The Diversity Strategic Planning Steering Committee broadly defines diversity, equity, and inclusion as follows:
- Diversity is the presence of various and different characteristics, experiences, identities, and ideas within the community.
- Equity is the opportunity and access for all individuals to achieve full potential.
- Inclusiveness is the opportunity for all individuals to join and participate fully within the community.
Recent Efforts in Campus Climate
UMass Amherst’s core values of social progress and social justice as well as diversity, equity, and inclusiveness inform our expectations for campus climate. These values address both life within our community and our educational mission. Creating and maintaining a campus climate that supports and celebrates diversity is therefore a matter not only of what we experience while we are here, but also of why we are here. Achieving the University’s mission relies on success with respect to both. Learn more about our ongoing efforts to create an inclusive campus climate below.
Please note that campus-wide efforts and improvements have been made since the 2015 Diversity Strategic Plan and 2016 Campus Climate Survey. The list below is only a representation of the climate improvement initiatives by the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
Office of Equity & Inclusion Established
The Office of Inclusion and Equity was launched in fall 2017 to guide UMass Amherst’s efforts related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Anna Branch, Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, lead the office until July 2019. The office is currently led by Dr. Nefertiti Walker, Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion.
In spring and summer 2018, the OEI team successfully released a deeper dive, which is a set of comprehensive reports for faculty, staff, undergraduate students, and graduate students analyzing the 2016 Climate Survey data; led more than 100 Campus Climate Conversations; and delivered data from both activities to academic and administrative units across campus to help develop concrete strategies to enhance diversity, equity and climate.
Ongoing initiatives will be listed on the OEI website as they evolve.
Campus Climate Improvement Grants Awarded
The Campus Climate Improvement Grants program launched in January 2018 with the goal of empowering students, faculty and staff to develop and carry out activities that contribute to conversation and connection across race, religion, class, immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability and nationality. These grants help create opportunities for belonging and strengthening community bonds.
In spring 2018, the Office of Equity & Inclusion awarded twenty-one grants to students, faculty and staff to support a vast array of community-building and climate improvement activities. Fall 2022 climate improvement grant projects are currently underway. Stay tuned for announcements about the next cycle of grants.
Faculty and Graduate Student Development Tools to Enhance Educational Programs
As part of the university’s commitment to enhance effectiveness of curriculum and educational programs with regard to diversity and inclusion, an institutional membership with the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD) is now available at no cost to all faculty, postdoctoral workers and graduate students. This investment by the Chancellor’s Office, the Office of the Provost, the Graduate School and the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development will help faculty and graduate students engage with diverse communities, a need that emerged from the fall 2016 campus climate survey. Learn more and activate your membership.
Building Community Through Public Arts Engagement
In spring 2018, we launched the Building Bridges initiative to foster new connections among UMass community members who come from greatly varied backgrounds and hold differing perspectives. Building Bridges provides an opportunity, no matter what your role or job may be on campus, to become actively engaged.
The first phase of Building Bridges included three core projects: art installations and two courses—“Our Immigrant Voices,” which amplified the voices of immigrant workers on campus, and “Showcasing Worker Artists at UMass,” which explored ways of highlighting art created by UMass employees. In fall 2018, the Building Bridges initiative will partner with the XTCA: Cross Town Contemporary Art exhibition to expand the thought-provoking message of our interconnectedness as citizens and as human beings.
Student Gender Pronoun Selection Available in SPIRE
In support of gender-identity inclusiveness, students are now able to select their preferred gender pronouns in SPIRE. The goal is to facilitate correct pronoun usage by the campus community. The Provost has presented the new information to the faculty and the Chancellor will remind the Campus Leadership Council about the change to ensure that all faculty and advisors are prepared to use each student’s preferred pronouns. A downloadable document explaining the UMass Amherst pronoun policies/practices and an introductory handout on pronouns are both available on the Stonewall Center Pronoun Information website.
