UI unveils Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion action plan

The plan, which would run through 2021, aims to improve the campus climate and support all faculty, staff, and students.


Tate Hildyard

Members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan Development Group and shared governance meet in the IMU on Thursday, April 4, 2019. The group discussed the campus-climate survey results and unveiled the UI’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan.

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

An institutional paradigm shift from being a university that embraces diversity to one that achieves excellence through diversity, equity, and inclusion has manifested in the University of Iowa’s creation of an action plan to strengthen the campus climate.

The UI on Thursday unveiled its 2019-21 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion action plan aimed at improving the campus environment to support students, staff, and faculty of all identities and backgrounds. The plan spans through 2021 to align with the UI’s 2016-21 strategic plan.

The key goals of the plan are to:

• Create and sustain an inclusive and equitable institution

• Recruit, retain, and advance a diverse community of faculty, staff, and students

• Integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into UI’s core academic mission

• Enhance accountability, effectiveness, and collaboration of diversity efforts

Approximately 70 percent of faculty, staff, undergraduate, and graduate and professional students reported feeling somewhat or very satisfied with the UI environment, according to data collected from campus-climate surveys.

However, disparities remain in the university experience depending on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, political or religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status, among other factors.

UI interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Melissa Shivers’ mantra “Listen. Understand. Act.” rests at the foundation of the plan. She said the plan involved listening sessions to gain input from the campus community and by hosting campus-climate survey data; understanding by assessing current UI efforts surrounding diversity and conducting an external review of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and acting on this plan and ensuring the outlined goals are implemented. 

“It’s really exciting, quite frankly, for me to work at a university where we’re not afraid to ask the questions and to hear from our campus community about the areas of growth or opportunity that exist,” Shivers said.

While Shivers’ mantra may be a cornerstone of the plan, the work extends far beyond the UI administrator. The Path Forward Steering Committee, composed of shared-governance leaders, has tasked the Path Forward Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Collaboration Work Group with executing the action plan. 

UI Student Government President Hira Mustafa said the plan will help shared-governance leaders communicate among each other and to stakeholders what those groups are focusing on.

“We saw that so many people have their own plans diversity, equity, and inclusion plans at various different levels, so I think especially now that we have a campus-wide plan that includes all of the groups, that communication internally within shared governance will be especially critical,” she said.

Graduate and Professional Student Government President Dexter Golinghorst said he was excited about the opportunity graduate and professional students had to participate in the process as well.

“As I look at the work doing in GPSG and the work the university is prioritizing, I’m really excited that we can use concrete data to justify a lot of that work and to really inform a lot of the choices that we make,” he said.

To gain context from other institutions, an external review of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion took place over two days in March. The aim of the review was to ensure that the organizational structure and programs are sufficiently aligned to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the UI in accordance with this plan.

Three individuals at other institutions conducted the external review and were compensated for their travel and paid an honorarium for their assessment.

This plan comes amid changes in leadership for the division. In summer 2017, Georgina Dodge, who was previously at the helm of the division when it was called the Chief Diversity Office, accepted a position at another university. Shivers is the second person to assume a temporary role leading the division and has filled that position since the summer of 2018.

The university expects to announce a new associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion before the end of the academic year.

Ultimately, Shivers said, the plan will help the UI become an even better institution, and that work is quickly getting underway to improve.

“We have not only heard the community, but we have applied true action steps to being able to address this,” she said. “… We’re not going to let grass grow under our feet.”