Campus Community Invited to Participate in Spring Semester Equity and Inclusion Initiatives

Nefertiti Waker
Nefertiti Waker

In an email to the campus community on Wednesday, Feb. 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,

Welcome to the spring semester! We are excited for the programs and initiatives that we have planned. As you may know, the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) was established just over two years ago. In that short time, we have grown significantly in our programing, reach and the scope of our office’s work. We facilitate intergroup dialogues, lead learning communities, execute an annual symposium, co-manage campus climate data, provide climate grants for those working towards inclusion, as well as support the efforts of each school, college and business unit on campus in our stretch towards inclusive excellence. It has been a busy, yet exciting time of growth and opportunity for OEI and UMass as a whole. Below, you will find opportunities to engage with our office. 

Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations provide an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to learn active listening and respectful dialogue techniques, followed by a moderated conversation on topics such as inclusion, feelings that arise when controversial events occur on campus, and navigating workplace conflict. Sessions will take place on Feb. 26 and March 5 over lunch and dinner. RSVP to join us.

Our Learning Community Book Groups (LCBG) invite all campus community members to join one of many small book clubs to read “What if I Say the Wrong Thing?” by Vernā Myers or “Braving The Wilderness” by Brené Brown. New members will begin with “What if I Say the Wrong Thing” to help set a foundation for inclusive and respectful dialogue, and learn ways to build and maintain relationships across our various identities, backgrounds and experiences. Please RSVP on our LCBG webpage to join us for a launch event luncheon to learn more. 

We are also very proud to have launched our initial set of Employee Resource Groups (ERG) in partnership with Human Resources. This month, we introduced ERGs for faculty and staff of color, international staff and faculty, staff and faculty with disabilities, LGBTQIA staff and faculty, and veterans. These groups provide resources for professional development, networking and mentorship while also promoting the recruitment, retention and advancement of employees who are underrepresented in our community. 

All are also welcome to apply for our latest cycle of Campus Climate Improvement Grants starting Feb. 27, which seek your creative ideas for fostering connection on campus in the upcoming academic year. These grants are intended to support projects that help build community and create a more inclusive campus. Prior funded projects have included film series, book clubs, workshops, art exhibits, lectures, events and more. 

In addition to these programs, we hope you’ll participate in one of the many fantastic initiatives on campus that promote diversity, inclusion and equity, including:

  • Building Bridges, which is hosting a documentary screening and discussion over lunch on Feb. 13 on immigrant worker rights. Please also save the date for the annual Worker Artist Showcase on April 14 at the Fine Arts Center.
  • Faculty of Color writing workshops and community dinners, providing faculty of color with a chance to connect with colleagues across campus and flourish in their writing projects
  • UMass ADVANCE, a NSF-funded program that aims to create systemic change to help recruit, retain and advance women faculty, including women faculty of color, in STEM. The ADVANCE program offers a number of workshops and grant opportunities to support these goals.

I hope you will find ways to engage with one of the many efforts on campus to make UMass a community of choice for all, exemplifying the power of diverse perspectives and mutual respect. As you know, this is collective work that requires all of our active participation, and only together can we build a vibrant community of dignity and respect. 


Nefertiti Walker