Data From Climate Survey and Conversations Drive Diversity & Inclusion Goals for All Units
Data from the 2016 campus climate survey led to the development of Campus Climate Conversations, which took place in Spring 2018. These conversations were small, facilitator-led, peer group discussions designed to give campus community members a safe space to discuss specific concerns and to provide suggestions for improving workplace and classroom climate within their own units and across campus.
Anonymous feedback from these conversations was compiled and provided to department and university leadership to be used in conjunction with the more general survey data in developing concrete strategies for climate improvement across campus. Each unit will work with the Office of Equity & Inclusion to develop goals and action plans for the 2018-19 academic year and beyond.
Emphasis on Climate and Support for International Students, Faculty and Staff
In spring 2018, UMass Amherst hosted an information session for the UMass international community focusing on current U.S. immigration regulations and knowing one’s rights as a non-U.S. citizen. A website has also been established to provide information on resources available for international students, faculty and staff and to keep the campus community updated about the university’s response to federal actions on immigration and related issues.
Enhanced Support for Diversity in the Classroom
Beginning Fall 2018, all General Education Diversity courses have been revised to incorporate enhanced diversity learning outcomes. Incoming students are now required to complete a course in either United States or Global diversity within their first year on campus and an additional diversity general education course before graduating. The updated learning outcomes and goals, approved by the Faculty Senate in Spring 2017, are intended to broaden students’ understanding of diverse perspectives and to help them more effectively interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Support for Graduate Student Diversity and Climate Improvements
In spring 2018, the UMass Amherst Graduate School established its own Office of Inclusion and Engagement and subsequently appointed Dr. Olufunmilayo (Funmi) Adebayo as Assistant Dean for Inclusion and Engagement. The new office will have two primary objectives:
1) to serve as the principal campus-wide resource for augmenting the recruitment, retention and success of outstanding graduate students from historically underrepresented populations while creating professional development programming for recipients of the Graduate School’s Spaulding-Smith STEM Fellowships and Research Enhancement and Leadership (REAL) Fellowships; and
2) to foster new career possibilities for graduate students by developing training opportunities and funding mechanisms that will help students meaningfully participate in existing public discussions of key problems related to their research. Toward this end, Adebayo will work with the Graduate School’s Office of Professional Development to offer skill-building workshops and leadership seminars designed to enhance student communication and networking proficiency. She will also administer grant programs underwriting pilot projects that enable students to explain the significance of their research to and connect with non-academic communities.
Enhanced Faculty Recruitment Efforts
In spring 2018, UMass Amherst introduced two new Pathways Programs to increase the ranks of tenure-system faculty who will contribute to the campus goals of greater equity and inclusion. Faculty members can now be hired as part of the Tenure-Track Pathway or the Postdoctoral Pathway Fellowship based on their life experiences and scholarship, as well as their mentoring, teaching and outreach activities. In fall 2018, the university will provide faculty recruitment workshops using the STRIDE model (Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence) to support these enhanced recruitment efforts. These workshops are designed to provide faculty hiring committees with background information and concrete advice about practices that make searches more successful in producing diverse candidate pools and lead to the hiring of candidates that advance the university’s diversity goals.
Increased Efforts to Support the Retention of Faculty and Staff of Color
In May 2018, faculty were invited to participate in workshops designed to build resiliency and support retention. The goal of “Solo Success” was to help new faculty in the early stages of their careers to thrive in academia. “Writing Your Next Chapter” provided insight and strategies for mid-career faculty looking to progress to the next level. Both workshops were provided by the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD), which partners with higher education institutions to provide successful faculty development and retention programs.
Native American Working Group and Advisory Council focus on building relationships with local tribes, improving campus life and increasing resources
In Spring 2018 the University developed an internal Working Group on Native American Issues, as well as a Native American Advisory Council comprised of representatives from Massachusetts tribes. Both met for the first time in April. The Working Group focuses on the intersections of campus life related to Native American students and studies, including student life (such as recruitment, retention and success), resources for Native undergraduate and graduate students, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. The Advisory Council provides guidance on undertakings, collaborations and partnerships between tribes and UMass, and helps to facilitate dialogue and strengthen relationships between the two. The Council’s goals support UMass’s commitment to improving the lives of Native students at UMass and of tribal youth in the region.
