Community Culture Redesign: Diversity & Inclusion Update

September 15, 2016

Simmons academic campus

A message from President Helen Drinan, Vice President for Communications, Diversity & Inclusion Cheryl Howard, and Assistant Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion Lisa Smith-McQueenie

Though many of you were gone from campus this summer, the importance of diversity and inclusion work to improve the experience of every Simmons community member remained paramount to us.

In this message, Lisa Smith-McQueenie, Cheryl Howard, and I will update you on what happened this summer with regard to diversity, inclusion, and the 2015 Ten Demands—and we will provide you with a view of upcoming college-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives.

First, we want to reiterate the commitment of College leadership to continue work on creating and sustaining a more diverse and inclusive community. Our FY 16/17 efforts will focus on 1) addressing many of the issues raised by community members 2) engaging with students regarding the 2015 Ten Demands and 3) strategically addressing diversity and inclusion goals that encourage broad participation in college-wide efforts. This fiscal year, we seek to be firmly on the path to becoming the truly welcoming Simmons community we all envision.

Summer 2016 Updates & Highlights

  • To increase focus, we reorganized diversity and inclusion under the Operating Team leadership of Cheryl Howard (now Vice President for Communications, Diversity & Inclusion). Cheryl and Lisa Smith-McQueenie (now Assistant Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion) are partnering on institution-wide diversity and inclusion goals, strategies, and tactics.
  • In July, the Operating Team and I participated in a 3-day training with Dr. Pat Romney and Dr. Molly Keehn of Romney Associates, Inc. This professional development opportunity was in line with best practices, was responsive to student concerns, and demonstrated College leadership’s commitment to take the lead in addressing climate issues on campus by raising our own awareness.
  • FY 16/17 College Diversity & Inclusion goals have been proposed and they are currently under review. The goals include such priorities as developing a shared mission and philosophy, ongoing professional and student development, curriculum and pedagogical enhancements, hiring diverse faculty and staff, recruiting diverse students, responding to the 2015 Ten Demands, and preparing a campus multicultural center proposal.
  • A draft of a Simmons Bias Response Protocol has been prepared and we are in the process of extensive vetting with many constituencies of the College. In the summer, Cheryl and Lisa worked with the Deans, the Operating team, a student focus group, and the Diversity & Inclusion Action Council (DIAC) on reviewing the draft protocol. This fall, vetting will continue with faculty senate, staff council, and other key constituencies. In addition, Lisa and Cheryl will be learning about best practices on bias response protocols from the Educational Advisory Board (EAB) Student Affairs Research Team that is conducting research on implementation of bias response protocols across colleges and universities. The underlying philosophy of the draft Simmons Bias Response Protocol is one of “educational opportunity” in an effort to prevent biased attitudes and behaviors and to promote a more inclusive campus climate. Key elements of the working document include the creation of community advocates as part of the bias response team, a glossary of working definitions, and extensive FAQs.
  • We hosted Dr. Shakti Butler, a recognized inspirational facilitator, trainer, and lecturer, for a week of diversity and inclusion training for undergraduate student leaders, a keynote address to the entire first-year class, and an interactive session open to the Simmons community.
    • Dr. Shakti Butler is Founder and President of World Trust Educational Services, a non-profit transformative educational organization. World Trust produces films, curricula, workshops, and programs that are catalysts for institutional, structural, and cultural change. Dr. Butler has produced four documentaries: The Way Home; Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible; Light in the Shadows; and Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity. She presents regularly at schools, universities, public and private organizations, and faith-based institutions.
    • Dr. Butler facilitated several days of training that included an exploration of the historical context of racial inequity, social justice language/definitions, and strategic questioning as an approach to creating personal and social change. Some sessions addressed other issues raised in the Ten Demands regarding student training. Topics included diversity programming, biased behavior, inclusive language, and race and ethnicity on campus.
    • Dr. Butler offered a keynote address to our first-year students during Orientation and facilitated a daylong series of experiential exercises based on clips from her films linking to real world issues as a part of our annual F.A.C.E.S. (First Year Appreciation of Cultural Experiences at Simmons) Program.
    • Additionally, Dr. Butler delivered a session for the Simmons community that offered historical perspective, information, tools, and encouragement to stay actively engaged with one another in order to create an inclusive Simmons community. She recommended that all read Strategic Questioning: An Approach to Creating Personal and Social Change by Peavey and Hutchinson.
  • The DIAC worked with Lisa to help ensure continued momentum on the College’s D&I priorities. Specific summer tasks included review, discussion, and revision of the draft Bias Response Protocol, the FY 16/17 diversity and inclusion goals, and the development of potential programming to improve campus climate. Additionally, DIAC identified two undergraduate and two graduate students to serve on the council with nine faculty and seven staff members.
  • Talent & Human Capital Strategy (THCS) recruiters completed a comprehensive Diversity Recruitment Training program designed for professional recruiters. Their training focused on recruiting methodologies and technical search techniques to more effectively source diverse talent pools. Leanings from the training were adapted to daily recruitment practices. For example, to support the active sourcing of diverse talent for high-volume and commonly filled positions (such as the sourcing of adjunct faculty for online programs), our recruiters are now able to apply technical recruiting search techniques to broaden outreach and to generate meaningful, diverse candidate search results. Also, our recruiters learned about how to source diverse talent through social channels, how to build technical searches for diverse resumes, and how to configure searches that will generate more diverse talent leads.

2016 – 2017: Looking at the Year Ahead

  • In late September, the Deans and other key college leaders will participate in a 2.5-day training facilitated by Romney Associates, Inc. This professional development opportunity will inform much of the work that will continue across the College and in departments and units.
  • Hiring managers will be trained on how to successfully conduct recruiting and hiring processes to help ensure a diverse final candidate pool. We are discussing a rollout plan for diversity training and related professional development opportunities for Simmons employees. Cheryl, Lisa, and Sarah Miller (Assistant Vice President, THCS) are reviewing the Campus Answers diversity and inclusion online training tool developed for university settings. It can be distributed to all employees for completion. We will have more information about online diversity and inclusion training very shortly.
  • Provost Conboy, the Deans, Center for Excellence in Teaching Director Jennifer Herman, and others are working on outlining professional development opportunities available for faculty this year. We expect the opportunities for faculty will begin to address such concerns as micro-aggressions; creating an inclusive classroom environment; having difficult conversations; and supporting members of underrepresented identity groups. Additional details will be shared in a future communication.
  • You are encouraged to attend the Friar’s Leadership Lecture Series which offers a diverse and impressive set of speakers that includes Dr. Shakti Butler (mentioned above); Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto who has become a leading voice in the global crusade demanding social transformation, justice, and equality; and Woodrow Wilson Fellow Callie Crossley, television and radio commentator.
  • Please save September 29th from 5:00 – 7:00 PM for Colors of Success, our annual multicultural welcome program. This year’s program will feature a diverse student panel and an opportunity to meet and mingle with new and returning community members.

As we move into this new academic year, we hope everyone will feel building and maintaining an inclusive community means a willingness to practice respecting, appreciating, and looking out for one another. Dialogue is so important. Let’s commit to listening to and hearing one another, engaging in the discovery of learning with and from others, and building the trust required to be open and engaged.

We have much to do and we know there is genuine commitment across the entire Simmons community to make important progress on diversity and inclusion.