Almost a year ago I wrote to introduce myself and ask you to participate in Pathways Forward, a set of discussions to figure out “where we go from here” on matters of climate and equity. Since then, my work has often been inspired by many of the concerns and thoughts shared in those sessions. I write now with an update on where we have been this year and where I believe we are going with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
This year, community nurturing has been one of my priorities. In addition to Pathways Forward, we launched Conversations to Uphold Equity (CUEs) as another way to engage dialogue within the College. CUEs’ focus is convening staff, faculty and administrators to think through pressing and current questions relevant to social justice, belonging and equitable futures for our staff and faculty. I believe that the sessions have been informative as much as they have been generative.
Also for enhancing connections and information exchange, we began DEI in the Department events. These are gatherings of department diversity leaders (e.g., Diversity Liaisons) to share experiences with DEI efforts in their respective units. The efforts range from developing practices to improve equity among diversely ranked faculty, to undertaking department climate studies, to reviewing a unit’s curricula toward decolonizing and diversifying it. Set up as learning communities, DEI in the Department sessions allow for collective thinking through of the challenges, goals and outcomes of forwarding specific DEI projects.
Through my activities like these with the College’s units, one takeaway I have is that DEI is not the preserve of the Dean’s Office. Indeed, our units are leading impactful and thoughtful equity work. To help enable such work to thrive, we provided funding for DEI projects in 13 departments. The projects, spanning all divisions, are diverse themselves. Some are new initiatives, while others advance activities developed over the past couple of years. Grant recipients will share progress with their work and we will fund more projects in the future.
The College’s DEI strategic plan process – to chart a DEI future for the College – is well underway and remarkably on schedule. I’ve been fortunate to work with an 11-member strategic plan committee in conducting an assessment of DEI in the College, developing a vision for the plan, and drafting a set of action items to take place over an approximate 3-year period. Recently, we identified the three priority areas for the strategic plan: pay equity, climate improvement, and representation in hiring and retention. Detailed action steps, which we are currently outlining, will fall under each of these areas.
The DEI survey that we distributed to you in December has been highly influential, helping our strategic plan committee understand major areas of survey respondents’ concerns such as equity across a range of positions and groups among both faculty and staff, and the need for increased action by leadership on matters of equity and inclusion. We also learned of areas of relative strength, such as the quality of climate within one’s home unit for a majority of faculty and staff. (A brief synopsis of the survey results as well as an update on the strategic plan process are on our website) In brainstorming what must be included in the plan, we reference the survey often and are designing to plan to be responsive to it.
Many of the above activities will continue into next year: We will hold more CUEs sessions, organize more DEI in the Department convenings and offer more DEI grants to units. We are also piloting an expansion of DEI in the Department as well as the Diversity Liaison program to include noninstructional units. The mandatory best practices workshops for faculty searches will also be ongoing. And the strategic plan will be launched. I continue to look at metrics and other information as I am involved in discussions and collaborations about how to move us forward on such issues as salary equity, retention and recruitment (look for an email soon from Dean Rhodes on these issues). I am also paying attention to representation, equity among employees, diversity in leadership roles and promotion opportunities.
Due to my conversations around these topics, another takeaway for me from this year is that collaboration is key. My work as associate dean for diversity equity and inclusion has benefited from my partnerships, committee memberships, meetings, discussions and interactions with a range of people this year. Some of my work is a direct outgrowth of conversations and brainstorming with some of you. I’m grateful for the chance to discuss, listen and be heard about how to move the needle on DEI.
I don’t need to tell you that achieving equity doesn’t happen overnight. The work is necessarily ongoing. Soon it will be carried out under the incoming dean, James White, who has a notable track record on matters of DEI at UC-Boulder. With the path forward for our ongoing work, I am encouraged and motivated by the direction that we are headed. I am also open to your ideas and thoughts about it. My door is always open.
Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
College of Arts and Sciences