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Liberal Arts University: Diversity And Inclusion Case Study

Liberal Arts University: Diversity and Inclusion Case Study

University Diversity and Inclusion Background:

A report by the U.S. Department of Education identified key diversity and inclusion issues facing major universities and colleges in the U.S. It found:

  • Higher education is a key pathway for social mobility in the United States. At roughly 2.5 percent, the unemployment rate for college graduates is about half of the national average
  • During the past 50 years, the U.S. has seen racial and ethnic disparities in higher education enrollment and attainment, as well as gaps in earnings, employment, and other related outcomes for communities of color. While the share of the population with a high school diploma has risen over time for Hispanic, black, white, and Asian adult U.S. residents, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment has widened for both black and Hispanic adults compared to white adults. Specifically, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment has doubled, from 9 to 20 percent for Hispanic residents since 1974 and from 6 to 13 percent for black residents since 1964.
  • Gaps in college opportunity have contributed to diminished social mobility within the United States, and gaps in college opportunity are in turn influenced by disparities in students’ experiences before graduating from high school. This is particularly true for people of color, who share many of the same childhood and educational experiences as low-income and first-generation college students
  • The participation of underrepresented students of color decreases at multiple points across the higher education pipeline including at application, admission, enrollment, persistence, and completion. A smaller proportion of black or Hispanic high school graduates than white graduates enroll in college, and more than 80 percent of Hispanic, black, and Asian students have a gap between their financial need and grants and scholarships, compared with 71 percent for white undergraduate students.
  • The interaction of race and ethnicity, family income, and parental education can influence educational and labor market outcomes. In 2009, six-year bachelor’s degree attainment among postsecondary undergraduate students beginning in the 2003–04 school year was higher for white and Asian students compared with black and Hispanic students, even after considering family income — a measure of one aspect of socioeconomic status. Moreover, students of color whose parents completed college were twice as likely as first-generation college students to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Client: University in the Northeastuniversity diversity and inclusion

Consultant: Jonamay Lambert and Associates

Challenge:

The University has maintained a focus on some aspect of diversity and inclusion for much of its recent history. Like its institutional peers, The University has responded to diversity concerns emerging from the campus and broader community. A 2013 summary of Diversity and Inclusion efforts at the University notes the importance of being more strategic. It concludes: “While there has been much effort we need more communication, connection, unified leadership and overall strategy for Diversity and Inclusion.”

Goal(s):

  • Improving hiring and retention of diverse staff and faculty
  • Providing resources and structures to educate staff and faculty about diversity and to support inclusion within and beyond their own departments
  • Developing a strategy (not a program) to increase constructive contact between students. Priority should probably be given to Middle Eastern/non-Middle Eastern students followed by those involved in fraternities and sororities and those who identify differently.

Solution/Methodology:

  • Conduct focus group research to develop key themes and issues. One focus group included staff and faculty; the second group was a racially homogeneous group of fifteen students. The focus group participants represented diversity in gender, age, undergraduate and graduate status and group affiliations.
  • Administer the Spectra Diversity and Inclusion Profile™ to all staff and faculty to gain insight into three areas:
    • How management sees itself and is seen by others regarding diversity and inclusions
    • Culture (perceptions of norms and beliefs)
    • Policies, Practices and Procedures

The survey included two open-ended questions. Overall, 471 responses were received from the Profile in April 2016. Of these responses:

  • 196 were from staff
  • 275 were from faculty.
  • Develop recommendations based on the focus groups and the Spectra Diversity and Inclusion Profile. The overarching recommendation is to create a D&I Strategic Plan that is aligned with the overall University strategy. The plan will ensure that the appropriate strategies, tactics and timelines address all members of the University.

Results:

The University implemented several of the recommended strategies and tactics, and re-measured the staff and faculty using the Spectra Diversity and Inclusion Profile, to see if progress had been made in D&I perceptions, and if so, in what area had progress been made.  Staff and faculty were measured separately with results for each in three different categories:

  • Management (how management sees itself and how management is seen by employees in terms of diversity and inclusion)
  • Culture (the organizational norms and beliefs)
  • Policies, Practices and Procedures (3Ps) (how diversity and inclusion efforts are put into practice on an organizational level).

The differences among staff perceptions were:

  • Management scores increased from 2016 by a ~.06 – .51
  • Culture scores increased slightly from 2016
  • Policies, Practices and Procedures had three scores increase slightly from 2016 and two decrease (very slight).

Also enlightening were the staff comments to the open-ended questions, “What practices would you add or change in your area to make   diversity and inclusion efforts more successful?” A key suggestion from the staff was for additional training. They suggested:

  • Workshops/education for faculty staff
  • More staff to implement diversity programs and training
  • Annual or semesterly university series with an invited speaker
  • Mandatory training for faculty on the importance and necessity of pluralism
  • More religious and geographical training
  • Include diversity and inclusion efforts for all new faculty, including adjuncts during: adjunct on-ramp events
  • Greater understanding of Title 9 and transgender issues.

The faculty responses showed a slight decline in many of the areas measured. Further study was required to determine the cause.

Conclusion:

The U.S. Department of Education has suggestions for D&I improvement that apply to universities and colleges nationwide. They are:

  • Institutional Commitment to Promoting Student Body Diversity and Inclusion on Campus. Research shows that colleges and universities seeking to promote campus diversity identify how diversity relates to their core institutional mission and the unique circumstances of the institution.
  • Diversity Across All Levels of an Institution. Research shows that campus leadership, including a diverse faculty, plays an important role in achieving inclusive institutions
  • Outreach and Recruitment of Prospective Students: Institutions committed to student body diversity can take steps to improve outreach and recruitment to a diverse array of students. Some strategies supported by research include comprehensive and ongoing support from administrators and peers; peer advising provided by similarly aged students; targeted support for critical steps such as completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and test prep; and exposure for students to college-level work while they are in high school.
  • Support Services for Students. In general, student support services are associated with improved academic outcomes, including after students’ first years in college. Well-designed course placement strategies mitigate the time students spend in remedial education without making progress toward a credential
  • Inclusive Campus Climate. Students report less discrimination and bias at institutions where they perceive a stronger institutional commitment to diversity. Institutions are encouraged to develop and facilitate programming to increase the cultural competency of leadership, faculty, staff, and students. Institutions are also encouraged to perform an assessment of their campus climate related to diversity to identify areas for improvement. Institutional leaders create support systems individualized to students’ needs that are highly visible and accessible, and engage students in the decision-making process regarding campus climate. Successful institutions also make financial support available to close the need gap for economically disadvantaged students.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, “Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education: Key Date Highlights Focusing on Race and Ethnicity and Promising Practices”, Nov., 2016

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