Celebrate Diversity, Promote Equity, Achieve Inclusion
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 58 seconds
Over the past two years, a number of students, staff, and faculty at the University of Kansas have very publicly — and bravely — shown us the need for a campus community that is truly inclusive. Their frank call for change has led to very many meaningful discussions. It is now time for action.
I have a strong sense of urgency for actions to affirm our commitments. KU’s approach to diversity and inclusion must be focused, creative, and deliberate. We are obligated to draw on the experiences and observations of our people — many of whom risked quite a bit to raise awareness — and learn from our past actions as we work to create a better way forward.
The Bigger Picture
An important responsibility of this office is to enhance institutional ability to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. This includes removing barriers to progress and, just as importantly, creating a culture of welcoming openness to all held identities.
The Office of Diversity & Equity has been doing excellent work, much of it behind the scenes. Let me share a few highlights:
- collecting diversity and inclusion efforts of units across campus to address accountability and promote collaboration and idea-sharing,
- enumerating and cataloging workshop and learning opportunities for students, staff, and faculty so we can track our offerings and ensure the broadest possible engagement,
- working toward change in KU’s supply chain to ensure greater diversity options among our suppliers.
Our offices of Academic Affairs, Undergraduate Studies and Faculty Development are also orchestrating changes that affect our educational environment. For example, the Diversity Scholars Group led by the Center for Teaching Excellence is working to transform courses in the KU Core.
Undergraduate Studies is developing a summer bridge program to help additional first-generation and low-income students more readily navigate their first year at KU. There are also resources and support for mentoring across campus, including programs in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Office of Multicultural Affairs as well as the Undergraduate Studies’ Emerging Scholars, an engaged research mentoring program for first-year students.
Drilling Down to Details
Last spring's report provided by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Group led by Drs. Clarence Lang and Sheahon Zenger highlighted many specific areas of emphasis. The report also provides this office with greater inspiration for areas where KU can be aspirational and a leader in creating a thriving, diverse marketplace of ideas. Details of that influence on our thinking and our future directions can be found in my response.
Academic units and program offices across campus are integral to our ability to craft change that is both effective and responsive to their particular constituents. Already we see outstanding work taking place in our academic units. The College has taken a high-profile lead, and its efforts are enhanced by endeavors elsewhere on campus, such as the School of Social Welfare and the School of Journalism.
Counting on You
As I said in my last message, each of us must play a part in elevating KU. Several students, staff, and faculty are already fully invested in efforts to create a scholarly community that is accessible and supportive of all. Thank you.
High on this list of change-makers are the new members of this year's DEI Advisory Group led by Drs. Shannon Portillo and Lisa Wolf-Wendel. I look forward to working with them throughout the school year.
Finally, we must also acknowledge that our work in this realm will never truly be finished. So flex your fingers, sharpen your pencil, or have your tablet stylus at the ready. We have work to do.
News & Notes
Accessible KU offers several new video and audio tracks to help individuals find accessible routes between Sunnyside Dr. and Jayhawk Boulevard. The HawkRoute resources offer turn-by-turn directions that conquer physical barriers on the KU campus.
KU Endowment has four active Launch KU projects underway. Among the needs are Study Abroad support for engineering students and additional funds for original research by undergraduate students through the Undergraduate Research Center.
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center will mark the start Campus Safety Week with the photo exhibit “Guarded” in the Kansas Union Gallery now through Sept. 24.
Kudos to faculty, staff, and students in the KU School of Law. The school earned a top-25 national ranking from Business Insider for its students’ ability to land high-quality jobs upon graduation. Among the many achievements, the school also offers the third-lowest tuition among public schools on the list.
The School of Law also has partnered with Lawrence Memorial Hospital to provide legal services for low-income patients. The program will give students valuable experience working with clients on health and legal needs, such as medical leave or legal guardian issues.
KU students can use a new mobile app from the KU Alumni Association to bone up on KU traditions as well as find a mentor, join a club, and much more. The rhythmically challenged will find it indispensable for its Master the Fight Song Clap tool. The app also lets fall 2016 first-year students initiate their free four-year membership in the Student Alumni Association, made possible through KUAA and KU Endowment.
A new minor in education studies offered by the School of Education will let students broaden their skillset and explore topics deeply integrated in American democracy.
The Center for Civic and Social Responsibility will present Gender Equity & Policy 2016 as part of its Make Your Mark nonpartisan effort to promote civic engagement among students. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20 in The Commons of Spooner Hall.
The Commons continued its research sharing sessions Red Hot Research with a session on Smart Cities last week. The next topic is Healthcare at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, and features faculty members from engineering, architecture, pharmacy, social welfare, psychology, and education.
A belated congratulations to Associate Professor Shannon Portillo in the School of Public Affairs & Administration. This summer she was selected to receive the 2016 Teaching Innovation Award from the Consortium for Undergraduate Law and Justice Programs.
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Carl Lejuez will lead the State of the College Forum at 4 p.m., Sept. 27 in The Commons. All are welcome.