The University of Michigan has completed year two of its five-year diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan and shared its progress on key initiatives during the a community assembly. The gathering kicked off the 2018 Annual Diversity Summit Week which focused and on highlighting successes, fostering dialogues and addressing shortcomings in diversity, equity and inclusion at the university.
University leaders expressed the university's commitment to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of students in a diverse, inclusive and supportive academic environment. They said the foundation of this pursuit is made possible by committed students, faculty and staff who are the heart of the university.
“When we renewed our journey to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan less than four years ago, we knew we had the power of an amazing community to carry us forward. It’s a community of thousands, past and present, who share their intellect, their commitment to accountability, and their passion for a better university and a better society.”
President Mark M. Schlissel
Second-year successes outlined in the Strategic Plan include:
• Construction of the Trotter Multicultural Center, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019. Programming in the works includes an interfaith program, a Trotter Distinguished Leaders speaking series and a disability culture initiative led by Student Life’s Services for Students with Disabilities.
• The first cohort of students completed the Wolverine Pathways program and are now studying on the Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses.
• The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching increased the number of DEI-focused sessions, including an Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan series. The series now includes undergraduate students serving as consultants to provide feedback to faculty and graduate student instructors on course materials and teaching practices.
• The university created a staff ombudsperson position to assist with information and referrals, serve as a campuswide resource for policy and make recommendations for change.
• The National Center for Institutional Diversity is helping scholars address important current issues related to diversity and higher education through grants and support to assist with writing for the public.
• U-M executive officers and deans began a yearlong professional development program on DEI leadership, with an emphasis on improving the campus culture and climate.
In her adult memoir, “In the Country We Love,” and her young-adult book, “My Family Divided,” Guerrero — who was born in the U.S. — reflects on her childhood that was dramatically affected by the deportation of her parents and older brother.
Guerrero’s parents migrated to the United States from Colombia in 1981, with the hopes of finding better opportunity. The family lived in Boston until both of Guerrero’s parents were deported when she was 14 years old.
Despite the life-shattering experience, Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career.
In 2015, Guerrero was nominated by President Barack Obama to be a White House Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization. She has become an outspoken advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, and has worked with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Mi Familia Vota, a nonpartisan Latino civic engagement organization to promote citizenship and voter registration.
Members of the university and wider community gathered to address ways U-M and other institutions can more effectively build partnerships outside the academy to drive positive social change.
The panel discussion titled “Social Transformation Through Public Engagement” also included breakout roundtable talks that addressed — and developed some ideas to solve — tough questions:
- How can universities create a more inclusive, two-way street with community partners so they can learn from each other?
- How can U-M and other institutions make it easier for community groups to come to them?
- What will it take to ensure young people of color not only can access U-M and other universities but thrive at them?
- How can universities remove internal barriers for scholars who want to publicly engage?
Moderated by Earl Lewis, the panel discussion included: Mary Jo Callan, director of the Edward Ginsberg Center at U-M; Abdul El-Sayed, former Democratic candidate for Michigan governor, and former executive director of the Detroit Health Department and health officer for the city of Detroit; Angela Reyes, executive director and founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corp.; Jim Leija, director of education and community engagement at the University Musical Society; and Luis Trelles, Producer of Radio Ambulante at NPR and 2018 Knight-Wallace Fellow.
Each brought a unique perspective on how U-M and other universities can better build sustainable ties and communicate with various publics, create both diverse institutions and diverse partnerships, and exchange knowledge.
This was the first year Student Life implemented the design thinking event for campus climate initiatives during the DEI Summit Week. This was a student-designed and driven event that gave students the opportunity to discuss possible approaches to campus climate-related issues and give input on proposed Trotter Multicultural Center interior finishes and programming.
The North Campus DEI Collaborative–College of Engineering, Stamps School of Art & Design, Duderstadt Center, School of Music, Theater and Dance, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Rackham Student Government put students in the driver’s seat of decision making.
The group explored the topic of voting and how voting and not voting impacts students and their peers. Students also discussed what they can do in their communities to create change regardless if they can vote or not.
Culture change, power structures, and reporting and accountability were the areas of focus in a panel discussion about promoting an inclusive and equitable climate through the elimination of sexual misconduct at the University of Michigan.
In September, President Mark Schlissel announced new measures to better prevent sexual misconduct and provide educational and support resources for the U-M community that were informed by the recommendations of the group.
New efforts include a simple, centralized website devoted to sexual misconduct reporting, prevention and education, as well as a new mandatory training for all faculty and staff that will launch later this fall.
“We have to keep clear on what our vision is — how to create a respectful, safe, healthy place for students and the people who work here.
Kaaren Williamsen, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center
Voices of the Staff, U-M’s employee engagement program, hosted two private screenings of Me, The "Other" , a documentary film about a diverse group of students. The film tells the stories of 12 students from the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College with a message of eliminating prejudice of all kinds as a prerequisite to achieving unity.
The diverse group ranges from a black acting student from Flint who tells a personal story of the water crisis in her community; a DACA student from Mexico living in fear of deportation; a #MeToo story of an orphaned immigrant from Cameroon; a student from the storm-devastated island of Puerto Rico; and a 65-year-old transgender student who was homeless and alcohol and drug dependent, but chose education over suicide.
The screening was followed by a conversation with the cast, crew and a small diversity panel.