Skip to content

Sec III – Leadership for Diversity

Back to UW Diversity Appraisal Report Menu

III. Leadership for Diversity

Unless the academic excellence of the entire institution is reconstructed within a pluralistic paradigm, diverse students, staff, and faculty may feel segregated by their values, priorities, and scholarship. In addition, majority members may feel that their own contributions are less valued. The challenge is to create an inclusive organizational environment that supports the rich potential of each individual.

Christine Cress, external evaluator

Research suggests that attaining organizational goals for diversity requires vision, leadership, and resources from the top leadership of the university (Smith, 1997; Bensimon, 1995). Evaluating the effectiveness of diversity strategies requires an examination of leadership in order to gain insight into how effectively the University of Washington has internalized and institutionalized its commitment to diversity.

Historical Context

The University of Washington has a long and impressive history of addressing diversity. The efforts of many students, faculty, staff, and community members over the last five decades have made the University of Washington home to many nationally and internationally recognized programs and centers and have helped prepare UW to become a leader in diversity issues.

While there have always been tensions over tradition and change in higher education, the civil rights movements of the 1960s ushered in unprecedented changes related to diversity. At the University of Washington in the sixties, students, faculty, and staff members fought for funding for student groups, increased access for students of color, recruitment of faculty and staff of color, and curricular changes. As a result, in the early 1970s, the University of Washington created the Office of Minority Affairs and the Ethnic Cultural Center, the first university-owned building of its kind in the country. The University of Washington also created one of the first administrative positions for Vice President for Minority Affairs in the country to provide systemic attention to student diversity and academic support for underrepresented students. The Faculty Senate established the Special Committee on Minority Faculty Affairs and the Special Committee on Faculty Women. UW faculty developed programs that later became the departments of American Ethnic Studies, American Indian Studies, and Women Studies, and the UW Women’s Center opened its doors in 1978.

In the following decades, advocacy for diversity continued and programs grew. The focus on diversity has broadened to include transformation of curriculum and attention to institutional climate. In the late 1980s and throughout the nineties, students repeatedly pressed for an ethnic studies requirement for the Seattle campus. While their efforts did not result in a requirement, they did succeed in bringing the mission, purpose and content of American ethnic studies to the attention of the entire campus. Major curriculum transformation grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment of the Humanities provided faculty development grants that resulted in the inclusion of diversity across the University curriculum and the establishment of the Center for Curriculum Transformation. Creation of two new campuses at Tacoma and Bothell saw the introduction of new, interdisciplinary liberal arts programs that incorporated the study of diversity.

New faculty members with expertise in diversity have helped to transform both curricular offerings and research. New generations of students have transformed how we think about diversity as well, advocating for expanded opportunities for different ethnic groups, students with disabilities, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex students, international and immigrant students, and mixed-race students. The University has developed stronger relationships with external communities, thereby providing constant advocacy for underrepresented peoples, diverse perspectives, and insight into how the UW can fulfill its mission to provide education for the whole of the state of Washington.

Periodic assessments of progress and changes in legal and social contexts have shaped different approaches to change. In 1997, for example, the Minority Faculty Recruitment and Retention Subcommittee of the Board of Deans submitted an assessment of recruitment and retention of faculty of color, encouraging the University in general and the Deans in particular to develop new strategies to achieve higher recruitment and retention of faculty of color.* In 1998, the state voters passed Initiative 200, a referendum prohibiting preferences by government entities in education, employment and contracting, based on race, color, national origin, and sex. I-200 prompted the UW to engage in new conversations about diversity, pushing the institution to develop different approaches to attain its goals. Working in tandem with student and alumni groups in 2000, President Richard McCormick and campus leaders committed to a Diversity Compact to ensure continuing progress in critical areas of outreach, recruitment and retention, and curriculum and climate.** He also created a Task Force on Diversity in the Curriculum (2001) to respond to student and faculty concerns over failed efforts to pass a diversity requirement at UW Seattle, which has resulted in a new diversity minor in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Initiative 200, other legal cases across the country (notably the University of Michigan decision in June 2003), and nationally recognized research in diversity studies have compelled the University to review again its diversity practices. While effective work had been done at all three campuses, no comprehensive assessment had been undertaken to provide insight into good practices, to encourage cross-departmental learning, and to identify gaps in services and programs. President Lee Huntsman and the University thus sought to draft a plan that would provide innovative approaches for achieving diversity on our campuses, and have launched the first phase of the Diversity Appraisal, a self study of current practice.

