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Revamped course reading list to enhance Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Deborah DiLiberto teaches Research Methods.

Global Health faculty member Deborah DiLiberto is leading a project funded by the MacPherson Institute to enhance equity in the classroom.


By Ruth Adair, January 29, 2020

Master of Science in Global Health faculty member Dr. Deborah DiLiberto has been leading an equity-focused initiative aimed at enhancing diversity and inclusion, and enriching the learning experience of the students enrolled in her Research Methods course.

With funding from the MacPherson Institute’s Student Partners Program Equity Stream Pilot, funded by SSHRC, DiLiberto has been working to increase representation of marginalized and historically underrepresented groups in academic curricula by assessing her course reading list for factors such as gender, race, geography and LGBTQ+ identity. As an outcome, DiLiberto is revising her course reading list and also planning to produce a mini toolkit that other faculty and students will be able to use to assess and revise their reading lists.

This project is part of the Student Partners Program Equity Stream Pilot, which matches faculty and student pairs to collaborate on enhancing equity in the faculty member’s classroom/curriculum. The pilot aligns with McMaster’s commitment “to build an inclusive community with a shared purpose” (McMaster University, 2002, p. 5), and contributes to the university's emerging Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy and recent efforts and initiatives to advance Accessible Education. 

DiLiberto is working with Yimeng Wang, a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student. Together, the two have reviewed academic literature alongside numerous blogs and Twitter threads to better understand the opportunities and challenges of diversifying and decolonizing course readings lists and curricula.  They have also analyzed the course’s current reading list for subject matter and author representation and are identifying examples of readings covering subjects and authors from diverse and underrepresented groups.

“I was motivated to purse this project to expand students’ exposure to ideas beyond the most visible voices of global health primarily drawn from small, closely connected network of mostly Western male perspectives,” explains DiLiberto.  “And decolonizing and increasing representation in course reading lists introduces students to ideas we may have not encountered before, making our learning more diverse and dynamic,” adds Wang.  But both note that most journals do not currently collect gender, ethnicity and other identity information making it challenging to assess for representation.

As the project has identified opportunities to diversify the course reading list, DiLiberto and Wang are revising it to incorporate more diverse subjects and authors, with plans in place to create a toolkit to share best practices. “Even small-scale initiatives like ours to mainstream EDI in curriculum can be impactful and should be taken-up by all educators at the university,” says DiLiberto.