Learning Community Reading Groups to Address Bias and Build Community Established
Learning Communities launched in fall 2018 and are based on two books carefully chosen to foster constructive conversations around the topics of inclusion, bias, empathy, understanding, and respect. Groups are launched near the beginning of each semester, and participants meet regularly to discuss the issues and themes covered by the authors. New members will read "What if I Say the Wrong Thing" by Verna Myers and returning members read "Braving the Wilderness" by Brene Brown. The goal of these Learning Communities is to help us develop tools for more thoughtful interaction across difference, while understanding how our attempts at finding connections and building communities can also lead to polarization. These foundational concepts and skills are vital in our road to building an inclusive community grounded in dignity and respect.
"Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations" Initiative to Teach Inclusive and Respectful Dialogue
These conversations are a continuation of the spring 2018 Campus Climate Conversations, and explore ideas around dignity and respect, the challenges and fears we face when having difficult or sensitive conversations, what this means for us individually and collectively, and how we can work to create a campus environment that rejects hate and embraces our ideals of respect, dignity, and inclusion.
Employee Resource Groups (for Staff and Faculty)
The Offices of Equity and Inclusion and Human Resources launched the UMass Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as of Spring 2020. This initiative will provide UMass staff and faculty with resources for professional development, networking, and mentorship, while also promoting the recruitment, retention, and advancement of employees who are underrepresented in our community. This initiative is one of many ways the University works to invest in our workforce, and make UMass a workplace of choice. Please know that these are the first of a number of groups that will be formed through this partnership, and additional groups to support other populations are forthcoming. (For the University Women's Network, established in 1981, please visit the University Women's Network webpage.)
Dignity and Respect in Action Podcast
The Office of Equity and Inclusion launched a podcast focused on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, both as they pertain to the campus community and as society as a whole, in August of 2020. With 1-2 episodes per week during fall and spring semesters, topics have included the Black experience at UMass and beyond, LGTBQ+ allyship and pronoun usage, student success initiatives for diverse populations, the work of the Racial Justice Coalition, and more. You can listen and subscribe to our podcast here.
The OEI Newsletter, launched in fall 2020, is released every other Tuesday during the fall and spring semester. It includes information and news from the Office of Equity and Inclusion, DEI events and news across campus, opportunities to engage in initiatives, and promotion of the latest podcast episode. You can subscribe to the newsletter online.
Virtual Speaker Series
During the remote living/learning/working period of 2020-2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, OEI pivoted from in-person events and speakers to an all-remote model. Eleven events, including co-sponsored/partner events, were made available for the campus to participate in, with topics on the privileged poor by Anthony Jack, anti-Asian bias due to Covid, access to the disability film festival, a BIAS film screening and discussion with filmmaker Robin Hauser, leading for change in a polarized world with Robin Hauser, and more.
The UMass Land Acknowledgement
In a year-long consultative and deeply collaborative process with respected advisors from local Tribal Nations, the UMass Native Advisory Council co-developed this campus Land Acknowledgement. This Acknowledgement affirms our campus connection and relationship to the land the campus is built upon and our continued connection to the Nations who were the original inhabitants and caretakers of this land. The Land Acknowledgement also affirms our connection and responsibility to the 82 Native nations west of the Mississippi whose homelands were sold through the Morrill Act of 1862. The money from these sales were used to establish this campus as a land-grant institution. The Land Acknowledgement is part of a broader effort of building and sustaining relationships and partnerships with the Native Nations to whom we, as a university community, are connected.
Black Advisory Council Announced
The Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion organized the Black Advisory Council (BAC) in November 2021. This group of UMass Amherst administrators, faculty, staff, and students has been asked to meet monthly to discuss issues related to the education, opportunity, access, well-being, and success of Black people, and particularly African Americans at UMass Amherst. Learn about the BAC.