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Equity and Intersectionality Across the Curriculum

March 01, 2023

Lasell University’s newest core course, Equity and Intersectionality, is required of all first-year students to help them understand differences, enhance empathy, and develop perspective-taking early in their college career.

The interactive course was designed in response to Lasell’s Speed of Change strategic plan, which proposed a revision of the core curriculum to include a course focused on inequality in its various forms. Now in its fourth semester, the class looks at aspects of identity including race, socioeconomic class, sex, gender, religion, and more, and asks students to consider those in light of their own lived experiences.

“This is a way for all of our students to learn skills for communicating across differences and valuing the individuality that we each express,” says Lori Rosenthal, professor of psychology and dean of the School of Humanities, Education, Justice & Social Sciences. “One of the key goals of our Core Curriculum is gaining intercultural knowledge and communicating across cultures — both highly valued by potential employers. It’s essential for our students to develop and demonstrate these skills for their future career success.”

The course is a unique cohort experience through which Lasell students gain a sense of community and trust early on in their time together.

“This class offered me a great opportunity to grow as a person through hearing all different kinds of people’s opinions, experiences, and perspectives,” says Regan Atchue ’25. “I gained a critical awareness that will help me be a productive member of the Lasell community and our wider society.”

Associate Professor of Sociology Melissa MacDonald oversees the curriculum and implementation of this first-year experience, and teaches a section of it as well. Each student cohort is taught by a mix of faculty and staff with different backgrounds and identities to facilitate meaningful and candid conversations.

Rosenthal has already seen those takeaways in action in her upper-level psychology courses. The conversations among students related to their different experiences, she says, are of a higher quality than ever before, which she attributes to the students’ participation in the first-year course.

“There is a real difference in conversational maturity and their ability to talk in depth on divisive topics without issue,” she says.

Atchue is grateful for what she learned in Equity and Intersectionality — and hopes that other institutions will adopt similar approaches.

“This class should be a mandatory piece of the curriculum at every college and university so that everyone has a chance to better understand others and a have a voice,” she says. “It is vital to a successful society.”