Planning Diversity

many-voices-markThe University of Michigan just unveiled an $85 million, 5-year strategic plan laser focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. Following a year of campus-wide engagement, the effort is a massive institutional commitment with all the hallmarks of a sound planning process: ground-up development, broad input, actionable goals, resources to support those goals and accountability.

The plan debuts at a time when campuses across the country are experiencing what Inside Higher Ed has called an “epidemic” of racially-charged incidents, as universities struggle mightily with what it means to foster a truly inclusive campus climate. As a member of the leadership team that designed the year-long process, I was proud of President Mark Schlissel’s strong stance in charging our work:

“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.”

In university environments where top-down initiatives are not always widely supported, Michigan’s approach was a broad and inclusive one. Here’s how the planning process worked, by the numbers:

  • 49 units across campus participated, including all 19 schools and colleges, Student Life, business and administrative departments, the health system, and Michigan Athletics.
  • Over 100 “planning leads” facilitated unit-based strategic planning exercises and outreach across campus.
  • Thousands of students, faculty and staff participated in over 200 events designed to solicit ideas and feedback.
  • 3 overarching goals emerged: creating an inclusive and equitable campus climate; recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse community; and supporting innovative and inclusive scholarship and teaching.

The university’s leadership is taking key steps to ensure successful implementation of the ambitious initiative:

  1. Establish a leadership position and team charged with implementation: U-M’s vice provost Robert Sellers, former chair of the psychology department, has been nominated as the university’s first Chief Diversity Officer. In this executive officer role, Dr. Sellers will be responsible for the implementation, coordination and measurement of the initiatives identified in the new strategic plan.
  2. Provide new funding to get the work done: Michigan will dedicate $85 million over five years to support the ambitious game plan.
  3. Ensure accountability by identifying metrics and timeline for evaluation: The plan includes factors to measure progress toward goals and evaluate efficacy. Annual assessments will occur, while major progress will be evaluated at the end of year three and again at the end of year five.

This is not easy work. It will take sustained commitment over time, robust campus dialogue and trust-building. But the University of Michigan puts a stake in the ground with its DEI Strategic Plan: underscoring the core importance of diversity and campus climate with a carefully-considered strategy to affect real change.

Read the executive summary for highlights (and some cool graphics).

























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