Planning for the Fall to Advance Equity and Inclusion on Campus

Office of Equity and Inclusion wordmark

In an email to the campus community, Nefertiti A. Walker, interim vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, outlined the Office of Equity and Inclusion’s current offerings and a tentative schedule for fall initiatives and events.

That email reads as follows:

Dear Campus Community:

The Office of Equity Inclusion (OEI) would like to provide you with an update of our current offerings as well as a tentative schedule for our fall initiatives and events. Throughout this document, there are opportunities for you to become involved. So please do use this moment to visit our website and become more engaged with diversity, equity and inclusion at UMass Amherst.

Antiracism at UMass

As can be seen across the country, we are in a moment where there is an enormous amount of energy and urgency being geared towards organizations confronting and undoing systemic racism. UMass is no different. Therefore, we are convening an Antiracism Task Force, which will be charged with being the consultative body, working hand-in-hand with administration, to address systemic racism at UMass Amherst. We are looking for people with a deep understanding of systemic racism, lived and studied, and the energy and perseverance to work through what will be a very difficult, but worthwhile, endeavor. If you are interested in being involved in this task force, please complete this interest form. Please understand that completing this form does not necessarily mean you will be asked to serve. There will be other opportunities to serve school, college and other community antiracism initiatives. Here is an evolving list of antiracism resources that we have developed.

Education and Conversation Series on Building Community and Overcoming Polarization

For the past two years, OEI has brought hundreds of campus community members together for a day-long Symposium on Polarization. Here, we were able to hear from academic experts, journalists, authors and others within our institution on how we can overcome the polarization endemic in our society and make progress towards creating a space focused on unity and overcoming hate. As we continue our local, national and international conversations about who we are as a community, we're evolving this series in two key ways. First, we're shifting the conversation from the forces of polarization that divide us a close look at the ways we can continue to bridge and build across our differences. 

Second, we’re moving from a single symposium event to a year-long conversation series with thought leaders. These hour-long online events will include clear action items and next steps on the discussion topics below. We will provide you with updates on content and speakers in the coming weeks, and dates are subject to change:

  Unrest in 2020: Racism, Antiracism, and COVID-19

  1. The Commitment March: Aug. 28
  2. Racialized Health Disparities and Covid-19: TBD 
  3. Standing Against Anti-Asian Racism: Sept. 23
  4. Developing an Antiracist Mindset: TBD 

  From Polarization to Bridging the Divide

  1. Polarization on College Campuses: Oct. 21
  2. Bridging the Divide through Empathy: Nov. 5

Learning Community Book Groups

We will be entering our third year of Learning Communities this fall, as well as introducing as our third book “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X Kendi to the series. We will also be revisiting “What if I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People” by Verna Myers and “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. OEI will provide free access to these books and discussion guides for five meetings. We anticipate having dozens of groups hosted by UMass community members. If you’d like to join, please sign up here.

Dignity and Respect in Action (DARIA): The Podcast

This summer we will be launching a new podcast focused on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion within the UMass community. We’re excited to have recorded several sessions already, to be released in the upcoming weeks. The topics will range from interviews with diversity, equity and inclusion-related subject matter experts, highlights of the work, accomplishments of underrepresented community members, and more.

OEI Newsletter

We are launching a biweekly newsletter to better stay connected with the campus community and keep readers informed of opportunities to thoughtfully and effectively engage in the work we are doing collectively to make UMass a more inclusive and equitable place. Please sign up here to be added to the list.

Campus Climate Survey

We are in the process of building the next Campus Climate Survey for a fall 2021 launch. The first survey in 2016 provided us with a deep understanding of campus climate issues throughout UMass, broken into individual academic areas and units. We were able to partner with areas on campus to provide guidance on these issues and create action plans to improve. Throughout this fall, as part of the 2021 survey launch, we will be sharing reports and information on the progress made since the 2016 survey. We are also developing a smaller, targeted Climate Assessment to be conducted annually, and a mid-semester climate survey to be piloted this fall.  

Campus Climate Improvement Grants

While applications for the fourth round of Climate Improvement Grants won’t be collected until the spring semester, we will be announcing the awardees of the most recent round of grants in the coming weeks. These grants, ranging from $250 to $2,500, support projects that help build community and create a more inclusive campus. More specifically, the funds support resources, events and programming that encourage conversation and connection across race, religion, class, immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability and nationality in order to increase opportunities for greater belonging and further strengthen our community.

Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations

The goal of the Dignity and Respect In Action: Community Conversations (DARIA) is to provide participants with an opportunity to engage respectfully on pertinent issues that may be at the forefront of our minds and have an impact on our UMass and broader communities. These facilitated group conversations are led by trainers from Student Affairs and Campus Life, Workplace Learning and Development, personnel from the Office of Equity and Inclusion, and an invaluable team of Campus Climate Ambassadors. To ensure that the conversations continue to address the issues that affect us as a community, OEI and partners continuously evaluate both the format and content of the series, during and between the semester cycles of the program.

Watch. Learn. Grow.

Watch. Learn. Grow. is an OEI-sponsored documentary series geared towards learning about differences, seeing the humanity in everyone, understanding issues in diversity and inclusion, and fostering opportunities for respectful dialogue. Each film will be followed by an opportunity to learn and engage together in discussion. We welcome opportunities to collaborate and co-sponsor WLD events with groups across campus. If you have an idea for a WLD event, please let us know.

Employee Resource Groups

At the start of 2020, the Offices of Equity and Inclusion and Human Resources launched the first five UMass Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). This initiative provides 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. These groups include the UMass Diverse Abilities Group, International Staff and Faculty Group, Faculty and Staff of Color Group, UMass Veterans Network and the UMass LGBTQIA+ Network. We will continue to support these groups, and you may contact Steering Committee members to learn more. 

The entire team at OEI looks forward to engaging with you and our many campus partners this coming year on these initiatives as we address longstanding and painful inequities and work to strengthen our community bonds. 


Nefertiti A. Walker, Ph.D.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer