for members of your department community.

Action:

Every fall, the Math Department invites graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff to a camp in New Hampshire.

The MIT Activities Committee (MITAC) offers discounted tickets to the MIT community for local arts and culture, sporting events, and family activities. Take your department, lab, or center on a day trip to Boston.

Result:

Giving department members with a space to unwind builds community and connections, and can help promote academic achievements in the future.

diversity and equality
Combat Unconscious Bias
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
diversity and equality
Combat Unconscious Bias
Inclusion
The Basics:

Vanderbilt University defines unconscious bias as "prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair... Although we all have biases, many unconscious biases tend to be exhibited toward minority groups based on factors such as class, gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, age, able-bodiness, and other such traits."

Encourage members of your community to confront their biases and work to make MIT a more equitable and inclusive place.

Action:

MIT offers an in-person workshop for staff called "Making the Unconscious Conscious: Bias" through the Human Resources Department. Encourage members of your community to take this workshop and identify strategies for reducing the impact of bias in the workplace.

MIT also offers in-person unconscious bias workshops for departments, labs, and centers. Contact MindHandHeart and we can connect you to these resources.

Result:

Unconscious bias workshops can help to interrupt automatic, biased thought patterns, and promote equity and inclusion.

MLK Scholars
Welcome Visitors
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
MLK Scholars
Welcome Visitors
Academics
The Basics:

Visiting professors, lecturers, and speakers bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to campus. Make them feel welcome by establishing places for them to work and providing them with a departmental liaison.

Action:

Create departmental work spaces that can be reserved ahead of time as well as storage areas where visitors can leave their belongings. Have someone greet the visitor, assist them in getting acclimated to their space, and answer any questions the visitor may have. 

Result:

Department visitors have a "home base" and an initial connection while they are at MIT.

communi-tea
Sponsor a Communi-Tea
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
communi-tea
Sponsor a Communi-Tea
Community
The Basics:

Communi-Tea mixers support intellectual and interpersonal connectedness across labs.

Action:

Invite faculty, students, and staff to commune over tea in a different group space every month. Keep a large thermos and some tea supplies handy to supply the lab of the month. During their "tea-turn," labs can provide other snacks. Pro tip: hold the event on a regular date, i.e. the first Friday of every month, preferably during a slower period. 

Result:

Communi-Tea mixers create a space for conversation that can contribute to community connectedness and cross-lab collaborations. 

two people with computers
Create Welcoming Common Spaces
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
two people with computers
Create Welcoming Common Spaces
Inclusion
The Basics:

Support inclusion by ensuring students have common spaces where they feel safe.

Action:

Analyze common spaces to ensure they feel welcoming. The simple addition of a table and chairs or couch can turn a hallway into a place where people work and friends catch up. Legos, white boards, and plants can help make spaces feel inviting and friendly. 

Those who feel anxious about their place in their department may not be comfortable socializing in a large, open lounge space. Creating smaller lounge spaces using dividers may help to relieve some of this discomfort, and encourage all members of the community to utilize common spaces.

Ensure walkways are clear and that common spaces are accessible to people with disabilities.

Result:

Creating inviting, distinct common spaces can promote belonging.

Suggestion Box
Fast Track Good Ideas with Suggestion Boxes
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
Suggestion Box
Fast Track Good Ideas with Suggestion Boxes
Academics
The Basics:

Install suggestion boxes in widely used common spaces, and establish a routine to check and respond to them.

Action:

Suggestion boxes convey to community members that departmental leadership wants to better understand community members' experiences.

Pro tip: advertise use of the suggestion box in internal e-newsletters and other communications. Periodically report out themes and actions related to the suggestions in the boxes.

Result:

Suggestion boxes help to open communication channels and give department leaders ideas to promote community and resolve potential problems. The more transparent departmental leadership is with the responses, the more effective the boxes will be in strengthening openness and trust. 

exercising people
Get Moving
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
exercising people
Get Moving
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Exercise has been shown to improve mood, sleep, and productivity. Even as little as 15 minutes of brisk walking a day can be beneficial.

Action:

Organize a walking group that meets for 30 minutes during lunchtime or form a team and complete a 5K. 

At the beginning of the year, encourage members of your department to join GetFit, a free 12-week fitness challenge organized by Community Wellness at MIT Medical.

Community Wellness at MIT Medical and MIT Recreation can connect departments to yoga, meditation, and fitness instructors. 

Result:

Foster an environment that encourages healthy habits and opportunities for socialization.

meditation image
Make a Difference with Wellbeing Messaging
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
meditation image
Make a Difference with Wellbeing Messaging
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Students pay attention to departmental communications. You can easily weave wellbeing messaging into your regular correspondence with students during key times in the semester. 

Action:

During periods of potential stress, like during finals or midterms, incorporate health and wellbeing information into departmental communications. Share sleep and meditation tips from MIT Medical or 'Don't Struggle Alone' posters advertising MIT's mental health resources.

Inform students of the resources.mit.edu website, which lists all of the resources available to MIT students. 

Outside sources that provide timely and informative wellness content include the New York Times Wellness Blog and Mindful Magazine.

Result:

Integrating health and wellbeing content into regular department communications can help community members to feel cared for. It can also help to spread awareness of resources and encourage healthy behaviors

girl writing on post-it
Create Representative Common Spaces
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
girl writing on post-it
Create Representative Common Spaces
Inclusion
The Basics:

Create common spaces that reflect a diverse array of identities.

Action:

Consider the pictures in your common areas: are they dominated by one identity? Include women and people of color in framed pictures, bulletin boards, flyers, webpages, and marketing materials. 

Use physical spaces and departmental communications to highlight the achievements of women and people of color.

Check out the women's bathroom on the 5th floor of the Stata Center for inspiration. It features an array of portraits and bios of accomplished women.

Result:

Individuals from underrepresented groups may feel a greater sense of belonging when they see images of people who look like them in their academic environments.

blue and pink paperclips
Reduce Stereotype Threat
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
blue and pink paperclips
Reduce Stereotype Threat
Inclusion
The Basics:

Understand stereotype threat and work to reduce its impact.

Action:

Stereotype threat refers to the threat or anxiety a student feels of confirming a negative stereotype about a group one belongs to in a particular domain (e.g. women are not good at math). Stereotype threat can result in diminished academic performance, decreased belonging, and ultimately disengagement from a field and altered professional plans.

Though anyone can experience stereotype threat, it is more likely to affect underrepresented minority groups in academic settings and women in STEM.

There are several ways to mitigate stereotype threat, including:

  • Providing meaningful feedback where high standards are emphasized and targeted feedback is provided for how to meet them.
  • Including role models in your teaching. Even a single role model that challenges stereotypic assumptions can eliminate performance decrements under stereotype threat. Evidence indicates that even reading stories or watching videos about successful women and other stereotyped groups can protect students from stereotype threat.
  • Encouraging a growth mindset by highlighting the importance of effort and motivation in performance, while deemphasizing inherent intelligence. Sharing your own stories of academic struggles and how you overcame them can also help emphasize the importance of effort.

For more information on building effective and welcoming academic environments, visit the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab’s website.

Result:

Understanding how stereotype threat works and finding ways to address it can help make MIT a more equitable learning environment.

woman on computer
Follow Web Accessibility Standards
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
woman on computer
Follow Web Accessibility Standards
Inclusion
The Basics:

Ensure that everyone, including people with disabilities, can access your department's websites and applications.

Action:

MIT's Accessibility and Useability Office provides free accessibility reviews and consulting. Schedule an appointment to ensure that your websites and applications meet federal accessibility guidelines.

Result:

MIT is at the forefront of scientific and technological advancement, and it is crucial that knowledge of this advancement is accessible to all.

frustrated student
Consider Course Difficulty
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
frustrated student
Consider Course Difficulty
Academics
The Basics:

Think critically about the difficulty level of courses in your department.

Action:

Courses that are taught at too low a level (for the degree of preparedness of the students) are not motivating and do not facilitate learning, whereas courses that are taught at too high a level (for the degree of preparedness of the students) can promote anxiety and stress, are often demotivating, and do not facilitate optimal learning because they do not contain sufficient scaffolding for students.

Designing a course that is optimally difficult can be challenging, and the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab can help.

