Office of the President

Update on diversity and inclusion efforts

June 3, 2016

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,

As we enter the summer term, I want to bring you up to date on progress made during the spring semester toward the goals outlined in the Implementation Plan for Diversity and Inclusion (PDF).

Given the extent of work underway on so many different fronts, this letter serves as just a quick update of our steps forward since my last letter, in February. The brevity of the descriptions below does not do justice to the progress made, the degree of engagement shown and the amount of time spent by faculty, staff and students. I am most grateful for the commitment of so many of our community members to this shared undertaking.

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

The search is proceeding with the help of the search firm Witt/Kieffer. Advertising and outreach for candidates are proceeding, and we expect to interview candidates this summer.

Increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty and staff of color.

Target-of-opportunity hiring program. A new hiring policy that provides a pathway for target-of-opportunity hires has been established. This policy — developed in consultation with and approval by the Faculty Senate — was approved by the Committee for Faculty Rights and Responsibilities in May. During the spring semester, the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) made two target-of-opportunity employment offers — one was declined; the second is in progress.

Training in best practices for diversity hiring. Best practices for creating diverse pools for faculty hiring are being incorporated across the university. Diversity representatives from current A&S searches met during the spring semester to discuss search experiences and best practices, and define approaches for searches undertaken during the 2016-17 academic year. At Heller, a thorough review of policies related to hiring diverse faculty and staff was conducted in February.

Improved mentorship for junior faculty. In consultation with faculty, a draft version of a mentoring plan for all junior faculty was presented to the provost and the academic deans in April. The plan establishes a multifaceted approach to mentoring young faculty that has been shown to be successful in other academic settings. The draft is currently being revised to generate a joint document that can be used at A&S, Heller and Brandeis International Business School (IBS) during the 2016-17 academic year.

Recognition of faculty work that increases diversity and inclusion. A Dean of Arts and Sciences Service Award has been established to recognize outstanding uncompensated service by members of the A&S faculty. The first award was presented to Chad Williams, chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, at the April faculty meeting (and was also recognized at the 2016 Commencement ceremony).

Other initiatives. At Heller, three staff/faculty-initiated Ally sessions provided participants with skills and tools to support marginalized groups. Heller has also enlisted external experts to help create a strategic plan for professional-development workshops for faculty and staff during the fall. The Rabb School is hiring an associate director of instructor recruitment who, among other duties, will be asked to develop diversity and inclusion plans for use in adjunct-faculty recruiting efforts, collaborating with other university and external personnel to promote best practices.

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

Undergraduate students. For the undergraduate class that enters in fall 2016, there was a 16 percent increase in applications from underrepresented people of color compared to the previous year, with a comparable increase in the percentage of admitted students. Although the number of matriculated students is not yet final (changes will happen over the summer), the current projection points to an increase in these numbers as well.

Major outreach efforts have been forged with community-based organizations that work directly with students from diverse communities to support college access. This week, Brandeis is hosting 85 students from Emerge, a group from Houston that helps prepare underserved students to attend and graduate from the nation’s top colleges. Earlier this week, 21 Uplift Education students visited from Dallas. During their time on campus, students meet with current Brandeis students and admissions counselors, and — depending on the length of the program — may also attend career workshops hosted by Hiatt.

Brandeis is partnering with organizations that work with community colleges to develop pathways to four-year institutions. Most recently, the university worked with American Honors and the Boston Foundation in these efforts.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Diversity, Excellence and Inclusion Scholarships (DEIS) were developed to create a pipeline to PhD programs and faculty recruitment in the humanities, social sciences and music. The first DEIS cohort of five full-time graduate students — including African-American, Hispanic and first-generation college students — will enter Brandeis in the fall.

Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Ten scholarships for underrepresented minorities have been committed to for the 2016-17 academic year.

Brandeis International Business School. IBS has become a University Partner of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA). The school participates in the WilLead National Multicultural Graduate School Recruitment Fair. Its scholarship opportunities include the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting Scholarship, the NSHMBA Scholarship, the National Black MBA Association Scholarship and the National Association of Black Accountants Scholarship. IBS is also developing a targeted messaging campaign aimed at underrepresented domestic minorities, expanding its partner-school agreements to include undergraduate institutions with significantly diverse populations, and continuing its outreach to the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Accountability and reporting.

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

The Office of the Provost assisted in providing a two-hour mandatory training program in diversity and inclusion to A&S faculty chairs in April. Additional training will be scheduled after new programming is developed this summer.

At the Heller School, the school’s 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Plan was submitted to the dean, the faculty and the Heller community. In addition, a search for an associate dean for diversity and inclusion is underway. Trainers are being vetted for faculty trainings, scheduled to take place in the fall.  

Multiple staff-training initiatives have been conducted and are being planned across the university. Members of the Title IX Committee and representatives from student-services offices completed a half-day cultural-competency workshop offered by Black Women’s Blueprint. Members of the University Police and representatives from student-services offices completed a full-day cultural-competency training offered by Margolis Healy. The Psychological Counseling Center will include a training program on diversity and inclusion in its Orientation session. Human Resources and the Office of the Provost are implementing a peer-led staff reading group on diversity and inclusion. Human Resources and the Office of the Provost are also currently researching online diversity trainings for university staff.

Enhance excellence in teaching and learning.

A task force reviewing the undergraduate core curriculum has been charged with assessing all current general-education requirements and making recommendations for requirements going forward. The charge includes recommending requirements that address diversity and inclusion, as well as recommendations for increasing diversity and inclusion in general-education requirements. The task force has met twice, and additional meetings and discussions are planned. Recommendations will be submitted to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee during the 2016-17 academic year.

At Heller, a diversity and inclusion module has been included in the Heller Summer Academy, which prepares admitted students to attend the school. A Committee on Excellence in Teaching focused its efforts around the topics of diversity and inclusion this year, and has formed relevant student and faculty committees. A pilot program creating student-faculty pedagogical partnerships will be launched this summer. In addition, Heller faculty members were awarded a Center for Teaching and Learning grant to address diversity and intersectionality in pedagogy and curriculum.

Enhance professional development for underrepresented students of color.

At Heller, LGBTQ students attended a national meeting sponsored by ROMBAS that 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.

The Psychological Counseling Center has hired two black clinicians and a black postdoc, all of whom start in the fall.

A Campus Conversations on Race (CCOR) initiative has been created.

The InterCultural Center is conducting a search for a new director, has created a Cultural Hotline and is reactivating the Cultural Response Task Force.

The Department of Community Living is hiring a grad assistant to support the affinity development of students of color, and its training model now includes more multicultural modules.

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Although we have accomplished much, there remains much more to do. I look forward to continuing our important diversity and inclusion initiatives when I return to my position as provost on July 1.

Best regards,

Lisa M. Lynch