Kirsten Helmer

Position or Job Title
Director of Programming for Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity, and Senior Lecturer
Phone Number
(413) 545-5180
Email Address
301J Goodell Building

As a critical educator committed to anti-oppressive education, my teaching is grounded in the philosophy that education should be transformative and foster social justice. To me, teaching and learning are intellectual, relational and emotional processes, engaging teacher and students in critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving while recognizing our human needs for connection, community, reflection, and creativity.

I feel deeply connected to our campus community, having earned my Doctorate in Education and a Master’s Degree in Bilingual/English as a Second Language/Multicultural Education from the Department of Teacher Education & Curriculum Studies at UMass Amherst as well as a Social Justice Education Graduate Certificate in Teaching for Diversity, and a Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies from the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies. Most recently, I received Professional Certification in Trauma & Resilience: Level One from Florida State University.

In my work with faculty, I seek to build their capacity for adopting strength-based approaches to teaching and learning across cultural, social, linguistic, and learning differences. I believe that faculty can become social change agents on our campus working towards more equity. These values inform my design and facilitation of the TIDE (Teaching for Inclusiveness, Diversity & Equity) Fellowship as well as the consultations that I lead with faculty, and my collaborations with departments and colleges/schools.

I have designed and facilitated workshops on topics such as: Implicit Bias and Microaggressions, Six Principles of an Inclusive Syllabus Design, Cultivating a Sense of Belonging, Trauma-Aware Pedagogy, Designing for Learner Variability Using Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Creating Inclusive Learning Experiences, Facilitating Difficult Classroom Discussions.

A book chapter on “Six Principles of an Inclusive Syllabus Design” is in press in Designing Student-Centered Classrooms for Equity and Inclusion Across Disciplines, R. Kumar & B. Refai (Eds.), University of Cincinnati Press.

Since I love to teach, I regularly offer a first-year seminar titled “To Queer or Not to Queer: Exploring Gender and Sexuality Diversity”, which allows me to draw on my dissertation research through which I developed a Queer Literacies framework.


Selected Presentations

Powerful ways for cultivating a sense of belonging in your classroom. The Sunshine State Teaching and Learning Conference, January 2020.

With Brian Baldi: Looking inward and outward: designing inclusive, outward-facing faculty learning communities. 44th Annual Conference, POD Network, November 2019.

Start with your syllabus: applying UDL principles for an inclusive syllabus design. The Second Annual Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education Conference, Goodwin College, November 2019.

Creating Inclusive Learning Experiences Across Learner Differences. Bay Path University, August, 2019.

Implicit Bias and Microaggressions in the College Classroom. The 2019 Wellen Davis Seminar, Western New England University, May, 2019.

Engaging Students with Controversial Texts: A Multidimensional Literacies Approach. Columbia University, April, 2019.

Facilitating Difficult Class Discussions & Navigating Challenging Classroom Dynamics. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Conference, University of Hartford, April, 2019.

The Six Principles of an Inclusive Syllabus Design, Eclipse Conference 2019. U. S. Coast Guard Academy, April, 2019.

Developing students’ communication skills using an active listening exercise. The Teaching Professor Conference, June 2017.

Visualizing cultural competency. Spring 2016 Conference: Inclusive Excellence: Teaching and Learning in an Increasingly Interconnected Word, New England Faculty Development Consortium, May 2016.