Simmons University Launches New President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

President Lynn Perry Wooten and Simmons University have announced the launch of a new President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), which will elevate and address issues of equity, and social and racial justice during this pivotal moment.

The Council will advance Simmons’ more than 120-year commitment to women’s-centered education and leadership, and provide the framework for faculty, staff and students to tackle these key issues through learning, scholarship, teaching and service. Simmons has set an ambitious goal to become the most inclusive campus in New England.

“Inclusive and purposeful leadership has defined the Simmons experience since our university’s founding, and these historic strengths and our commitment to social justice are more important now than ever before,” said President Wooten. “Diversity and inclusion are inextricably linked to our mission of transformative education, and these principles must be woven into everything we do. The Council will empower all of us — individually and collectively — to make a positive difference as we address the very real challenges associated with achieving racial and social justice.”

Simmons University Professor of Practice of Social Work Gary Bailey, who also serves as Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Social Justice, will co-chair the Council with Sharron Credle, Simmons’ Vice President of Organizational Learning and Development. Bailey, who is the Director of the Urban Leadership Program, has taught in the Simmons School of Social Work since 1999 and is an expert in the areas of race and social justice. Credle oversees Simmons’ Office of Organizational Culture, Equity, and Inclusion, and she has extensive experience and expertise in organizational development and human resource management.

“I’ve been a part of the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for more than two decades, and I’m honored to co-chair this Council as Simmons continues to lead during these intersecting COVID-19 and racial inequity pandemics,” said Professor Bailey. “As a Black man and first-generation college student, I bring both my personal and professional experience to these efforts. This is not a time to be silent and Simmons has a unique opportunity to fulfill our mission of inclusive excellence. We are working to create an environment that is not only welcoming to all students, but one where being your authentic self is valued and celebrated.”

The Council will appoint a full cohort of members, which will include representation from every department on campus. The Council will also establish several subcommittees and develop concrete goals and action items to elevate and enhance Simmons’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

In addition, the Council is charged with promoting and supporting current DEI initiatives such as THRIVE — a key partnership with Human Resources that has transformed how Simmons recruits, hires and includes under-represented employees from diverse backgrounds. This initiative has resulted in significant gains, with staff hires of color increasing from 27 percent in 2018 to 42 percent in 2019. In addition, the current First-Year undergraduate class at Simmons is the most diverse in 40 years.

“As an African American woman who has been a part of predominantly white institutions all my life, I understand the structures and conversations that must take place, and I’m excited to serve as co-chair of this Council,” said Credle. “The Council will leverage and expand on the important work already underway at Simmons so that the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion are truly embedded in everything we do as an organization.”

The Council will work with the Organizational Culture, Inclusion & Equity Office (OCIE) and additional internal and external partners to bring relevant training, guest speakers, community reads and other initiatives to Simmons to help broaden issues related to violence, racial injustice, DEI, and to involve the community in these vital conversations.

Sample programming includes:

  • A “voter suppression, then and now” lunch and learn seminar
  • A community meeting focused on Gwen Ifill’s legacy today
  • Seminars on the experiences of students of color on predominantly white campuses
  • Campus climate surveys
  • Diversity history month events
  • Collaborations with the Simmons Institute for Inclusive Leadership
  • Enhanced communication and promotion of DEI initiatives, events and resources
  • Undoing racism workshops and leadership and professional development opportunities for students, faculty and staff related to:
    • Self-knowledge of identities and strengths
    • Well-being
    • Equity
    • Social justice
    • Collaborative and inclusive practices
    • Citizenship and service
  • College and school-specific activities
  • Faculty-specific DEI training and resources for pedagogy, including workshops on inclusive excellence, gender pronouns and cultural competence.

Principles of racial and social justice are also a part of the ongoing curriculum, research and learning in each of Simmons’ four colleges, including the College of Organizational, Computational, and Information Sciences, the College of Social Sciences, Policy, and Practice, the College of Natural, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, and the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities.

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Headshot of Gary Bailey

Dr. Gary Bailey, Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Social Justice at the College of Social Science, Policy, and Practice, Professor of Practice of Social Work, and Director of the Urban Leadership Program, was named co-chair of the new President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

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