First Advisor

Melissa Haeffner

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Environmental Science and University Honors


Environmental Science




Student participation in curriculum planning, Critical pedagogy, Curriculum planning, Curriculum change, Racism, Decolonization




In the summer of 2020, the world watched as Black communities and allies responded to the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. An intensification of social and racial justice awareness provoked many entities like higher education institutions (HEI) to evaluate how they support marginalized people and update their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plans. In an attempt to maintain excellence, many HEIs implement DEI plans through top-down methods where high-level administrators target recruitment and retention, campus climate, community engagement, and curriculum. These plans rarely incorporate students as co-collaborators and administer DEI changes that have little effect on students' self-belonging, community, and overall satisfaction with their education and the HEI in general--causing us to ask, what themes emerge when students are invited to collaborate on constructing an antiracist and decolonizing course curriculum?

This study follows the class ESM 410: Diversity Equity and Inclusion, created at the request of the Environmental Science and Management (ESM) department chair at Portland State University in response to the events of 2020. Six ESM students and a professor from diverse backgrounds met weekly during the winter of 2021 to share their experiences, discuss antiracist and decolonizing literature and construct, and present an action plan. The student's suggestions included transparency in university marketing, strengthening peer-peer relationships and pedagogical caring, and improving workforce preparedness. They also advised the department to decolonize the curriculum through decentralization, updating course topics and materials to reflect real-world contexts, and implementing an adaptive management strategy to improve and grow DEI continuously.


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