As the No. 1 public research university in New England, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to building a community where every individual feels a sense of belonging. Our student body is made up of more than 28,000 individuals who are supported by thousands of faculty and staff. We believe that their diverse experiences and perspectives are essential strengths of our learning environment and integral to academic excellence. Our students, faculty, and staff should reflect the diverse world in which we live.
In order to uphold our commitment, the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) leads the Belonging@UMass initiative, a holistic, campus-wide effort that seeks to honor our differences and cultivate belonging for every individual. Through a series of events—kicking off this fall with the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Conference—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.
Belonging@UMass stands to create a better overall experience for everyone on campus,
Taking Action Toward Measurable Progress
Alaina Macaulay, senior director for inclusion and strategic engagement, says 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 says.
Macaulay takes care to point out that Belonging@UMass initiatives are informed by the 2021-22 Campus Climate Survey, conducted by the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment (OAPA) and OEI. In announcing this survey, UMass Amherst acknowledged not only our ongoing commitment to understanding the perceptions of all individuals in our community, but also to taking action and making tangible steps forward. This year, in partnership with the Office of the Provost, OEI will enact Equity Action Plans across all departments in academic affairs. Informed directly by student feedback—especially from groups historically marginalized in higher education—Equity Action Plans are focused on improving equity in students’ belonging and connectedness, which correlate strongly with traditional measures of student success.
A Welcoming Environment for All
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 than average sense of belonging.
"By seeking to boost the experiences of the most marginalized populations, Belonging@UMass stands to create a better overall experience for everyone on campus,” says Walker. “We’re moving towards an ideal state where each person is welcomed and celebrated for their uniqueness and their differences.”