Keener and Pease-Hernandez serving as SRU’s DEI fellows


Oct. 19, 2023

Slippery Rock University is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in a variety of ways, from hiring practices to programming for students. A new development is having two faculty members appointed as DEI fellows to assist with training faculty and other service related to the DEI requirement within SRU’s general studies program.

Emily Keener, associate professor of psychology, and Christine Pease-Hernandez, associate professor of strategic communication and media, were appointed as SRU’s first DEI fellows starting in the Fall 2023 semester. As co-DEI fellows, Keener and Pease-Hernandez share one course release for the 2023-24 academic year to support the DEI curriculum that is part of SRU’s general-education track, the Rock Integrated Studies Program. 

“Dr. Keener and Dr. Pease-Hernandez have each played integral roles in developing Rock Studies DEI designation and we’re grateful to have them continue their work advancing the DEI program,” said Michael Zieg, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The DEI fellows will do important work to grow and sustain the community of faculty who teach DEI designated courses, and to ensure that students are able to engage with DEI in multiple contexts across disciplines.” 

Beginning in the Fall 2022 semester, SRU now requires all students in Rock Studies to take one three-credit course that meets a DEI designation. Rock Studies courses account for 42 of a students' 120 minimum credits to graduate. 

For a Rock Studies course to meet DEI designation, the faculty member teaching the course must take an eight-week, online training course offered by the University. The training prepares the instructor to integrate DEI concepts to meet the DEI Rock Studies outcomes within the existing course content and covers areas of self-awareness, identity, structural privilege, oppression and teaching strategies for inclusiveness.

“Based on feedback and surveys from our students in recent years, we discovered that many of our faculty were not prepared to talk about DEI issues,” Pease-Hernandez said. “It’s not easy to talk about these issues in the classroom. As DEI fellows and along with the Faculty DEI Curriculum Development Committee, we want to make sure we are providing faculty with the resources they need to engage in critical and inclusive pedagogy to meet the DEI Rock Studies outcome.”

The DEI fellows are responsible for recruiting faculty to earn certification, scheduling and administering trainings, developing a community of certified faculty to share best practices and to provide other types of faculty professional development related to DEI. 

Keener and Pease-Hernandez were part of SRU’s Committee on Diversity Curricular and Professional Development that worked with the University’s Rock Studies Committee to start the DEI pilot program in 2021. The program was the first of its kind in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education.

More than 40 faculty participated in the pilot program, and there are currently 75 faculty certified and able to teach 100 DEI-designated classes. Faculty will be contacted later this semester about additional opportunities to become DEI-certified.

More information about Rock Studies is available on the SRU website. For more information about the DEI training, contact Pease-Hernandez at 724.738.2563 or or Keener at 724.738.2529 or