Monthly Archives: March 2016

Demanding equity and inclusion

mizz“Will having more chief diversity officers, as student protestors have asked, resolve tensions behind the wave of protests at campuses around the nation?” This is an insightful question, asked by Jackie Jones, in her article: “Demanding Inclusion” published in the Chronicle’s Diverse: Issues in Higher Education for March 18, 2016.

My simple answer to Jone’s question is: it depends!

According to Mary Frances Berry, former chair and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, student protestors on campuses across the country “…are looking for more black people, a reduction in overt racism, and micro- and macro-aggressive behavior.” Following a series of high-profile racial incidents at the University of Missouri, students demanded that the institution compose a 10-year strategic plan by May 1, 2016 to:

  • increase retention for marginalized students
  • sustain diversity curriculum and training
  • promote a more safe and inclusive campus

This is only one example of what is happening at U.S. colleges and universities. And the tensions only seem to be building across the country. Solving these dilemmas seems a very tall order for Chief Diversity Officers alone. And their ability to solve them depends on the authority afforded to their role and the influence they have in affecting many areas of an institution, such as:

  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Campus Climate
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Strategic Planning
  • Research
  • Institutional Advancement
  • Student Success
  • Staff/Faculty Performance Management
  • Intergroup Relations and Discourse
  • Procurement/Supplier Diversity

So what can we as leaders do about it? According to William B. Harvey, founding president emeritus of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, we need to support Chief Diversity Officers. He says, “The only way these positions can be successful is if they have the support of the university leadership and the staffing needed.” Harvey also says that we need to get senior faculty on board to address student concerns.

I agree with Harvey, but I’ll also push the issue further. It’s not just CDOs and senior faculty that can make a difference in fostering equity and inclusion. Each one of us has a responsibility to create inclusive campus climates, where diversity is valued.

Every time we hire new staff or faculty, we can pay closer attention to affirmative hiring efforts. As we welcome new staff and faculty to our campuses, we can make sure that everyone has an excellent orientation and onboarding experience. We can promote ways to create an inclusive curriculum and provide incentives to do that.

We can support diversity training and make sure that our leadership development programs have strong diversity components. We can model inclusivity in our decision making. We can build equity and inclusion efforts into our strategic planning. And we can hold ourselves accountable to the diversity goals we set.

For my part, I am working collaboratively with staff in Talent Management, Equity and Diversity,  Chief Human Resources officers, Affirmative Action Officers, and other leaders to produce training resources that help faculty and staff at our institutions hire affirmatively. It is one thing I can do to promote equity and inclusion.

What can you do?

Anita Rios






Seek out diverse perspectives

diverse perspectives 2Seeking out diverse perspectives can give leaders an important edge in today’s world. Whether embarking on a enterprise-wide initiative or making decisions that will impact a unit, institution, or community, diverse perspectives can give us the information we need to be more effective. They can keep us honest, keep us from moving into groupthink, and provide a resource to sharpen our thinking and lead to innovative solutions. As leaders, we can truly benefit from a diversity of perspectives!

So how can we as leaders seek out diverse perspectives? Here are a few ideas from the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. They advise leaders to:

  • Encourage contributions from everyone and give voice to individuals and constituencies not in the room. Those in the room may need to represent stakeholders who are not present.
  • Acknowledge the impact of power and privilege on who speaks and who listens in groups. Be mindful of the status that is accorded to a person because of her or his position, race, ethnicity, economic class background, sexual orientation, gender, religion, ability/disability, education, expertise, and/or profession.
  • Practice respect for others. Listen deeply. Acknowledge and accept difference of opinions. Discern when to voice differences and when to hold them lightly.
  • Appreciate the constructive value of conflict. While conflict can feel hard or uncomfortable, helping a group move through conflict can result in better outcomes for everyone. Learn to tolerate and work through it, rather than smooth it over or ignore it.

Think of a group you lead that has some diversity. Consider who speaks in the group. Who has the most “air-time?” Is everyone heard? In your leadership role, how can you enable every participant to contribute fully?

Anita Rios

This is real – this is hard!

Racial isolationDiversity – racism – pedagogy.

As leaders in higher education we are working in a system and on campuses that challenge our foundational beliefs and our expertise – and that is hard! I know I am struggling to balance my values and views of myself with the facts and figures that describe a system that is unequal and unjust. And the hope that our youth are leading us to a new inclusive world is not supported by facts – as the graphic highlights – we still live and teach in a very segregated culture. That reality hurts!

As I mentioned in my earlier post each of us needs to ask ourselves questions and figure out where to start our journey to shrink our “bubble of ignorance.” A starting point that I found valuable was this panel discussion presented by the University of Puget Sound’s Race and Pedagogy National Conference and public TV station KBTC focusing on Race and Pedagogy and reality our students face as they live their lives and attend our institutions. Race and Pedagogy.

