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Shaping a Vision for Diversity

September 29, 2014

Faculty, Staff, and Students:

The Office of Diversity and Equity was established in 2011 under the direction of Fred Rodriguez to provide oversight over all diversity-related organizations involving faculty, staff, and students, including the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, the Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Multicultural Scholars Program, and the various diversity networks.  The very first action step we completed in implementing our strategic plan Bold Aspirations was to elevate Fred’s position to vice provost. 

This past July, E. Nathan Thomas III — Nate to his fellow Jayhawks — joined the KU community as our new vice provost for diversity and equity.  Nate has over 20 years of experience and accomplishments in both higher education and the private sector bringing people together and enhancing organizations by creating a better sense of belonging. He is the perfect fit for the position.

Nate’s two months on campus have been invigorating for KU’s diversity efforts. Earlier this month, he convened the first meeting of his Diversity and Leadership Council Workgroup. This diverse team of more than 30 individuals from a broad collection of campus and community organizations will create the framework and strategies to implement one of our Bold Aspirations action steps: a campus vision and plan to coordinate diversity efforts

Getting to a KU diversity vision

The charge for the workgroup is to review current data trends and campus initiatives, gather and examine best practices, develop recommendations, and work together to implement recommendations. The perspectives and knowledge of each member will be critical to breaking down barriers, enhancing communication, and creating a more inclusive environment.

Three subgroups have the following assignments:

  • The first will facilitate the launch of a KU diversity climate survey, a diversity framework, and a diversity strategic plan.
  • The second will examine best practices to increase the diversity and success of students, faculty, and staff and stimulate more involvement among alumni and the local and state community.
  • The third will address educational and training opportunities that promote student, faculty, and staff excellence around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Nate has asked the workgroups to use Penn State’s 2010–2015 Framework for Diversity as a guide. They will examine best practices among our Bold Aspirations peers, our AAU peers, and our “big five” athletic conference peers. Each group will carefully consider initiatives based upon strategy and process, the structure and capital investment required, and the measurable outcomes.

Linking KU together

As the team progresses this academic year, the recommendations it formulates will be discussed with deans and department leaders as possible implementation strategies. Communication is key for the team to understand unit cultures, promote buy-in, and ultimately help units improve in terms of diversity, equity, equality, access, and inclusion.  The workgroup’s efforts will also feed into the annual KU Symposium on the Scholarship of Diversity.  The symposium will highlight best practices among the KU community and discuss how collaboration and diversity initiatives can benefit faculty, staff, and student success.

Diversity means all of us — it captures our personal differences, our unique experiences, and the various functions of our comprehensive research institution.  As such, it calls for each of us to link together to build an inclusive campus environment, where discrimination and retaliation of any kind are not tolerated.

When we build that sense of belonging, then no member of the KU community should fall through the cracks of not feeling valued, and we can speak with one voice about what it means to be a Jayhawk and #OneTeam.

Bits and Bytes

  • I hope you will join me in welcoming Nate Thomas and his family at a campus-wide reception tomorrow, Tuesday, September 30 from 4–5 p.m. in the Kansas Room of the Kansas Union.
  • Congratulations to Stephen Benedict, professor of molecular biosciences, and James Fishback, professor of pathology & laboratory medicine, on receiving a Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship, which is awarded to full-time tenured faculty who have demonstrated outstanding teaching over a career of at least 10 years at KU. Faculty carrying the title retain the honor for as long as they teach at KU.  Also honored at the gala last Friday evening were James Orr, professor of molecular biosciences, and Russell Swerdlow, director of the KU Alzheimer Disease Center and the KUMC Neurodegeneratie Disorders Program, as the respective recipients of the Chancellor's Club Career Teaching Award and Research Award.
  • Student recruitment continued its strong positive trend for the third straight year.  The entering class of first-time frosh grew 2.1% to 4,084 and was the most diverse on record, comprising 23.6% minorities.  The resident/nonresident split was 63.5%/36.5%.  The frosh-to-sophomore retention rate increased to 80.4%, and the four-year graduation rate (for the entering frosh in 2010) reached an all-time high of 40.8%.  The six-year graduation rate (for the entering frosh in 2008) slipped to 59.9%, but leading indicators (mentioned in the last issue of Provost eNews) suggest that last fall’s entering frosh should graduate by 2019 at a significantly higher rate.  Our 10-year goals for retention and six-year graduation are 90% and 70%, respectively.
  • October is a busy month for the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series. The schedule includes both distinguished guests and a KU Distinguished Professor:
    • Beth Bailey, professor of history at Temple University and the 2014-15 Oscar Hardin ACLS Fellow, will present “Who Serves?: Citizenship, the Market, and the All-Volunteer Army” on Wednesday, October 1 at 3:30 p.m. at The Commons.
    • Stephen McAllister, E.S. & Tom W. Hampton Distinguished Professor of Law, will present his inaugural lecture, “The Supreme Court and Kansas: A (Solicitor) General Talk About Studying, Teaching and Serving the Law” on Monday, October 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union.
    • Cecilia Menjívar, Cowden Distinguished Professor of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, will present a lecture on Tuesday, October 21 at 3:30 p.m. at The Commons.
    • Louise Shelley, University Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, will present a lecture on Tuesday, October 28 at 3:30 p.m. at The Commons.
    • The Fall 2014 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor is Ayesha Hardison, associate professor of English at Ohio University. She will present “Of Maids and Ladies: The Ethics of Living Jane Crow,” the Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship Lecture, on Thursday, October 30, at 3:30 p.m. in the Kansas Room in the Kansas Union.
  • Earlier this month, American International Group Inc. (AIG) held a ribbon cutting and grand opening of its expansion in Olathe, which will bring 300 new jobs to Kansas by the end of 2015. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Dean of Business Neeli Bendapudi joined Governor Sam Brownback and AIG President and Chief Executive Office Peter Hancock at the ceremony. AIG’s expansion in Olathe is supported by its growing collaboration with KU, which includes a strong multipronged research partnership. AIG is also an aspiring hiring partner for KU students.
  • This past Friday, Chancellor Gray-Little and I met with our new Sexual Assault Task Force to launch their important work. The 11-member group of students, faculty, and staff is co-chaired by Angela Murphy, a graduate student in the Department of English, and Alesha Doan, chair of women, gender & sexuality studies and associate professor of political science.  The task force website SAtaskforce.ku.edu will be up shortly and list the group’s charge and provide regular updates to the university community on its meeting schedule and progress. In addition, it will list all the questions submitted by the audience during the September 18 panel discussion, along with answers to the questions.  The task force invites feedback and input from the university community, which you can submit via an anonymous online form or by email to taskforce@ku.edu
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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