Framework for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Simmons - July 30, 2020

Dear Simmons community,

I write today to tell you of a transition, and steps I am taking as we continue our work to foster real and meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion at Simmons.

Dr. Debra Joy Pérez has decided to pursue other opportunities, and will leave her role as Senior Vice President of Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity at the end of this month. We appreciate greatly Dr. Pérez's commitment to institutional diversity, inclusion and equity and to making Simmons the most inclusive campus in New England. Dr. Pérez has laid the groundwork for a more inclusive Simmons community in multiple ways. Her most notable accomplishment has been establishing THRIVE, a key partnership in Human Resources, to reimagine the recruitment, hiring and employee experience. This effort has transformed how Simmons recruits, hires and includes under-represented employees from diverse backgrounds. Thanks to her efforts, staff hires of color went from 27% in 2018 to 42% in 2019.

At Simmons, Dr. Pérez's passion for equity and belonging has been the driver of many of OCIE's efforts for what I often call a "diversity mindset" in recruitment, retention, and community building. Dr. Pérez frequently reminded us of the "joy of inclusion" – the importance of calling people in to see and feel the happiness of being in a relationship with those who are different from us. She and her office have enriched our students' lives through speakers, events and trainings, while working to improve faculty and staff engagement with the goal of making Simmons a better place to live, learn and work.

As I consider longer-term next steps, I am mindful of the urgency of this work and this moment. There is simply no time to waste as we strive for greater equity both on our campus and in the world. I believe that diversity is inextricably linked to our university's core mission of providing transformative education, scholarship and service. Effective immediately, I am establishing a small group called Presidential Advisers on Diversity to help guide our future work and decision making, co-chaired by Assistant Dean Gary Bailey and Dr. Sharron Credle. The group will be charged with identifying issues of critical importance; recommending priority action steps; and implementing programs, processes and metrics focused on enhancing diversity and inclusion in admissions, hiring, teaching, learning, scholarship and community. Enna E. Jimenez '91, '06EE, HT will serve as the Presidential Adviser for Alumni Engagement.

Each of the Presidential Advisers in turn will charge a work group focused on individual needs of faculty, staff, students and alumnae/i. Together, our senior advisers and work groups will form the Simmons Diversity Council. The Diversity Council will become a key component of the Office of Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity, with Dr. Credle, Maria Arettines, Director of Programming, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Erika Monfort, Multicultural Center Coordinator; and Karene Alexander Thorne, Executive Assistant.

In addition to the sustained efforts necessary to enhance campus diversity and inclusion, I will ask the Presidential Advisers on Diversity to recommend a new set of initiatives and actions to engage our whole community in the fight against systemic racism and social injustice. This will be in addition to the University's and the OCIE's ongoing work in areas such as anti-racism training, emphasis on civil discourse, and community-wide events and activities such as this year's Campus Read, What the Eyes Don't See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, focused on the Flint, MI water crisis.

We will continue to update the community as we move ahead in this critical space, honoring the University's commitment to make Simmons the most inclusive campus in New England. Please know, too, that this work is deeply and personally important to me, and will have my full and unwavering commitment.


President Lynn Perry Wooten