I am writing to provide an update on our campus climate and share information about initiatives designed to advance our diversity and inclusion commitments.
American University has a proud and longstanding legacy of diversity and inclusion. From providing women and African-Americans access to higher education prior to suffrage and during segregation, diversity and inclusion have been hallmarks of AU’s institutional identity. Our commitment to diversity is formalized in AU’s Strategic Plan Goal 6: Reflect and Value Diversity. As stated, we are committed to diversity in its broadest sense, with particular attention given to underrepresented domestic minority students.
Diversity is germane to a core principle of the academy: the pursuit of knowledge. This mission is fostered through a culture of open inquiry, unfettered discourse, creative expression, and a commitment to truth—tools inherent to a knowledge-seeking community. In such an environment, a mix of diverse perspectives, ideas, experiences, and backgrounds is critical and contributes to an enriched learning environment. Thus, for these reasons and many others, diversity and inclusion are core values of American University.
Over the past year, like many cities and campuses across the nation, our campus has faced tensions and insensitivities related to racial diversity. These experiences have led us to affirm our commitments to diversity, inclusion, and freedom of expression.Meaningful learning opportunities have arisen from these experiences. Many students, faculty, and staff have participated in various town hall meetings, panel discussions, peaceful protests, teach-ins, and class discussions. These events have been enlightening, cathartic, filled with spirited discourse, and also have demonstrated our need for greater understanding of issues related to race, equity, bias, civil discourse, and other pertinent topics.
This year, ongoing attention is being given to advancing campus diversity and inclusion on many fronts, including Campus Life. Below are highlights of activities within the Academic Affairs Division.
Unconscious bias training: Trainings on unconscious bias are being offered throughout the university. In August, the President’s Council, which consists of the academic deans, university librarian, vice presidents, and athletic director, completed this training. The dean of academic affairs is hosting faculty sessions on unconscious bias during the month of October, and Human Resources is providing this training for staff. In addition, the School of Professional and Extended Studies held a special session for its staff to complete the Diversity and Inclusion certificate offered by the Office of Human Resources.
Classroom resources for faculty: The Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning (CTRL) developed Creating Inclusive Classrooms, a web site designed to assist faculty, university-wide, with creating and implementing classes that promote diversity of thought and perspective.
Meaningful dialogue: Throughout the university, opportunities for intentional conversations are offered. Some examples include:
To support first-generation-in-college students, the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of International Service are connecting faculty who identify as the first in their families to attend college with students from similar backgrounds.
The College of Arts and Sciences is working with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to train its Leadership and Ethical Development (LEAD) students on how to run effective student dialogue groups in diversity-related conversations.
The School of Communication is hosting a dialogue on “meaningful inclusion” at the SOC Town Hall scheduled for Wednesday, October 28 at 1 p.m. in the Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater.
The School of International Service has scheduled events for affinity groups and discussions focused on key topics related to race and diversity, including the 6th Annual Students of Color and Allies Brunch and a series of community dialogues.
The Washington College of Law annually hosts the Hispanic Law Conference and Sylvania Woods Conference on African-Americans and the Law. These conferences provide an opportunity for students to explore thematic issues relevant to underrepresented groups.
The Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning is sponsoring lunchtime sessions dedicated to fostering inclusive classrooms. Issues of diversity and inclusion will be a major theme of the upcoming Ann Ferren Conference on Teaching, Research, and Learning in January.
Diversity committees: Several of the schools, colleges, and units have established diversity committees:
The Kogod School of Business diversity committee conducted a survey of KSB faculty and staff and is analyzing existing student survey data to better understand the perspectives of the school’s stakeholders. At the November 10, 2015 Kogod Council Meeting, the committee plans to discuss diversity topics related to students, programming, curriculum, staffing, and the Kogod student, faculty, and staff experience.
The University Library Diversity Alliance is examining how the library serves students and can increase the number of minority librarians in the classroom.
The School of Communication expanded its diversity committee to include students and additional staff representatives. It is also integrating a diversity component into Welcome Week.
The Washington College of Law Dean’s Diversity Council, comprised of WCL alumni and distinguished friends that include judges, lawyers, and other notable individuals, assists with recruitment of and networking activities for underrepresented students.
Recruitment and retention efforts: Across the schools and colleges, efforts to recruit and retain students and faculty from underrepresented minority groups are ongoing. Particular success in increasing the diversity of AU’s incoming classes has been achieved over the last 8 years. In 2006, 7% of the entering first-year class were underrepresented minorities, 2% were first-generation-in- college, and 10% were Pell Grant eligible. In fall 2014, 23.2% were underrepresented minorities, 11.4% were first-generation in college, and 20.2% were Pell Grant eligible. This progress continues to inspire us to cultivate a campus that is welcoming to all students and one that has a faculty and staff that is as diverse as our student body.Many of the schools, colleges, and the University Library have been examining their faculty and staff recruitment and retention activities, and the dean of academic affairs in collaboration with Campus Life has held events to build community between minority students, faculty, and staff through a new series of networking receptions for affinity groups.
The schools and colleges have also focused on graduate minority recruitment. For example, the School of Communication and School of Public Affairs are working on recruiting students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The School of Public Administration also hosts an annual Graduate Minority Recruitment Brunch, is home to BRIDE—the campus-wide minority student organization, and supports a minority post-doc program for term faculty members.
Utilizing data to inform our understanding of the campus climate: The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) is playing a critical role in helping the university administration, faculty, and staff understand AU students’ experiences and perspectives, inclusive of diversity. OIRA administers the biannual Campus Climate Survey and the National Survey of Student Experience (NSSE) along with conducting focus groups with cross-sections of students, faculty, and staff. The findings of this research enable the university to develop programs and interventions to increase student success, enhance our programs and services, and identify areas for action.
These activities are just examples of the many initiatives related to diversity and inclusion within academic affairs. I encourage each faculty member to learn more about and participate in AU’s diversity-related programming. Advancing our institutional goals is a collective effort, and fostering a climate that promotes diversity and inclusion benefits all members of the academic community. These efforts are ongoing, and we will keep the community informed through Today@AU posts and periodic campus announcements and invitations.
Should you have questions or concerns related to diversity and inclusion within any of the schools or colleges, please contact the appropriate dean. On matters that transcend a particular academic unit, contact Mary Clark, Dean of Academic Affairs, at email@example.com.