Result:

A well designed course leads to an optimal academic environment and the achievement of learning outcomes.

cartoon sleeping
Encourage Healthy Sleep
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
cartoon sleeping
Encourage Healthy Sleep
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Study after study has shown that getting adequate sleep is associated with improved mood and increased productivity. Encourage members of your department to check out the many sleep resources available on the MIT Medical website.

Action:

Share the Cheat Sleep one pager and 253-CALM card produced by Community Wellness at MIT Medical. During periods of potential stress, like around finals and midterms, remind students of the importance of getting a good night's sleep.

Result:

Encourage a community of 'sleep champions' where students, faculty, and staff support each other in prioritizing sleep and other forms of self-care.

light bulb
Encourage Innovation
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
light bulb
Encourage Innovation
Community
The Basics:

Encourage members of your department to use their creativity to undertake projects that positively impact the MIT community.

Action:

There are a number of MIT funding sources available to students, faculty, and staff, including the MindHandHeart Innovation Fund, which offers grants of up to $10,000 to support projects that build community, promote mental health, or advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. Inform members of your department about these funding sources and encourage them to realize their good ideas.

Result:

Communities are stronger when members are encouraged to innovate and contribute to each other's wellbeing.

waving man
10-5 Rule with Smoots
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
waving man
10-5 Rule with Smoots
Community
The Basics:

The 10-5 rule is a popular practice for encouraging positive interactions. The convention states that at ten feet one should make eye contact with the person walking past them. At five feet, one should acknowledge the person by waving or saying hello.

Action:

Hang up 2-1 Rule with Smoots, a poster promoting the MIT version of this practice.

Result:

Reminders about saying hello can help us all feel like we belong.

student and teacher
OGE Best Practices in Advising
Academics
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student and teacher
OGE Best Practices in Advising
Academics
The Basics:

Read the "Best Practices in Graduate Student Advising" publication, available in 3-138, and the “Committed to Caring (C2C) Mentoring Guideposts.”

Action:

Pick up a copy of "Best Practices in Graduate Student Advising," created in partnership by The Office of Graduate Education (OGE) and the Graduate Student Council (GSC), and read the “C2C Mentoring Guideposts.”  

The “Best Practices” guide attempts to define and address the roles, relationships, and expectations that currently exist in the life of a graduate student, as well as the fundamental principles that guide these relationships. The “Guideposts” are concrete actions faculty advisors can take in creating a positive mentoring relationship as identified by students.

Result:

"Best Practices in Graduate Student Advising" and “C2C Mentoring Guideposts” provide a blueprint for the graduate student-advisor relationship at MIT.

introvert
Consider Introverts and Extroverts
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
introvert
Consider Introverts and Extroverts
Academics
The Basics:

Using a mix of individual and small group assessments can benefit both introverts and extroverts. 

Action:

Well-designed interactive learning activities can provide students the opportunity to elaborate, receive feedback, and understand that they're not alone in the learning process. However, the use of too many interactive learning activities can be stressful for introverts.

Individual activities provide opportunities for all students to assess their understanding without the added stress of peer interactions.

When employing interactive learning activities, consider having students work on their own first. Besides making the activities less stressful for more introverted students, this strategy can also increase the quality of discussion by having students formulate and consolidate their positions individually first.

Activities that allow students to respond anonymously (e.g., clicker-type questions, muddy cards) can also be a non-threatening and effective way to check students’ understanding of material.

For more information on building effective and welcoming academic environments, visit the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab’s website.

Result:

Considering how classroom activities are experienced by both introverted and extroverted students can help to ease potential stress and anxiety, and improve learning outcomes.

students
Develop Peer Cohorts for Underrepresented Students
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
students
Develop Peer Cohorts for Underrepresented Students
Inclusion
The Basics:

Facilitate interactions and strengthen community between underrepresented students.

Action:

Prior to the start of the 2017-18 academic year, Underrepresented Minority Representatives of the Department of Chemistry drafted a welcoming newsletter that was sent to URM students entering the Chemistry program. The letter included lists of relevant campus resources and groups. This effort to open the line of communication between incoming URM graduate students and those with experience within the department was well-received, and has inspired the creation of the Chemistry Alliance for Inclusion and Diversity (CADI), a student-run group that supports the success of underrepresented minority (URM) chemists at MIT.

Result:

Finding peers with similar life experiences can be more challenging for underrepresented students in elite educational settings. Creating groups for these students to meet and share their experiences can increase feelings of belonging and reduce potential isolation.

three young women
Consider All Voices
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
three young women
Consider All Voices
Inclusion
The Basics:

In classroom and other group settings, pause and reflect on whose voices may be missing from the conversation.

Action:

Ask these questions in group settings: "Whose voices are missing from our discussion?" "Who else is doing similar work?" "How can we include other stakeholders?"

Result:

Finding ways to involve groups that may have been left out of a conversation can promote collaboration and inclusion and reduce silos.

students talking with administrator
Orientation or Resource Fair 2.0
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
students talking with administrator
Orientation or Resource Fair 2.0
Academics
The Basics:

Fall orientation sessions and resource fairs can be overwhelming for students in terms of information overload. A refresher later in the year, once students have settled in, can help them connect to campus resources.

Action:

The Chemistry Department hosts a biannual resource fair in the middle of the fall semester, inviting campus offices to advertise their offerings. It is an opportunity to reach students who arrived after September as well as remind current students of the resources available to them.

Result:

Establishing a second resource fair targeting all students can remind them of resources and expectations that may have been missed in orientation or because they didn’t feel they “needed” the resource at the time. It helps to build new connections for students and to ensure they are prepared for success at MIT.

classroom
Define Classroom Expectations
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
classroom
Define Classroom Expectations
Academics
The Basics:

Establish clear expectations at the start of a course. When students don't know what is expected of them and what will be necessary to succeed in a course, this can result in unnecessary stress and challenges.

Action:

There are many ways to define classroom expectations at the start of a course, including:

  • Begin and end class on time.
  • Use a well-defined class structure.
  • Set clear, unambiguous prompts and deadlines for assignments.
  • Be explicit about grading practices.
  • Articulate policies and expectations for group work, which can help to reduce stress associated with working in teams.
  • Consider the timing of assignments and avoid scheduling big deadlines when other classes may have exams.
  • If using specific software tools in your course, make sure to articulate why, provide guidelines for how to use the tool, and allow students enough time to become comfortable using the tool. 
  • Provide students with a road map for how to succeed in your course. 
  • Articulate learning goals for your course: what is the student supposed to know and do by the end of your course?

For more information on building effective and welcoming academic environments, contact the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab.

Result:

Setting clear course guidelines can help to prevent unnecessary stress and confusion and maximize learning.

Share Works in Progress
Share Works in Progress
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
Share Works in Progress
Share Works in Progress
Academics
The Basics:

The majority of academic texts that students are exposed to are published, polished works, but seeing rough drafts can have great value. Create opportunities for faculty and researchers to share works-in-progress through event series or stand-alone, informal activities.

Action:

MIT's Women's and Gender Studies Department hosts a monthly Intellectual Forum "in which faculty members share works-in-progress [and] bring the community together for interdisciplinary engagement on topics of shared concern."

Result:

Events where community members share their rough drafts can encourage collaboration, generate useful feedback, and show students how much work goes into finalizing papers and reports.

meditation class
Hold Yoga and Meditation Sessions
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
meditation class
Hold Yoga and Meditation Sessions
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Departments can arrange for a yoga or mindfulness instructor to provide on-site classes for their community members.

Action:

Community Wellness at MIT Medical and MIT Recreation can connect departments to yoga and meditation instructors. Departments can underwrite the costs of the classes, offering them free or at a discounted rate.

Encourage members of your community to attend the MIT Libraries Calm Under the Dome, a free half hour of silent mindfulness held on Mondays at noon in the Barker Reading Room.

Result:

Mind-body practices in a communal setting build community while providing the opportunity for individual personal development and stress management.

parade with rainbow and trans flags
Foster Trans Inclusive Practices
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
parade with rainbow and trans flags
Foster Trans Inclusive Practices
Inclusion
The Basics:

Take steps to foster understanding and inclusion of everyone in your community, regardless of their gender identity or presentation.

Action:

There are many ways to make communities more inclusive of trans and gender non-conforming people, including:

  • Ensure access to all-gender bathrooms with clear and welcoming signage.
  • Normalize sharing pronouns in group settings and email signatures.
  • Don’t ask a trans person what their “real name” is. For some trans people, being associated with their birth name is a tremendous source of anxiety, or it is simply a part of their life they wish to leave behind. Respect the name a trans person is currently using.

  • Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure, and “outing.”

  • Do not tolerate anti-trans remarks or humor.

Check out the Trans@MIT website, which provides educational tools for anyone who would like to better understand trans people and gender differences. Trans@MIT staff are also available to host workshops and advise MIT community members on any trans-related questions or concerns.

Share material from Trans 101, a gender diversity course designed to increase awareness of what it means to be trans and ways to be an effective ally. 

Result:

Increasing awareness of inclusive practices can help make MIT a safer, more welcoming place for trans people.

students speaking
Host Town Hall Discussions
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
students speaking
Host Town Hall Discussions
Community
The Basics:

Invite all community members to a town hall meeting where the department's values, climate, and goals are openly discussed.

Action:

In the summer of 2018, the Chemistry Department held the first in a series of town hall meetings to discuss the department's shared values.

"The goal of the meeting... [was] to craft a departmental "code of conduct" or "statement of shared values" that would express the shared vision of conduct that members of the department expect of themselves and each other ... All members of the Department of Chemistry- faculty, staff, students, and postdocs- were invited to participate and contribute their thoughts on how the statement should be crafted."

Pro Tip: work with student leadership to develop an agenda for your town hall discussion. Consider discussing key data points from the climate survey. Reach out to MindHandHeart for support in planning a town hall in your department, lab, or center.

Result:

Organizing a town hall meeting can help to establish a shared vision and values for the department's climate. Additionally, town hall meetings can help to build community and increase transparency.

frustrated girl
Enhance Sense of Belonging
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
frustrated girl
Enhance Sense of Belonging
Academics
The Basics:

Talk to students about Imposter Syndrome to reduce its negative impact.

Action:

Many MIT students experience Imposter Syndrome: a nagging feeling that they don't belong at the Institute and will soon be exposed as a "fraud." This feeling is particularly acute when students first transition to MIT and when they encounter academic challenges.

Faculty and staff can help students to feel a greater sense of belonging by:

  • Sharing personal stories about times they felt like they did not belong.
  • Communicating that most students question their belonging, particularly during important transitions and difficult times, but that these questions decrease over time as students become used to their new academic expectations and social environments. 
  • Providing targeted feedback that communicates high standards as well as the belief that students are capable of meeting them.

For more information on building inclusive and welcoming academic environments, contact the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab.

Result:

Imposter Syndrome can result in isolation and debilitating insecurity, but talking openly about it can help to reduce its impact and make students feel a greater sense of belonging.

group of students
Practice Pronouncing Students' Names
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
group of students
Practice Pronouncing Students' Names
Academics
The Basics:

Learn to pronounce students' names to create a more welcoming and equitable academic environment. 

Action:

MIT students hail from all over the world and it can be hard to accurately pronounce their names when you haven't heard them before. Prior to the start of class, enter students names that you find challenging into a free pronunciation app, like Pronounce NamesForvo, or Google Translate. At the beginning of a course, ask all students what their preferred name is and how to pronounce it. 

It may also be useful to have students create a nameplate that they can place on their table or desk. This will help students learn each other’s names too.

For more information on building inclusive and welcoming academic environments, contact the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab.

Result:

Learning how to properly pronounce students' names can enhance their sense of academic belonging.

students reading
Diversify Your Curriculum
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
students reading
Diversify Your Curriculum
Academics
The Basics:

Do the authors of your course materials represent a diverse array of perspectives and identities?  

Action:

Infuse current reading lists and media shown in and out of class with authors and speakers that represent multiple perspectives and identities. When you are highlighting interesting research, include a diverse array of researchers.

For more information on building inclusive and welcoming academic environments, contact the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab.

Result:

Diverse course materials promote inclusion and academic rigor.

student engaging in bungee activity
Check Out Community Events
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
student engaging in bungee activity
Check Out Community Events
Community
The Basics:

Encourage members of your community to attend campus events and take advantage of all MIT has to offer.

