Following a yearlong, grassroots planning effort, the University of Michigan on Thursday unveiled its universitywide strategic blueprint for making the U-M community more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
The five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion was outlined during a program hosted by Robert M. Sellers, vice provost for diversity, equity and academic affairs at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.
The day before, at his Leadership Breakfast, President Mark Schlissel announced he would recommend Sellers to be the university’s first chief diversity officer, a critical leadership role for implementing the ambitious initiatives in the plan.
“The future of our great university will be determined by how well we embrace the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. To live up to our full potential as a university, everyone must have the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, and our community can be complete only when all members feel welcome,” Schlissel says.
“Our dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. We cannot be excellent without being diverse in the broadest sense of that word.”
The 43-page plan represents the shared overarching themes and strategies present across 49 individual plans created by the university’s 19 schools and colleges, Student Life, Athletics, the U-M Health System and other administrative units.
The university has committed $85 million in new resources over the next five years to implement the initiatives in the plans that fall into three overarching strategies:
• Creating an inclusive and equitable campus.
• Recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse university community.
• Supporting innovation and inclusive scholarship and teaching.
The university is committed to transparency and accountability at all levels under the plans with a responsible office or person identified for each action and metrics on demographic and climate trends that will be tracked over time and publicly reported.
The plans were crafted after a year of interactive and web-based engagement sessions, in which unit-specific and campuswide gatherings were hosted to provide students, faculty and staff opportunities to help shape the vision of a more diverse, equitable and inclusive U-M. During the 200-plus engagement sessions, designated unit planning teams gathered input from thousands of members of the university community.
The plans include scores of new initiatives and programs that are detailed in a web-based document that includes historical context and baseline data. Some highlights of the new central initiatives include:
• A program for incoming freshman to help assess and then develop skills for navigating cultural and other differences, addressing the fact that new students to U-M come from varying backgrounds. This Student Life program will draw upon the expertise of the Program on Intergroup Relations.
• Enhanced educational programming for all new faculty on inclusive teaching methods, led by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The goal of the program is to provide resources and tools that will help faculty make learning more inclusive and effective across diverse groups of students. This will be rolled out to all faculty members in future years.
• Several new outreach programs to recruit and retain a more diverse pool of students, faculty and staff, including an urban school initiative for new undergraduate students and enhanced partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions for increasing the pipeline of diverse graduate students for U-M.
• An innovation grant program to catalyze new ideas from students, faculty and staff for addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The plans of the schools, colleges, Health System and other units also include innovative programming specific to the needs and missions of those entities, such as:
• LSA plans to initiate a two-year postdoctoral fellowship to recruit extraordinarily promising scholars whose research, teaching and service will contribute to diversity and equality in higher education. Recruiting up to 50 fellows over five years, LSA will convert these positions to tenure-track lines upon successful completion of the fellowship.
• The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design will revise approximately three academic or studio courses each year over the next few years on subject-related diversity issues. Future faculty recruitment efforts will focus on prospective faculty with a creative work record in areas such as social justice, creative citizenship, public advocacy, civil rights and community engagement in underrepresented communities.
• Business and Finance is creating a Bystander Awareness and Skill Training Program to train staff members, who witness or experience disrespectful or noninclusive actions in the workplace, about how to speak up effectively.
• The Health System will develop a centralized toolkit for faculty members serving on search or selection committees. Resources will cover a range of topics including unconscious bias training; inclusive recruitment searches, job descriptions and interviewing techniques; and the benefits of the Ann Arbor-Detroit area for diverse audiences.
• Student Life will significantly enhance programming at the new, centrally located multicultural center, which will include activities designed to develop cultural learning and programs to support students experiencing bias or feeling excluded or unwelcome on campus.
Implementation of the new initiatives begins immediately, complementing many activities recently undertaken by the university.
In the past year, the university has approved the building of a new $10 million multicultural center at the heart of campus and funding for the new Wolverine Pathways program, which will help increase the critical mass of underrepresented students as it creates a pipeline to the university for students from the Ypsilanti and Southfield communities. The program will expand to Detroit in fall 2017.
Also within the past year, the university launched the HAIL Scholars initiative. HAIL (High Achieving Involved Leader) is a two-year pilot effort that is testing a new approach to reaching — and enrolling — high-achieving, low-income students from across the state. It provides resources that remove some of the barriers proven to stop some students from applying to the university. For students who apply and are accepted, the HAIL Scholarship provides four years of free tuition — a value of about $60,000.
During his overview of the strategic plan, Sellers pointed out that the university has a deep, longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, already spending an average of at least $40 million annually toward those efforts.
Sellers also announced that later this month the university will launch a campuswide survey of students, faculty and staff to gauge the climate regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.
The survey, which will use a scientific sample of faculty, students and staff, will help the university create a base level of statistics for measuring the effectiveness of the new and existing programs and initiatives geared toward creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. The survey will be repeated over time to measure progress.
Sellers’ office also will support a network of DE&I professionals throughout the schools, colleges and other units to help facilitate collaboration and idea sharing to help spread best practices across campus.
“The value of creating a robust, diverse, equitable and inclusive campus community — one where people of different abilities, races and ethnicities, political and religious views, sexual orientations and gender identities feel welcome and accepted — is immeasurable,” Sellers says.
“We know that creating this ideal climate won’t happen overnight, but I’m proud that the university is committed to making this campus more diverse, equitable and inclusive.”