I will be brief in this post and encourage you to take the extra time to watch the video. It doesn’t provide easy answers but it sets the stage for actions we each can take to create a more inclusive learning – and working – environment.

Todd Thorsgaard

Sharing our diversity stories

CUPAOur MnSCU HR professionals belong to an organization called CUPA-HR (College and University Personnel Association). Over the years I’ve benefited from many of their workshops, which often include an emphasis on hiring and retaining a diverse faculty and staff.

Just in time for our blog topic this month, CUPA-HR has released a new website based on a project called Creating Inclusive Communities. It features a series of diversity stories to help us think about the higher ed workplace. The site provides resources including videos with discussion starters and facilitator guides to make it easy to bring these conversations to local staff meetings or leadership team events. Some of the topics include:

  • Microaggressions
  • Immigrant Employees
  • Raising Young Black Men
  • Women in Leadership Roles
  • Challenges of the Deaf

I’ve found that other people’s stories can have a profound impact on how I view the world. As I mentioned on Friday, I just returned from a volunteer project in the Philippines. The team included both Americans and Filipinos, many of whom have worked together in the past. On the last night we spent some time debriefing the trip and sharing memories. I reminded them of the first time we worked with Shirley, one of the local leaders. She told me that she was uncomfortable giving work direction to Americans. Over time, we talked honestly about our fears and expectations and developed shared stories. Now she is much more willing to tell us what she wants us to do!

The creators of the CUPA-HR website believe that sharing our stories of diversity and inclusion can enrich a campus community and move institutions along the path to greater cultural understanding and competence. How have you used stories about diversity and inclusion when leading in our higher education workplace?

Dee Anne Bonebright



Leading, relationships, and diversity

cebuAs you read this, I will be finishing a two-week volunteer trip to Cebu City in the Philippines. I’ll be immersed in our topic for this month – valuing diversity.  Spending time with friends and colleagues who live and work in another culture helps me increase my cultural awareness, learn new things about myself, and challenge my assumptions about the world.

A colleague who has lived in Cebu wrote a story about going to a currency exchange that was out of pesos. The employees were working, but they were not able to help customers. This kind of thing occasionally happens due to glitches in the supply chain. He concluded:

Why don’t stores just close and send employees home early? I’m not sure exactly, but I don’t think they can. “Regular employment” is a technical category for employees in the Philippines. Employees who have regular status need to be paid when they are scheduled to work (and show up of course) even if there isn’t any actual task to be accomplished. You can’t shut down because this would deprive the employees of a benefit…and hopefully, your supplies could show up at any moment.

As an HR professional, that’s a different way to think about work. Businesses in Philippines seem to place a higher value on providing employment opportunities than is typical in the U.S. For example, the parking ramp near my building has switched from attendants to automated ticket machines. It’s hard to imagine that happening in Cebu. More likely, there would be one person employed to take your ticket and another to give your change. And they’d be wearing nice uniforms to announce that they work for the building management company.

There are all sorts of cultural and logistical issues embedded in this story and I understand only a fraction. But thinking about why people and organizations do what they do allows me to come back with new insights. It’s not necessary to spend 24 hours on an airplane to experience another culture. What experiences have you had with other cultures, and how has it impacted your leadership?

Dee Anne Bonebright



Chris Rock Racist#OscarSoWhite, Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Atticus Finch and Go Set a Watchman, the Syrian refugee crisis, the achievement and opportunity gap, white privilege, David Duke, the list goes on and on …

At a personal, organizational and societal level we are all facing the reality of living in a diverse world. A world that treats people differently and provides different opportunities based on observable and unobservable traits, characteristics, cultures and genetics. It can feel overwhelming at times. As a leader I find myself asking, “what can I do to make a difference?”

Over the next month, we will be exploring ways to make a difference. We will be blogging about the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities leadership competency – Valuing Diversity. It is defined as:

  • demonstrating inclusivity in work processes and work teams
  • encouraging and promoting the diversification of our faculty, staff and student body
  • actively seeking out and inviting alternative viewpoints in planning, discussions and decision making

This is a volatile topic that exposes a wide variety of strong opinions and realities. Acknowledging and tackling challenging issues is an important aspect of leadership so we encourage you to dive in with us!

To get started I want to share two quotes that I heard at the MnSCU Student Affairs/Diversity and Equity conference last week. They reminded me of the personal and organizational accountability we all have to make changes.

“Equity is a practice, not a number or an outcome.”

“What can I do to shrink my bubble of ignorance.”

 I look forward to our dialogue and sharing of ideas as we address our leadership roles in valuing diversity.

Todd Thorsgaard