The University of Michigan is embarking on a yearlong effort to create a comprehensive, universitywide plan to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, President Mark Schlissel announced Wednesday.
Speaking during a luncheon focused on diversity, Schlissel said students, faculty and staff from every campus unit will be involved in a strategic planning process that is designed to allow “the best ideas to rise to the top.”
“We cannot be excellent without being diverse in the broadest sense of that word,” Schlissel told about 250 invited participants at the Michigan Union’s Rogel Ballroom and an online audience watching his remarks via a live webstream.
“Let’s give the future members of our community something big, something bold, and something worthy to celebrate.”
The president also announced a diversity summit Nov. 4-13, featuring a U-M communitywide assembly that he will host on Nov. 10. It also will include public lectures, student-focused events, discussion of recommendations by a committee to enhance staff diversity and inclusion, and panels on the history of diversity, equity and inclusion at the university.
The summit’s goal is to ensure “that we have as many opportunities as possible to talk about, think about, to share and to strategize as a university community,” said Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs.
Sellers said it is important to consider all three topics — diversity, equity and inclusion — which he likened to various aspects of attending a dance.
“Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party. Equity means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist. And inclusion means that everyone has the opportunity to dance,” he said.
Sellers also fleshed out the process and its timeline, which calls for development of individual unit plans by the end of this academic year, their amalgamation into a university plan by September 2016, and implementation and evaluation through 2021.
Schlissel said U-M’s senior leadership is fully engaged and that all executive officers have committed to the collaborative process he outlined.
What started as a small team of leaders and key personnel is growing. Approximately 60 people representing each of U-M’s schools, colleges and campus units will serve as “planning leads,” spearheading the process within their units and coordinating with the overall university effort.
The president said he wants each unit’s plan to be “aspirational, concrete, include ways to measure progress, and be consistent with activities that occur throughout our campus.”
“At this stage, we are not seeking to define where we will end up, or what success will necessarily look like,” Schlissel said. “We want to have the structure in place that will allow us to engage the great minds and the passionate individuals on our campus — and to move forward in a collaborative manner.
“This is a process that is about your voices and your ideas.”
Board of Regents Chair Shauna Ryder Diggs credited Schlissel for providing U-M with “this common understanding of our shared task.”
“The broad collaboration that is required to make this strategic planning process work will teach each one of us something — hopefully many things — that are important and enlightening about each other,” Ryder Diggs said.
“This process, if we really put our shoulders into it, will provide materials from which we will build bridges of understanding and knowledge.”
Later, the room broke into smaller groups for table exercises in which they explored critical questions of the planning process: What does success in this process look like? What is required to make this happen? What might get in the way of that success? What role will each person play?
In his remarks, Schlissel also touched on some of the work already underway, particularly in the area of undergraduate recruitment and efforts to attract a more diverse pool of talented students to U-M.
That work includes the HAIL Scholars pilot program, designed to increase applications to U-M from high-achieving, low-income students.
In collaboration with 259 high schools, the university has identified about 1,000 such students from all across the state and will use a variety of outreach methods to encourage them to apply to U-M, and help guide them through the process. If admitted, these students will be guaranteed four years of free tuition and fees, as well as additional financial aid according to their level of need.