Office of the President

Update on Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

August 29, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

As we begin the fall semester, we want to reiterate and renew the university’s commitment to making Brandeis a more diverse, inclusive and excellent academic community.  

Below, we provide an update on efforts related to the Implementation Plan for Diversity and Inclusion that were advanced over the summer. We have also launched a new website at, where you can learn about current initiatives, programs and resources, as well as review messages and letters on diversity and inclusion that have been sent to the community over the past year.

It is vital that we recognize our shared progress and, at the same time, acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do to realize the goals articulated in our university mission statement on diversity. This is not easy work, and the journey to a more just and inclusive campus requires the participation of all of us. We are deeply grateful to the staff, the faculty and, most especially, the students who have worked so diligently to help make our campus the place we all want it to be.

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Appoint a chief diversity officer/vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.

We received more than 50 applications for this position — a very robust pool of candidates. The search committee’s selection of finalists is near completion, and the first round of finalists will come to campus shortly after Labor Day. All our finalists have previous experience in serving as a chief diversity officer.

Increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty of color.

A mentoring plan for all junior faculty was developed in the spring, and further revisions were made over the summer. The plan will now be implemented during the fall semester in A&S, Heller and IBS.

Four faculty members were funded to participate in the Faculty Success Program, sponsored by the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.

We successfully recruited Salah M. Hassan, world-renowned as the premier scholar in the field of contemporary African and African-diaspora art and culture. He will serve as the Madeleine Hass Russell Visiting Professor in African and Afro-American studies (AAAS) for the 2016-17 academic year. Following this one-year appointment, Salah will join our faculty in AAAS and fine arts, holding appointments at both Brandeis and Cornell.

Increase the applicant pool of underrepresented students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

After several years of slow but steady progress, the incoming first-year class includes a meaningful increase in underrepresented students of color, moving from 14 percent to 16 percent of the class. Students who self-identified as Hispanic or Latino increased by 10 percent over the previous year, while students who self-identified as black or African-American increased by 20 percent.

These gains are attributed to efforts over the past several years to diversify the Brandeis application pool with exceptionally talented students. Partnerships with a greater number of community-based organizations have proven particularly successful, and efforts to extend those connections continue. We are also developing new partnerships with community colleges.

At the graduate level, we have selected our first cohort of five Diversity, Excellence and Inclusion Scholarship (DEIS) recipients — a cohort that includes African-American, Hispanic and first-generation college students — starting this semester in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In addition, Heller has created ten scholarships for underrepresented minorities for the 2016-17 academic year.

Accountability and reporting.

A Diversity and Inclusion Survey was administered to all undergraduate and graduate students in the spring. Initial results will be released and discussed in a variety of forums this fall.

The university’s senior management team (including the president, the provost, the deans and the senior vice presidents) participated in a training session on implicit bias that will also be offered to faculty and staff multiple times during the fall semester. (See for details on dates, content and registration.)

The New Faculty Orientation included a session on diversity and inclusion facilitated by Harleen Singh, associate professor of literature, and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

At Heller, a search has been launched for a new associate dean for diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion training sessions with faculty and staff took place over the summer. More activities, including a school-wide community day, are planned for the fall term.

Enhance excellence in teaching and learning.

The Task Force on General Education Requirements continued to meet over the summer. Surveys to collect thoughts about current requirements and new pedagogical approaches were sent to students, faculty, staff and alumni. The excellent response rate indicates how important this project is to our community. The task force is currently defining goals and themes, including discussions on race, inequality and inclusion.

The Provost’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee and the dean of arts and sciences have created a new program to expand discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion across campus over the coming year. Eleven programs have received funding. The first event will be held on Thursday, September 15. (See event details at

Enhance professional development for underrepresented students of color.

At Heller, LGBTQ students attended a national meeting sponsored by Reaching Out MBA, which supports the career development of LGBTQ students and offers a place for students to gain social support.

An Inclusion and Operations Committee was created at Heller to address race, gender, disability and operational issues related to inequity in the PhD program.

Increase culturally relevant support for students.

Madeleine López became the new director of the Intercultural Center. Her experience and leadership are especially welcome as we celebrate the 25th year of this treasured university resource.

We also welcome the increased staff diversity that has come with filling positions in departments across the campus, including at the Brandeis Counseling Center, the Office of Admissions, Academic Services and others.  

During the summer, staff members throughout the student support offices have been participating in training sessions in diversity and inclusion.

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In addition to the specific efforts noted above, a reminder: We must continue to have open conversations about race, equity and inclusion on our campus, even — and, perhaps, especially — when those conversations are challenging. In the coming weeks and months, offices across the university will host a wide variety of events, speakers and facilitated discussions on different aspects of diversity, with a focus on race and ethnicity. Such conversations are critical as we seek to understand and overcome implicit bias and challenge inequalities. A list of these events is on the website, and we invite all of you to actively engage in this work.

As our university diversity statement makes clear, we are committed to building an academic community whose members have diverse cultures, backgrounds and life experiences; whose members believe diverse backgrounds and ideas are crucial to academic excellence; and whose members recognize the need to analyze and address the ways in which social, cultural and economic inequalities affect power and privilege in the larger society and at Brandeis itself.

Best regards,

Ron Liebowitz

Lisa Lynch

Andrew Flagel
Senior Vice President, Students and Enrollment