As I began my seventh month as Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at the beginning of February, I took a moment to reflect on how much progress we’ve made as a community since the beginning of the academic year.
On the heels of a successful DEI Summit in October,we quickly pivoted to welcoming the 15th President of the University of Michigan, Santa J. Ono, that very same week.
Upon his arrival, President Ono immersed himself into U-M’s diversity, equity and inclusion mission. Because of his passion for this work, President Ono was enthusiastic in joining members of our campus community and myself for the DEI 1.0 Strategic Plan Evaluation Report results event on January 10.
During the event, he stated that “institutions have to be committed to continuous, positive momentum. It’s important for me to show I’m behind DEI 1.0 to make sure when we embark on DEI 2.0 as an institution, we do so with even more vigor, determination and support.”
The power of that statement, and the work we have done that has led us to this moment, resonated deeply with me.
As we reflect on DEI 1.0, it’s important to remember that these efforts were developed in direct response to our community’s feedback – that in order to truly be leaders and best, we needed to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive in all that we do as a public educational institution.
A defining feature of our DEI work is that U-M’s faculty, staff and student-led efforts were developed in a way that had never been done before, through a distributed approach across our campus units. As a result, the DEI 1.0 efforts did not reflect the traditional “top down” approach from central administration, which is most common in higher education. Instead, our inclusive community approach sought to recognize and leverage the knowledge of our campus units in identifying their own challenges and opportunities—providing the opportunity to create informed actions and solutions to address them. The University’s central administration needed to do its part too by reinforcing the value of DEI as interconnected with academic excellence, while providing resources to support units’ knowledge, as well as capacity building to advance DEI and cultural transformation.
One of the most significant outcomes since launching our DEI 1.0 plan six years ago is that we are now better positioned to understand what is working, and where we can do better. We now have the infrastructure in place to be even more focused, effective and successful in this work, especially if we are to meet the needs of current and future students, staff and faculty at the University of Michigan, while also enabling our University to positively impact higher education, communities, and the broader society.
Our DEI 1.0 outcomes and lessons learned have also provided us with a window into our future, DEI 2.0. We have heard from our community a desire to continue the momentum and forward movement.
Over the course of this academic year, there have been various opportunities for faculty, students and staff to be engaged in their units’ DEI 2.0 planning process—for their voices to be heard and their ideas to be considered in the integration of unit priorities. As our campus units continue work to develop their DEI 2.0 strategic plans throughout the rest of this academic term, I highly encourage our entire community to be involved, speak up, and help shape the future of this University, and our world.
I am incredibly proud of the progress that we have made as a university. I am even more excited for the days ahead, because I truly believe in our campus community’s commitment, and the contributions and impacts that are in front of us — impacts that will be made possible by our collective action.
I wish you the best throughout the remainder of the winter semester and look forward to working with you in this next stage of our campus’ journey.
Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer