Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

SLIS actively encourages students of underrepresented racial, ethnic, and language backgrounds to apply. In Fall 2019, our students self-reported as 4.2% Asian/Asian American, 1.4% Black/African American, 0.2% Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 5.6% Hispanic/Latinx of any race, 1.1% Other, 4.2% two or more races, 79.7% White (non-Hispanic/Latinx), and 83% White of any ethnicity. Inclusion and diversity are major facets of the Strategic Planning 2016-2020 Framework for SLIS. Simmons University has also established the department of Organizational Culture, Inclusion & Equity to develop our inclusive excellence University-wide.

Graduate Student Fellowship

In 2016, in response to student activism and the work of the SLIS Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, a new fellowship was established with a focus on diversity. The Dean's Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives assists in planning activities and events related to diversity, social justice, and inclusion. The Fellow's responsibilities include attending the monthly SLIS student leader meetings and the Diversity and Inclusion Action Council, maintaining and updating the SLIS webpage on Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, identifying, advertising, and promoting workshops, lectures on related topics to the SLIS community, and gathering and creating resources and reading lists on diversity, social justice, and inclusion in LIS.

The Dean's Fellow also functions as an advocate on behalf of marginalized students' needs in discussions relating to campus climate, curriculum, and response to current events, and can be reached at [email protected].

Past Events

  • Listening Session
  • Self Defense & Bystander Intervention Workshops in coordination with Impact Boston
  • Group Leader in Women's March for America


Increasing Diversity in the Student Population

Since the inception of the ALA Spectrum Initiative Scholarship program sponsored by the American Library Association, Simmons has successfully recruited over forty scholars, one of the highest numbers among LIS programs. Past Spectrum Scholars have been active in promoting the Spectrum program by holding annual fundraisers. We take pride in the contributions of these students as active leaders on campus and in the profession. Simmons University has matched the $6,500 Spectrum awards for each student to cover the cost of two courses.

In the last six award cycles, the following Simmons students were awarded Spectrum Scholarships:

  • 2018-2019: Moonyung Kang-Larsen, Cristian Alejandro Martinez (YALSA Scholar), Daisy Crystal Muralles, Elise Riley, Mallory Elizabeth Walker
  • 2017-2018: Maya H. Bergamasco, Sandra R. Delaney, Rebecca L. Gordon (Inspire AASL Scholar), and Sony Prosper (Calloway Scholar)
  • 2016-2017: Marcela Aristizabal, Meia Geddes, Nancy Loi, Arielle Petrovich, and Ayoola White (ProQuest Scholar)
  • 2015-2016: Priya Charry, N. Suzana Chilaka, Joyce Gabiola, Hannah Mills, and Sara Powell
  • 2014-2015: Dhyana Berry and Darren Young
  • 2013-2014: Anastasia Green, Micha Broadnax, Ashley Dean, and Andrea Devlin.

Student Affinity/Social Justice Organizations

Students have initiated a focus on social justice and inclusive representation through various student groups.


DERAIL (Diversity, Equity, Race, Accessibility, and Identity in LIS) is a student-initiated forum for students to engage in meaningful conversations about critical approaches to librarianship, archives, children's literature, cultural heritage institutions, and museums. The goal is to create a space for student community and dialogue on how anti-oppression and social justice work can be centered in our training and professional work in all information environments, and why it's important.

In March of 2016 the first DERAIL forum was held at Simmons University. In March of 2017 and 2018 DERAIL became a two-day event. The event was specifically for students; SLIS faculty and staff were invited to attend only virtually, via live-stream on the day of the Forum. SLIS faculty and staff were able to interact with the online moderator and follow the conversation on Twitter @derailforum.

Students of Color at SLIS

Students of Color at SLIS (SoCS) was founded in the Fall of 2015 in response to a call for a greater sense of community amongst graduate students of color at the Simmons School of Library and Information Science. The purpose of the SoCS is to build and sustain a supportive community for graduate students of color that contributes to their academic development, social growth, and well-being.

SoCS Facebook page

Past Events:

  • Moonlight (2016 film) Showing
  • REFORMA Northeast Chapter Meeting with SoCS: REFORMA is the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking


Spectra is the student LGBTQIA+ group and its purpose is to bring together individuals who share an interest in issues that surround the LGBTQ community in the profession of Library Science. Spectra also offers a safe place for students to discuss issues that they face in the profession. Spectra's goal is to promote discussion of the issues the LGBTQIA+ community faces with allies to foster discussion and promote change within the field of Library and Information Science.

Spectra Facebook page

Recent Events

  • LGBTQ Book Drive and Pizza Party: Participants brought a LGBTQIA book to donate to the Prison Book Program as a "ticket" to dinner, and the group discussed why prisoners' rights are LGBTQIA rights.

Progressive Librarian's Guild

The SLIS chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild is a non-sectarian group committed to the ideals of progressive librarianship, and the notion that a fundamental role of libraries is to promote the free exchange of ideas and information for all people. We believe that libraries are essential to maintaining an independent and democratic society.

PLG Facebook page

Examples of Past Events

  • Prison Book Program
  • Ongoing project provide books and educational materials to incarcerated people in need.
  • Radical Cataloging + Zine Workshop
  • PLG and Panopticon hosted a hands-on presentation and zine workshop. Andrew Clark, discovery and metadata librarian, spoke about radical cataloging and then participants practiced the techniques of zine making.

Service Projects

Since 2005, the Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) have planned Alternative Spring Break activities for students, staff, and faculty volunteers. In 2018, an Alternative Spring Break volunteer experience at the Papercut Zine Library was coordinated by SLIS student Lena Gluck, then Diversity & Inclusion Fellow, in collaboration with Des Alaniz '17LS representing the Papercut Zine Library. Students volunteered in March 2018 to catalog and inventory the Library's collection of 16,000 zines. In 2016, Simmons SLIS coordinated two service learning opportunities at the Boys and Girls Club of Boston in Charlestown, which offers accessible and affordable after-school time programming to children and teens. Students, faculty, and staff volunteered in March and June of 2016 to sort, label, and catalog books in the Boys and Girls Club children's and young adult library.

Diversity and Inclusion-related Courses Offered at SLIS

The following courses are either experimental courses related to the topics of diversity and inclusion or are part of the curriculum. Efforts are underway to cover these topics in the required courses.

  • LIS 422: Literacy & Services to Underserved Populations: Issues & Responses
    This course provides an overview of the social, economic, and political impact of adult functional illiteracy in the United States; it discusses the issue at both the federal and state level with implications for library involvement at the community level.
  • LIS 410: Information Services for Diverse Users
    This course examines the special needs and potential contributions of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in information settings. Through readings, discussion, and guest lectures, students will explore diversity issues that impact information services and develop skills for planning, implementing, and evaluating programs for addressing these issues.
  • Simmons offers Special Topics Courses to address current events, with past courses including Radical Librarianship, taught by Assistant Professor Laura Saunders, and Race and Racism, taught by Associate Professor Lisa Hussey.

Background of Diversity Initiatives at SLIS

From 2015-2017, the SLIS Diversity and Inclusion Task Force worked to develop recommendations to then-Dean Eileen Abels on increasing access to all SLIS resources, devising methods to gather timely feedback on issues of inclusion and student well-being, and researching best practices on faculty and staff development around diversity and inclusion. The Task Force was a point of connection between students and the Dean, and disbanded at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year once the immediate needs had been addressed and OCIE was created to address Diversity and Inclusion at the University-level. The Task Force concluded with the following reports:

In Spring 2016, Dr. Janet Ceja, Assistant Professor in the Archives Management concentration, was awarded a Dole Innovation Grant to support the project Eastorias, a community-engaged project that seeks to document the effects of gentrification and urban renewal on Latino communities in East Boston. The Dole Innovation Grant provided initial funding for recording equipment for community training and interviewing in the field. In Summer 2014, Lisa Hussey and Em Claire Knowles (SLIS) along with Johnnie Hamilton-Mason (School of Social Work) and two students were awarded a grant from the President's Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, entitled "Cultural Competence, Collaboration, and Courage: Understanding and Overcoming Institutional Racism." The grant funded collaborative programming and training for the entire Simmons community to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion and resulted in, among other things, an anti-racism study group, speaker and dinner events, and several presentations to faculty, alumni and students.

University-wide, President Drinan publishes regular updates, statements and positions relating to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a summary of which (from 2014-2017) can be found below. Among other things, the university has been working to address the Ten Demands presented to the president by the Black Student Organization and other undergraduate affinity organizations in November 2015.