With its large and diverse population of students, faculty, and staff, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to building a community where every individual feels a sense of belonging.
This academic year, the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) is introducing a new initiative, Belonging@UMass, that seeks to affirm UMass’s values of equity, inclusion, and belonging. The fall semester will kick off with a series of educational and inspiring events, talks, panels, and workshops on this theme, hosted by OEI in collaboration with campus partners. Through these events, students can connect with new friends, engage with a wide variety of campus resources, and learn about UMass Amherst’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and belonging for all. The Belonging@UMass initiative will continue throughout the entire year.
A highlight is the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) conference, featuring remarks by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, panel discussions from campus leadership on belonging, a United Against Hate workshop, and more.
Other events include a Disability Services Open House; CMASS Cultural Connections; a welcome event for first-generation students; friend speed dating hosted by the Women of Color Leadership Network, and much more.
According to Alaina Macaulay, senior director for inclusion and strategic engagement, Belonging@UMass builds on long-standing efforts by UMass Amherst to promote justice, equity, and inclusion. The initiative “creates a cohesive bridge between programs and departments and puts our campuswide belonging initiatives front and center,” she said. “I’m incredibly excited to have so many campus partners creatively putting together events and programs that serve all members of our campus community—students, staff, and faculty.”
According to Nefertiti Walker, vice chancellor and chief diversity officer, Belonging@UMass grew out of a desire to create a strong, unified sense of community while improving the experience of campus groups that feel a lower average sense of belonging. It is informed by the results of the 2021–22 Campus Climate Survey conducted by the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment (OAPA) and OEI, which found approximately 90 percent of respondents feel like they belong at UMass.
"By seeking to boost the experiences of the most marginalized populations, Belonging@UMass stands to create a better overall experience for everyone on campus,” said Walker. “We’re moving towards an ideal state where each person is welcomed and celebrated for their uniqueness and their differences.”
This story was originally published in September 2022.