Campus Among Lead Schools Behind New Higher Education Diversity Consortium

UMass Amherst is among the lead institutions behind a new regional consortium aimed at identifying best practices for improving diversity in the recruitment, retention and success of students and campus employees.

The Leading for Change Higher Education Diversity Consortium grew out of a two-day conference on diversity practices in higher education hosted last August by Bridgewater State University that was attended by more than 200 representatives from 48 public and private institutions from across Massachusetts.

According to organizers of the conference, many of the participating schools reported undertaking a variety of diversity initiatives. To build on that success, diversity experts from Bridgewater State, Bristol Community College, Emerson College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UMass Amherst created the new consortium to support colleges across New England in their efforts to advance campus diversity.

The voluntary consortium is “committed to identifying student and employee diversity best practices through uniform and transparent use of data, institutional benchmarks, and reflective practice, according to a planning document.” The benchmarks will be announced June 11 at a follow-up Leading for Change Conference at Bridgewater State, according to Debora D. Ferreira, executive director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and one of the organizers.

Working with outside evaluators from Brandeis University, participating institutions will agree to submit detailed annual reports to the diversity consortium planning committee highlighting the metrics achieved as well as the practices employed to attain the results.

The emphasis on both data-driven and reflective practice is expected to create a wealth of information focused on institutional practices, policies, and pedagogies that support the success of students and employees from all identities and backgrounds, according to consortium organizers. The reports will be summarized and posted on the consortium’s website for public viewing.

Long-term, the consortium is expected to broaden the pool of information on successful diversity programs, initiatives and strategies from a range of different public and private campuses. The annual reports from participating institutions will help the consortium identify those institutions that excel at meeting each benchmark. Campuses that have success in reaching diversity benchmarks will serve as a resource for other members of the consortium by providing free training. The consortium may also serve as a model for other states and regions around the country.

About 45 New England colleges and universities are slated to attend the June 11 conference. Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life, will be the official campus representative, but staff from Residential Academic Programs, Disability Services, Stonewall Center, Commonwealth Honors Colleges, Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success and University Health Services are scheduled to attend as are two students.