Action:

Visit the MIT Events calendar to learn about the many fun and interesting events happening on campus, and share them with members of your community.

Result:

Encouraging members of your community to attend events helps to promote work-life balance.

woman holding hawk
Share Skills
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
woman holding hawk
Share Skills
Community
The Basics:

MIT faculty, students, and staff bring a host of talents to campus. Create opportunities for community members to share their skills.

Action:

Encourage community members to participate in Independent Activities Period (IAP), a special four-week term that runs during January and consists of a variety of activities, including how-to sessions, lecture series, films, recitals, and contests. MIT community members have the opportunity to teach classes on topics that interest them— everything from yoga to pottery to astrology.

Organize lunch presentations where community members share their skills and talents outside of their jobs and research areas.

Result:

Skills sharing can help build community and foster an environment of learning and support.

Calm-to-Go
Try Calm-to-Go
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
Calm-to-Go
Try Calm-to-Go
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Anxiety can be a feedback loop: stressed thoughts can activate the body’s fight or flight system, and in turn, people’s anxious thoughts can increase. Many tools exist to help adapt to stress, but it can be hard to know what works best for you.

Action:

The MIT Libraries, MindHandHeart, and MIT Medical launched the Calm-to-Go program to help members of the MIT community who are experiencing stress to experiment with different strategies to relax. Students, faculty, and staff can check out the following equipment from the Music Library: noise cancelling headphones, weighted wraps, light boxes, light wake up alarms, neurofeedback and biofeedback equipment.

Result:

By learning what works for them, community members can better manage their stress and meet challenges with more confidence. All Calm-to-Go materials are available for MIT community members to borrow for two weeks.

student feet and arrows
Solicit Student Feedback
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
student feet and arrows
Solicit Student Feedback
Academics
The Basics:

Solicit frequent feedback from students to assess their understanding of course material, points of confusion, and interest areas.

Action:

Hand out 'Muddy Cards' at the end of class to solicit student feedback. Developed by statistician Frederick Mosteller, muddy cards consist of three questions:  "(1) What was the most important point in the lecture? (2) What was the muddiest point? (3) What would you like to hear more about?"

Muddy cards can help faculty members to clarify misunderstandings in the classroom and can be adapted for the lab/research group environment. 

For more information on optimizing your teaching, visit the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab’s website.

Result:

Gauging students' interest areas and understanding of course material can help improve the learning experience.

girl struggling with math problem
Destigmatize Failure
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
girl struggling with math problem
Destigmatize Failure
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Foster resilience in your community by encouraging open and honest dialogue about failure.

Action:

Many MIT students feel intense pressure to excel academically and receiving a poor grade (or a perceived poor grade) can be upsetting. One way for faculty to support students in coping with failure is to share stories of personal setbacks, whether that is a disappointing grade in a college course or a failed research project. Taking ten minutes to reassure students that they can be successful in their field, even when their grades aren't perfect, can enhance students' well-being.

Share videos from FAIL!, a student-organized speaker series where professors from Harvard and MIT tell stories about times they failed and how they bounced back.

Result:

Failure is an inevitable part of life and essential for personal growth. When department leaders acknowledge times they failed it helps to destigmatize failure for the entire community.

concerned young woman
Share Concerning Behavior
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
concerned young woman
Share Concerning Behavior
Wellbeing
The Basics:

A student who is in distress is likely to display behaviors that indicate they need help. For example, they may have frequent absences, express feelings of hopelessness, or appear apathetic, isolated, or withdrawn.

Action:

If you’re worried about someone in the MIT community—student, staff member, or anyone else—Student Mental Health and Counseling Services can give you advice on the best approach you can take to help that individual. Just call them at 617-253-2916 (weekdays) or 617-253-4481 (nights/weekends). A mental health clinician is on call and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Same day, in-person appointments are also available when needed.

Result:

We all need support sometimes. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness- it's a sign of strength. Please, ask for help when you need it and encourage others to do the same.

student in lab
Encourage a Growth Mindset
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
student in lab
Encourage a Growth Mindset
Academics
The Basics:

There are two commonly held theories of intelligence: fixed and growth mindset. Those in the fixed camp view intelligence as immutable, while those in the growth camp believe it is malleable and rooted in effort and feedback.

A growth mindset has been associated with increased academic performance, well-being, and resiliency in times of academic stress. Conversely, a fixed mindset has been associated with higher rates of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, poorer academic performance, and a decreased sense of belonging (“Imposter Syndrome”).

Encourage students to cultivate a growth mindset. 

Action:

There are many ways to encourage a growth mindset in academic environments, including:

  • Convey the message that struggle is common, expected, and often necessary, especially for challenging tasks and acquisition of skills. Share experiences of your own struggles and that of others.
  • Offer extra help outside of class (office hours, help-sessions, etc.) and communicate that it is normal and expected that students take advantage of this.
  • Communicate that abilities can grow over time. This can be done by communicating how expertise is developed and by providing assignments, research milestones, and exams where students can demonstrate incremental progress (i.e. projects/papers that incorporate cycles of feedback and revision).
  • Focus on processes, not “final answers."
  • De-stigmatize mistakes and challenges, and teach students to see them as learning opportunities. For example, emphasize the importance of failure and iteration in the engineering design process and in research.
  • Give frequent and timely feedback that focuses students’ attention on how to improve. Praise students for effort, strategies, and the utilization of resources.

For more information on building effective academic environments, visit the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab’s website.

Result:

Encouraging students to adopt a growth mindset can help them realize that struggle is normal and that mistakes are valuable feedback and learning opportunities.

high school students
Host Inclusive Summer Sessions
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
high school students
Host Inclusive Summer Sessions
Inclusion
The Basics:

Several MIT departments sponsor summer programs to welcome promising students from diverse backgrounds.

Action:

Summer programs create community on campus and further MIT's mission to "build a better world." 

The MIT Philosophy Department in collaboration with UMass Boston hosts "PIKSI-Boston, an annual week-long summer institute for undergraduates from underrepresented groups in philosophy. Both MIT faculty and graduates students take part, with graduate students providing mentoring support as well as holding seminars. The Institute takes approximately 20 undergraduates each year, with the goal of helping them to develop the tools they need to succeed in philosophy."

Result:

Summer programs enrich the lives of participants and attract talented, diverse students to the Institute.

student writing
Encourage Incremental Progress
Academics
MIT's MindHandHeart
student writing
Encourage Incremental Progress
Academics
The Basics:

Use intermediate milestones and deadlines for large assignments and projects.

Action:

For a large paper, require that students turn in outlines, drafts, and revisions at various points, rather than requiring only one large submission at the end of the semester.  For a large project, identify phases in the project to establish milestones for students, rather than requiring a final deliverable by a particular date.

Avoid giving only one final exam. Make sure to have at least one significant assessment before the drop-date deadline.

For more information on building effective and welcoming academic environments, visit the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab’s website.

Result:

Giving students incremental guidance and feedback can aid learning, reduce the stress associated with ambiguity, and result in higher quality (and easier to grade) final submissions.

kids using social media
Encourage Healthy Social Media Use
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
kids using social media
Encourage Healthy Social Media Use
Wellbeing
The Basics:

The majority of US college students spend hours each day on social media platforms, which can negatively impact mental health and overall wellbeing. Encourage members of your community to use social media in a healthy way.

Action:

Share MindHandHeart's list of "Nine Tips for Healthy Social Media Use" with members of your department.

Result:

Using social media tools in a healthy way with clear usage limits is a form of self-care.

inclusion
Bring Your Diversity Statement to Life
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
inclusion
Bring Your Diversity Statement to Life
Inclusion
The Basics:

Write or revisit a comprehensive diversity statement that reflects the values of your department, lab, or center, and feature it prominently on your website. In addition to your diversity statement, outline specific steps your department is taking towards achieving greater diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Action:

With input from members of your community, turn your diversity statement into an action plan or include this focus in broader strategic planning efforts. Outline your goals and achievements in a poster or visual that is visible to MIT community members. Plan events designed to foster diversity and inclusion, and regularly communicate progress.    

Examples of MIT departmental diversity statements can be found at diversity.mit.edu/departmental-statements.

