The University of Michigan’s second five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion will help propel the institution toward a more welcoming, diverse and inclusive future.
That was the main message of an Oct. 18 information session in the Michigan League Ballroom, where members of the U-M community learned about the transformational initiative known as DEI 2.0 and how they can participate in it.
“The launch of DEI 2.0 is a milestone moment for our university,” said Tabbye Chavous, vice provost for equity and inclusion, and chief diversity officer.
“Our central university and unit plans were developed as a community, and this information session was a great opportunity for our community to come together to learn more about the next step in our DEI journey, including how we all can continue to be engaged in this critical work.”
The comprehensive, campuswide plan represents U-M’s continued commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment in which all people can thrive. It launched earlier this month after more than a year of planning and community engagement.
Led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, DEI 2.0 reflects the DEI plans of central administration and the 51 units across campus that will engage in DEI activities over the next five years.
“Why are we doing this? Because we’re trying to move toward a process of institutional change and global transformation,” Chavous said at the information session, which drew an in-person audience of more than 150 people and was livestreamed.
Chavous said few other universities have DEI plans that involve every campus unit. She called the planning process behind U-M’s DEI initiative “unusual, unique and unprecedented in higher education.”
DEI 2.0 has three main objectives. The first one focuses on people, to promote an ever-more-diverse student, faculty and staff community. It strives to ensure that people have the support and opportunities they need to be successful.
The second objective centers on process, to develop policies, procedures and practices that work to create an inclusive and equitable environment that welcomes and supports all community members.
The third goal is products, reflecting efforts to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are foundational aspects of U-M’s educational programs, teaching methodology, service and scholarly research.
The plan includes 20 campuswide action items. Chavous highlighted some of them during the session, including one that involves enhancing Wolverine Pathways, a college preparatory program for students from underresourced communities in Michigan, by increasing the admissibility and college preparedness of students from partner schools.
Another action item involves trying to create a more inclusive physical environment on campus by identifying accessibility gaps and assessing opportunities to establish broad, university-wide accessibility requirements, guidelines and best practices.
Unit and student leaders spoke at the event about how they’re striving to achieve goals around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Judy Schabel, assistant dean for diversity at the School of Information, shared how she and her colleagues are working to adopt universal design standards for all schoolwide activities and communications. She said universal design is a systematic approach to accessibility across many contexts, including physical spaces, learning environments and communication.
“In the context of communications, our goal is to build features and options that meet the needs of a wide range of individuals, rather than requiring individuals to request accommodations to be able to view, read, listen or otherwise access media being transmitted,” she said.
The information session concluded with virtual and tabletop discussions. Organizers called on people who attended or watched the event to share what they learned with others.
Angelo Pitillo, director of the English Language Institute in LSA, said he appreciates the concrete, specific action items around people, process and products that are contained in the plan. He noted that in the current cultural climate, DEI efforts at some universities have been under attack.
“There’s nothing more important than making sure that all members of our community feel that they belong and feel like they can contribute to our shared mission,” he said. “DEI 2.0 is a really key piece of that.”
DEI 2.0 expands on the work of the university’s DEI 1.0 initiative, said Katrina Wade-Golden, associate vice provost for equity and inclusion and deputy chief diversity officer. DEI 1.0 ran from 2016-21.
“After a comprehensive evaluation process, we are now able to provide a plan that is data-informed and develops achievable strategies that are value-driven and propel us forward in our efforts to become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university,” she said.
Officials said DEI 2.0 has more sharply defined goals, new innovations and investments, and enhanced measures of accountability.
Following the conclusion of DEI 1.0, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion launched an in-depth evaluation process and collected input from across U-M through community conversations, town halls, information sessions and other engagement events.
Community feedback played — and will continue to play — an integral role in shaping DEI 2.0. The central plan and the unit plans are designed to be living documents, meaning they will evolve with trending needs and community input.
“If we are to be successful in our efforts, it’s going to take the will and the work of all of us,” Wade-Golden said.