Diversity as a University Value

The University of Washington has created a mission statement as a working document that periodically reflects new emphases in the vision of the University. In 1998, and again in 2001, the University revised this statement to reflect its commitment to diversity. Prior to adopting the most recent revisions, the University of Washington Regents called for efforts to “continue to pursue the goal of racial and cultural diversity in the University of Washington student body, in all ways consistent with the laws of the state of Washington and the federal government.”*** The Regents’ statement emphasized the benefit of diversity in the student body: “Students educate each other, in the classroom and in many informal settings; they challenge one another’s assumptions, they broaden one another’s range of experience, and they teach one another to see the world from varied perspectives.”

UW Bothell’s mission statement states: “We provide access to excellence in higher education through innovative and creative curricula, interdisciplinary teaching and research, and a dynamic community of multicultural learning.” UWB lists goals to “build an inclusive and supportive community of learning and incorporate multicultural content and diverse perspectives on ethnic and racial groups, gender, sexual orientation, social class, and special needs,” and “attract and support an internationally diverse student body and a nationally recognized faculty and staff.” The University of Washington Tacoma has a statement of diversity governing campus climate: “To hold constant a nurturing learning and work environment in the midst of change, each member of our UWT community has the responsibility to build and sustain respectful and supportive relationships, through which intolerance, discrimination, and social injustice are confronted and resolved through non-violent behavior.”

President Mark Emmert has clearly evidenced a conviction that diversity is central to the mission and purpose of the University. A group of UW administrators, faculty, staff, and students are currently writing a University diversity mission statement. They are drawing upon values and ideas from existing UW documents and reports, University forums and discussions about diversity, the University Diversity Council’s Staff Working Committee Values Statement on Working Climate, and statements in use at Tacoma, Bothell, and at other universities. The University community will have the opportunity to discuss, modify, and adopt this statement during 2005.

Diversity and Organizational Structure

Diversity policy and programs are a University-wide responsibility. Diversity appraisals from central administrative offices emphasize leadership and accountability for diversity. The Office of the President provides top-level leadership on diversity, and specific areas of responsibility devolve to other central units. The Office of the President fosters a dual approach to fulfilling the mission and goals of diversity at the three campuses of University of Washington, at once focusing on diversity as a core value and operational goal, and also encouraging the integration of diversity throughout the University’s programs, policies and activities. UW Presidents continually have affirmed in speeches, articles, letters, and resolutions of the University the University’s firm commitment to diversity and the need for diversity to achieve excellence in teaching, research and service.

As the University’s leader, the President seeks advice and counsel on diversity from a broad and representative group of constituencies. The President and members of the President’s Cabinet frequently sponsor activities and support initiatives in the local and regional community that foster communication with and recognition of diverse communities. Under President McCormick, the President’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, the President’s Staff Forum, the Minority Community Advisory Committee, the President’s Student Forum, and the University Diversity Council were established.

The Office of the Provost reports that “concern for diversity is a major driver of policies emanating from the Provost’s Office, which affect all the diversity target areas.” Housed within the Provost’s Office are several key departments important to University diversity efforts: International Education, Academic Planning, Equal Opportunity, Federal Relations, Research, Student Relations, Educational Outreach, and Planning and Budgeting. The Graduate School and the Office of Undergraduate Education also report to the Provost. Analysis of the reports of each of these units is included in its appropriate category of this report. Deans have responsibility for implementation of diversity goals at the school and college level; diversity priorities and issues are frequently discussed and acted upon through the Board of Deans.

The Office of the Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity, under which is housed the Office of Minority Affairs, provides university-wide leadership focusing on the development, implementation, and evaluation of diversity programming and policies. In this role, the Vice President facilitates the coordination and implementation of professional development and training on diversity for university faculty and staff. The Vice President also serves as a strong advocate for the development of curricula and research related to diversity on the University of Washington campuses, promoting the development of a diversity research institute.

The Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs at the Seattle campus provides institutional support for students during their tenure and helps to prepare them for their lives after graduation. The work of Student Services begins during recruitment efforts long before students arrive on campus. The Department of Enrollment Services works with other offices to increase diversity through recruitment efforts, and the Office of Financial Aid works to help them finance their UW education. The Disabled Student Services Office, the Student Counseling Center, the Department of Housing and Food Services, Recreational Sports Programs, and Student Activities and Union Facilities all serve to retain and graduate strong scholars. The Center for Career Services provides assistance and services to prepare students for careers after graduation.

Examples of Good Practice

  • Articulating a bold mission for diversity. President Mark Emmert has charged the University community to develop a bold mission statement that illustrates the conviction that diversity is central to our teaching, learning, research, and service. Members of the University community will participate in the development of this statement.
  • Creating high-level working groups to plan, assess, and implement change. The University of Washington Bothell initiated campus-wide conversations about strategies for change. In 2003, the Chancellor created the Task Force on Inclusiveness to examine the size and scope of campus initiatives and to reach out to community members and ask that they participate in the campus conversations. The University of Washington Tacoma brings people together from across campus to implement and evaluate change. The Chancellor’s Task Force on Human Diversity, constituted of student, faculty and staff members, and the shared directorship of Diversity and Minority Affairs, grew out of two internal studies in 1999 that found that “the importance of creating and maintaining intentional and shared responsibility across the campus community [served to] nurture human diversities.”The University Diversity Council, reporting to the President and chaired by the Vice President and Vice Provost for Diversity, ensures collaboration and cooperation among diversity initiatives, as well as analysis of issues and needs. Diversity Council membership includes staff, faculty, and students as well as members of the community with a particular interest in the health and well being of diversity efforts at the three University of Washington campuses.
  • Sponsoring workshops and conversations about diversity. In spring 2004, the Office of the Provost sponsored workshops for senior administrators on improving campus climate and on recruiting and retaining faculty and staff. These workshops provided leaders an opportunity to develop a common understanding of how to foster diversity in their units, devise strategies, and locate resources to encourage other leaders in their units to promote diversity. The Graduate School, through the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program has programs and lectureships to engender conversations about diversity on campus, such as the Mary Ann and John Mangels Lectureship, endowed in 1989, which is dedicated to inviting outstanding scholars to address topics of multicultural scholarship and diversity.
  • Building diversity into organizational culture, planning and assessment. The School of Nursing has made a concerted effort to integrate diversity into all aspects of its administrative and academic mission, including planning and assessment of activities, events, curriculum, and staff and administrative composition. The Office of Financial Management, The Graduate School, the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, and the Information School have instituted ongoing analysis and discussion to ensure that substantive attention to diversity pervades all of their thinking and planning. The Evans School’s diversity discussions include the development of indicators to measure progress.
  • Developing formal leadership and mentoring programs to ensure opportunities and pathways into University administration for diverse groups. UW ADVANCE is an initiative funded by the National Science Foundation and co-sponsored by the Colleges of Engineering and Arts & Sciences to increase women in leadership roles in science and engineering. ADVANCE has developed leadership training for department chairs and emerging leaders and mentoring programs that have resulted in the advancement of women in these fields.

Challenges and Recommendations

  • Setting institutional priorities for diversity, and reviewing policies about resource allocation, admissions, hiring, benefits, access, and promotion and tenure in terms of those priorities. While the commitment to diversity is clear in the administration’s mission and many of its initiatives, programs and activities, funding priorities need to be set for the next generation of programs and initiatives to ensure continuation of efforts to reinforce diversity across the three campuses. Institutional assessment and review can provide insight into programs that replicate other effective initiatives, allowing for resources to be redirected to new challenges and possibilities, rather than expending resources on duplication.
  • Establishing diversity-related objectives and benchmarks for all administrative units in addition to federally mandated affirmative action goals. All units would benefit from the articulation of clear objectives and indicators of success for diversity activities. A process to define University-wide objectives and benchmarks would help clarify priorities for program development and resource allocation.
  • Developing an institutional communication plan related to diversity that includes focused and balanced attention to different dimensions of diversity. The University presently lacks a consistent set of messages at all levels about its commitment to diversity, and inter-institutional learning is hampered by lack of information about many important and successful diversity initiatives and activities. A diversity communication plan would remedy this issue and provide both local and national constituencies with information to advance diversity priorities.
  • Developing formal leadership and mentoring programs to ensure that opportunities and pathways into University administration exist for underrepresented faculty and staff members. The University can build upon models provided by UW ADVANCE, the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program, and the Simpson Center for the Humanities to develop leadership opportunities for diverse groups.

Ten Principles to Guide Diversity Planning

To guide the next phase of diversity assessment, we suggest the following principles, provided by Suzanne Benally, educational consultant (Benally Educational Consulting, Boulder, Colorado) to the Office of Minority Affairs, April 2004:

  1. Top institutional leaders endorse and support diversity planning.
  2. Leadership for diversity planning extends throughout the institution.
  3. The benefits of diversity planning for students, faculty, staff, the institution, and society are clear and supportable.
  4. Diversity planners include all stakeholders and constituencies of the University community in the planning process and communicate regularly about the planning process.
  5. The University develops a shared vision of diversity goals among students, faculty, and staff.
  6. Diversity planning is comprehensive, including University climate, recruitment and retention, curriculum and pedagogy, research, policy, outreach, and resource allocation and assessment.
  7. Leaders understand and articulate the imperatives and connections of diversity and social justice.
  8. Leaders address critical issues, challenges, and controversies surrounding diversity in a direct and open manner.
  9. Administration allocates sufficient resources to both planning and implementation of the diversity plan.
  10. Diversity plans include ongoing assessment and accountability measures.

*The Bradford Report is found at
** The Diversity Compact is available at:
***The full statement can be found at

Next: Section IV. Diversity in Student Access and Opportunities