Result:

With a comprehensive statement and a track record of positive action, all community members will feel a greater sense of belonging, thereby reducing barriers to broader diversity in recruitment of faculty, staff, and students.

support materials
Display Support Resources
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
support materials
Display Support Resources
Wellbeing
The Basics:

Prominently display support resources available to students and other community members.

Action:

There are many offices and initiatives dedicated to supporting students during their time at MIT. MindHandHeart has compiled a list of print materials advertising a selection of campus mental health, community, and wellness resources. We encourage departments to display these materials in common areas. 

For a complete list of the support resources available to MIT students, visit resources.mit.edu/support.

Result:

Displaying mental health and wellbeing resources can reduce stigma, isolation, and barriers to help-seeking. It can help community members to know where to turn if they become overwhelmed.

rainbow heart
Foster Queer Inclusive Practices
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
rainbow heart
Foster Queer Inclusive Practices
Inclusion
The Basics:

Encourage members of your community to have a common understanding of LGBTQ+ terminology and work to support queer- and trans-inclusive practices.

Action:

Invite staff from the SPXCE Intercultural Center to provide trainings to members of your department on topics such as LGBTQ 101, Trans 101, allyship and social justice, bias and privilege, and bystander behavior.

Share material from Trans 101, a gender diversity course designed to increase awareness of what it means to be trans and ways to be an effective ally. 

Post 'You Are Welcome Here" cards, which are part of a campaign to increase LGBTQ+ visibility on campus, identify multiple points of access to LGBTQ+ support services, and create a more welcoming campus environment.

Result:

Increasing awareness of inclusive practices and terminology can help make MIT a safer, more welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people.

letter writing
Welcome Newcomers
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
letter writing
Welcome Newcomers
Community
The Basics:

Moving to a new place can be stressful. Finding ways to welcome newcomers can help ease the transition and build long-lasting community.

Action:

The Office of the First Year hosts a letter writing event where first-year students write welcoming messages to members of the incoming class.

Result:

Welcoming newcomers can help community members feel like they belong.

students eating cupcakes
Host Study Breaks During Finals
Community
MIT's MindHandHeart
students eating cupcakes
Host Study Breaks During Finals
Community
The Basics:

Finals can be a stressful time for MIT students, and study breaks can provide 'in the moment' connection and community that promotes resilience.

Action:

MindHandHeart publishes a calendar to 'De-Stress and Take Care' at the end of every semester. Distribute this to students during finals period and encourage them to take breaks and practice self-care.

Many departments provide snacks and treats during finals period. Women and Gender Studies offers free 10-minute chair massages— a very popular activity. 💆🏽

Result:

Hosting study breaks during finals period can help students to feel supported.

group photo
Encourage Open and Respectful Dialogue
Inclusion
MIT's MindHandHeart
group photo
Encourage Open and Respectful Dialogue
Inclusion
The Basics:

MIT students, faculty, and staff hail from all over the world and bring innumerable perspectives and talents to campus. Help community members to understand others' life experiences and engage in respectful dialogue around social issues.

Action:

MIT Sloan organizes regular "Ask Me Anything" events for members of the MIT Sloan community. The series "provides firsthand personal perspectives on elements of personal identity. Past events have addressed national identity [as well as] religious, racial, sexual, and ethnic identity, the veteran experience, and themes such as mental illness and hearing loss. Typically, a small panel of community members provides brief introductions, then addresses questions that people may otherwise be hesitant to ask. The goal in offering these panels is to advance understanding and dialogue."

Result:

Encouraging community members to engage in open and honest dialogue about social issues encourages them to be effective allies and leaders, both within MIT and beyond.

bowl of fruit
Connect to MIT Wellness Resources
Wellbeing
MIT's MindHandHeart
bowl of fruit
Connect to MIT Wellness Resources
Wellbeing
The Basics:

There are an array of MIT programs committed to supporting students, faculty, and staff members' health and wellbeing. Share news of these resources and make your department aware of all MIT has to offer.

Action:

At the start of each semester, encourage members of your department to sign up for the MindHandHeart Beat (covering wellness and mental health news and resources), the Community Wellness e-newsletter (covering wellness tips and upcoming exercise classes), and the People Matters HR e-newsletter (covering workshops and resources available to MIT faculty, graduate students, and staff).

Result:

Sharing available resources can help community members to adopt healthy behaviors.