Undergraduate Education Diversity Plans Focused on Student Success Nebraska today
As the University of Nebraska-Lincoln moves forward with diversity planning and a new commitment to action, Nebraska Today sits with university leaders to explore how inclusive excellence is incorporated into day-to-day operations of the campus.
Since 2019, the university Office of Diversity and Inclusion worked directly with institutional leaders in a number of ways, including through the Inclusive Excellence and Diversity Council. Intended to connect colleges, primary campus units and ODI, the board is chaired by Nkenge Friday, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives, with representation from across the institution.
The work of the board has been essential in guiding the university-wide diversity, equity and inclusion plans. And, the momentum achieved through the advice is presented in this Questions and answers series.
Today, we continue the series with the Undergraduate Education and Student Achievement Units, chatting with Amy Goodburn, Senior Associate Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Undergraduate Education and Professor of English.
What is the state of diversity, equity and inclusion planning in your college / department / unit?
Undergraduate Education and Student Achievement comprises 10 units that provide academic support and university-wide engagement opportunities, primarily for undergraduates, as well as professional development programs for staff and faculty. Some of these units include the Center for Academic Success and Transition, Honors Program, Explore Center, Learning Communities, Career Services, Undergraduate Research, Military and Veteran Success Center, and Center for Transformative Teaching. Collectively, our more than 70 staff in our units work with thousands of students and hundreds of faculty and staff each year.
We began to develop our strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion in the fall of 2019. UESS the unit has historically offered different programs and resources in the DEI space, we had never discussed how we might work in our units to identify priority areas and develop collective goals and evaluation plans. We spent six months in engaged conversations and in May 2020 we finalized our plan, which focuses on three priority areas: Academic Retention and Engagement, Staff Recruitment and Development, and Faculty Engagement and Collaboration.
We have established an inter-unit implementation committee to administer the plan. The duties of these eight committee members include making recommendations on unit-level goals and strategies, developing a working document that tracks implementation, and preparing annual progress reports. for UESS members.
In addition, our unit heads and the implementation committee have started to organize a joint professional development activity every semester for all. UESS members who are examining a topic around diversity, equity and inclusion. We never brought everything UESS members together previously. The first workshop focused on hiring practices and was moderated by Gwendolyn Combs. The second focused on reading and discussing chapters from the book “College Belonging: How First-Year and First-Generation Students Navigate Campus Life”. These workshops not only helped us to engage more fully on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion, but they also helped build a stronger community for staff through UESS units.
Are elements of your DEI planning already implemented?
Yes. We have already started to implement our DEI plan in each of the three priority areas. It has been exciting to see how much attention to diversity, equity and inclusion has been incorporated into so many of our existing programs, as well as how ideas for new programs and practices of unity have emerged.
Many UESS units focus on student engagement through a DEI lens. Career Services, for example, prioritizes ways to meet the career development needs of historically underserved populations. During the 2020-21 academic year, Career Services offered the First Generation Career Preparation Series for First Generation Students, in partnership with the LGBTQA+ Center and Union Pacific will host Pride in the Workplace and have partnered with the Military and Veteran Success Center to provide virtual networking opportunities for military students and veterans.
Our Honors Program developed the Cooper Conversation Series with community partners and students designed to sponsor meaningful conversations related to the annual theme of the FR Thompson Forum. In the fall of 2021, conversations included discussions of how to be anti-racist, the documentary “Black Men in White Coats” and racial prejudice in artificial intelligence.
On the faculty development side, the Center for Transformative Teaching has offered numerous programs over the past year to help faculty develop an equity lens, including helping faculty design e-learning activities. equitable, to build inclusive classrooms and to use universal design in pedagogy. The center also provided equity grants to help faculty develop inclusive teaching and learning. For example, a College of Journalism and Mass Communication course was funded with a focus on editing and writing for inclusion and equity.
In the area of staff recruitment and hiring, UESS units have revised their job descriptions and hiring processes with a view to more intentionally soliciting larger and more diverse candidate pools. We have also revised our annual review processes to include questions and thoughts on inclusive excellence. Last year a lot UESS The units used the question: “Strategic Plan N 2025 identifies a key objective to ‘Create a climate in Nebraska that emphasizes, prioritizes and develops inclusive excellence and diversity.’ How did you implement this goal within your unit in 2020? This is an example of how we work to identify opportunities to integrate an equity lens into our daily practices.
How do people within the college / department / unit help advance inclusive excellence?
Many people advise inclusive excellence within their own units and through our UESS collectively units. Amy Ort and Joe Brownell are the co-chairs of our DEI committee and have worked hard to develop appropriate professional development opportunities in collaboration with other committee members. Courtney Santos has developed a DEI plan to augment and support low-income, first-generation, and historically underserved ethnic minority scholars who apply for competitive national and international scholarships. And JC Venable, the training and professional development specialist for academic counseling, has developed a range of programs for counselors to better understand the needs of academics and to reflect on their own biases and growth opportunities when it comes to diversity, d equity and inclusion. These are just a few of the many people across UESS units that have committed to work towards the university N2025 goals to create a climate in Nebraska that prioritizes inclusive excellence and diversity.
Is there one part of the plan that you are most passionate about and / or positively impacting undergraduate education and student success?
What excites me the most is the range of opportunities and activities around diversity, equity and inclusion already represented through the UESS units and our members ‘passionate commitment to lifelong learning on how we can best support our academics’ travel. We are constantly discussing how our units are supporting the N2025 graduation and equity goals. Mobilizing our work to ensure the success of every researcher, regardless of their demographic or social identity, keeps us collectively motivated, engaged and energized.