UB commits to inclusive excellence in all aspects of university operations

Rainbow Hands

By MICHAEL ANDREI republished from UBNow.

Published October 27, 2017

“For a public research university that aspires to solve the world’s hardest problems, diversity is mission critical.”
Teresa Miller, vice provost for inclusive excellence

 

UB’s strategic diversity and inclusion plan, “Our Commitment to Inclusive Excellence,” focuses on coordinating and facilitating diversity and inclusion-related efforts and processes campus-wide to integrate inclusive excellence into all aspects of university operations.

UB is reaffirming a commitment to support inclusivity across the university by increasing cultural understanding, enhancing teaching and scholarship, and creating and sustaining a welcoming environment in which all faculty, staff and students are valued.

The plan provides an overview of UB’s earlier and ongoing efforts to ensure the university is diverse and inclusive, and explores the evolution of faculty, staff and student demographics and the campus environment.

The plan will be administered through the newly renamed Office of Inclusive Excellence (OIX).

“There are currently a variety of strategies and efforts to enhance diversity and inclusivity going on across campus,” says Teresa Miller, vice provost for inclusive excellence. “However, we still have work to do to achieve our diversity and inclusion goals.

“We can maximize the effectiveness of our diversity and inclusion-related efforts with better university-wide coordination to enhance impact, minimize overlap and more deeply integrate inclusivity into all aspects of the university,” she says.

Inclusive excellence is the recognition that diversity is a driver of excellence. Miller points to Scott Page’s pioneering research on diversity as expressing with mathematical certainty the principle that diverse teams solve problems faster and better than homogenous teams with more experience. “For a public research university that aspires to solve the world’s hardest problems, diversity is mission critical,” she explains.

Inclusive excellence acknowledges the multiple social identities of individuals, the campus climate that determines whether diversity is sustainable and the importance of curricular transformation to include differing perspectives and modes of inquiry previously neglected or missing.

The Office of Inclusive Excellence is the centerpiece of UB’s strategic diversity and inclusion plan.

“OIX will foster a culture of shared responsibility for equity and inclusion,” Miller says, “and create transparent processes that encourage the entire university to work toward inclusive excellence. Through the office, benchmarks and goals will be set and progress toward them monitored.”

Employing inclusive excellence as a strategic framework

Under Miller’s leadership, the office will coordinate and facilitate university planning processes, program initiatives, educational strategies and research inquiries that shape goals, actions and advancement of inclusive excellence at UB.

They will focus on facilitating:

  • Improved communication and coordination among UB’s various equity and inclusion assets.
  • A climate that is supportive of all members of the UB community (faculty, students, staff and administrators).
  • A culture of self-reflection and innovation to address issues of diversity, inclusion and excellence.
  • Structuring environments and interactions that encourage individuals to explore and understand others, learn from their differences and commonalities, and succeed together.
  • Infusion of diversity-related content in courses, programs and experiences across the disciplines and in social aspects of the campus environment.
  • Research, education and engagement programs that support diversity and inclusion in the community.
  • Development of diversity and inclusion-related goals and plans at the department and school levels.

“Adopting inclusive excellence as the center of our diversity and inclusion strategy challenges UB to employ the principle as a strategic framework,” Miller says.

She adds that without inclusion, diversity is unsustainable. “You can successfully recruit individuals who diversify your department, but if they don’t feel valued and respected, they won’t stay.”

Miller went on to say that adopting inclusive excellence requires the university to be honest and clear about identifying challenges and issues related to diversity and inclusion so that UB can come together as a campus community to address them.

Allowing all students, faculty and staff to thrive

The Office of Inclusive Excellence will be drafting a Statement of Principles of Community (SOPOC) that will outline ideals that UB stands for.

“We will be holding a listening tour and focus group meetings over the next few months to get input from all members of the UB community, and understand what they would like to see reflected in the SOPOC,” Miller says. “UB has values that are centered around inclusion, equity and diversity.

“Free speech is also something we value,” she notes. “These principles will reflect our collective thoughts as an academic community. This enables us to ‘call out’ speech that is legally permitted, but contrary to our institutional values.

“We are developing a tool kit on this issue, which will be available to the campus community.”

Miller says the statement will be drafted based on feedback from the meetings, and will be officially signed by members of the UB community at the university’s first annual diversity summit in March 2018. In fall 2018, a campus climate survey will be conducted to assess attitudes, behaviors and standards concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential at UB.

Unlike surveys in the past, Miller says, faculty, staff and students will be asked the same questions.

“This will make it possible to compare answers across these three distinct populations,” she explains, “allowing us to draw meaningful conclusions from survey data without having to compare questions from widely varying survey instruments.

“We aspire to foster a healthy, productive, ethical, fair and affirming campus community to allow all students, faculty and staff to thrive and realize their full potential.”

Additional strategic plan priorities

The office’s efforts are fueled by an expanded leadership council of nearly 50 members of the campus community, organized into eight different committees. In collaboration with OIX staff, they are focused on a number of initiatives.

One such project is to create new pipelines for underrepresented minority students and women in STEM fields through new initiatives. These include creating a Native American Health Inclusion Initiative and exploring the feasibility of an inclusive excellence-centered living and learning community.

OIX will continue to train faculty and decanal search committee members on reducing barriers to diversity, such as implicit bias, through the use of best practices. Training videos on this topic already have been posted to UB EDGE; OIX staff members are also planning to schedule in-person training sessions and developing toolkits to assist search committees.

OIX staff members are, in addition, working to create a Diversity Leadership Workshop to develop and advance sophisticated leadership, problem-solving approaches and inquiry about diversity and inclusion at UB.

OIX also is developing a university statement on diversity, equity and inclusive excellence to be prominently displayed on UB’s website, Miller says.

“In drafting ‘Our Commitment to Inclusive Excellence,’ a review of our campus climate regarding issues surrounding diversity and inclusion was conducted by OIX,” she says.

Miller notes this research reveals a strong commitment by members of the UB community toward diversity and inclusion, as well as efforts that, if coordinated to reduce overlap and inefficiency, could increase their impact across the campus.

“The creation of the Office of Inclusive Excellence, as suggested by this report, will coordinate, facilitate and bond together all of these efforts,” she says, “as well as support increased data collection, new programs and research.

“Responsibility for inclusive excellence rests in every office and individual at the University at Buffalo, and the OIX will assist in facilitating and coordinating all of our efforts,” she says.

“The ideas, goals and strategies we have established in this plan are just the start.”

The full plan can be read online.