In an email to the campus community on Thursday, Sept. 12, Nefertiti Waker, interim associate chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, offered descriptions of several campus-wide initiatives designed to foster a culture of equity and inclusion.
The content of that email is as follows:
Dear Campus Community,
I’d like to offer a warm welcome to all as we enter a new fall semester.
My name is Nefertiti Walker, interim associate chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, and chief diversity officer. This year, in collaboration with many campus leaders, the Office of Equity and Inclusion will be focused on continuing the vital work of cultivating a culture of inclusiveness while we also celebrate the vast diversity of our community. Our initiatives will strive to acknowledge historical inequities, underrepresentation and marginalization, while offering the space to pave a path forward toward a culture of equity and inclusion on campus and beyond.
There will be a variety of opportunities to engage in this important work, building on the success of campus-wide initiatives piloted last year. They include:
The Learning Community Book Groups, open to all campus members, will center around two books. New members will read “What if I Say the Wrong Thing?: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People” by Vernā Myers. Returning members will read “Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” by Brené Brown. Groups will discuss a number of topics, such as inclusivity, implicit bias and the challenges of finding and building community.
Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations will offer a space for students, faculty and staff to build skills in respectful dialogue, while discussing issues affecting our campus and society at large. Sessions will take place throughout the semester, with the first session on Sept 18.
A new initiative launching this fall is Employee Resource Groups (ERG), supported by the Office of Equity and Inclusion as well as Human Resources. ERGs will provide resources for professional development, networking and mentorship while also promoting the recruitment, retention and advancement of employees who are underrepresented in our community. The ERGs include networks for faculty and staff of color, international staff and faculty, staff and faculty with disabilities, LGBTQIA staff and faculty, and veterans. In the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to invite employees to an informational reception where they can learn more.
Finally, we will be holding our second Symposium on Combating Polarization this fall, with a focus on the obstacles to building community. The event will kick off with a People’s Supper in collaboration with CMass on the evening of Oct. 30, and speakers, panels and breakout sessions will be featured throughout the following day. Please stay tuned for details on speakers and registration.
These initiatives are managed by Emmanuel Adero, senior director of diversity outreach, assessment and planning. Emmanuel is excited to continue building capacity for dignity and respect with the returning initiatives, and to help to provide new structures for support and tools for engagement with the new ones.
The future of society and work depends on institutions such as UMass Amherst providing the space to develop socially and culturally thoughtful leaders, who understand the value of diversity and can promote equity and inclusion. So, please set aside time to invest in yourself and our future together by engaging in this fall’s community activities.
Nefertiti A. Walker, Ph.D.
Interim Associate Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion