Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

March 4, 2015

Diversity Symposium Celebrates Progress, Plans for the Future

2015 Diversity Symposium

Faculty and staff from all three UW campuses engaged in group work during the symposium’s opening session.

For the last five years, academic and administrative units from the three University of Washington campuses have used a document called the Diversity Blueprint as a planning tool to implement strategies that enhance diversity across the entire university.

At the end of January, over 200 UW faculty and staff members came together to acknowledge and learn from this work, as well as plan for the future at a one-day symposium called “Promising Practices for Inclusive Campuses.” The event was sponsored by the UW Diversity Council and took place at UW Seattle’s Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center.

eNews Button Spring 2015According to UW Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity Sheila Edwards Lange, the Blueprint was designed to allow individual colleges and units to look at six goals and determine priorities for their area. The goals included leadership and governance; student diversity; faculty and staff diversity; curriculum; research; and institutional and classroom climate.

“What we found when we started having annual visits with the deans and other administrators was that there were some units doing some really innovative things,” said Lange. “But people across campus didn’t necessarily know what was happening outside of their unit. The hope with the symposium was that we would highlight those units and provide an opportunity for others to think about how to replicate them and scale them up.”

Concurrent sessions held in the morning and the afternoon featured presentations from several units on the topics of undergraduate recruitment and retention; graduate and professional student recruitment and retention; campus climate; faculty recruitment and retention; staff recruitment and retention; best practices for teaching diversity; and best practices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

2015 Diversity Symposium

The session on Departmental Culture and Training featured presentations from the iSchool, School of Public Health and the Q Center.

For example, in the session on Departmental Culture & Training, assistant professor India Ornelas and graduate student Jennifer Hagedorn presented a model and work plan for addressing institutional racism that has been successful in the School of Public Health and suggested how it might be adapted for other units. In the Staff Recruitment and Retention session, Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity staff diversity specialist Jeanette James unveiled a toolkit that is being developed to provide resources for hiring and retaining diverse staff members.

Another goal of the symposium was to gather feedback to help establish the next five-year diversity plan.

“We wanted to think about what has changed for us as a university since we did the first Blueprint, as well as the opportunities we might take advantage of as we go forward,” said Lange. “And we wanted to do it across all three campuses. That was really important that it was not just the Seattle campus.”

Among the diversity leaders joining Lange at the symposium were Sharon Parker, assistant chancellor for equity & diversity at UW Tacoma, and Terryl Ross, director of diversity in the chancellor’s office at UW Bothell. Together, they led the symposium’s opening session which gave an overview of the diversity efforts on each campus.

2015 Diversity Symposium

UW’s Diversity Leaders (left to right): Sheila Edwards Lange, Terryl Ross and Sharon Parker

Lange, Parker and Ross also engaged participants in a discussion about the global and societal issues that will shape diversity work in the future, the kinds of diversity initiatives the UW should undertake to address these challenges and opportunities, and ideas for cross-campus collaborations.

Recommendations for the future offered by symposium participants included increased collaborations between the three campuses, increased emphasis on mechanisms for staff to get involved in diversity and more accountability required for administrators to meet diversity goals.

The next steps are to synthesize participant feedback and present it to the Diversity Council which created the Blueprint and will develop the next plan, “Looking Towards 2020.” However, success stories of units already using what they learned at the symposium are emerging.

Ismaila Maidadi, academic achievement program manager for the UW Bothell Center for University Studies and Programs, found the session that featured the College of Engineering’s STARS program especially valuable. STARS is an academic redshirt program for incoming UW freshmen eligible for financial aid which prepares them for engineering degrees.

“I took copious notes,” said Maidadi, who is also working on a master’s degree in policy studies at Bothell. “We’ve been interested in implementing something similar and now we’ll be heading to Seattle to meet with the entire team in charge of STARS in the next couple of weeks. That was a great connection that happened because of the diversity symposium.”

Photos by Karen Orders