Next steps for diversity plan focus on the long term

The University Diversity Council (UDC) recently revised the Toward New Destinations (TND) diversity planning document to better define its core principles: composition, achievement, engagement and inclusion. The revision also supports a broad understanding of potential targeted groups, and looks forward to the ways in which the implementation of the diversity initiatives will become an ongoing part of the life of the university.

"Last year, we asked the colleges and units to engage in a planning effort, choosing five diversity initiatives, each tied to one of the core TND principles, that they would pursue in the year ahead," said Laura Brown, vice provost for undergraduate education and co-chair of the UDC. "This year, we are asking them to also include outcomes -- reviewing those efforts; determining what worked, what didn't work, and what needs adjusting going forward; and using that assessment to continue with certain efforts or add new ones."

Provost Kent Fuchs, who is also a member of the UDC, credits the TND's robust start to the college and unit leaders' commitment to diversity and inclusion. "Their thoughtful integration of specific diversity initiatives that will further their strategic goals, along with the work of the diversity representatives from across campus, gives substance to the Toward New Destinations planning process," he said.

The UDC will meet with the diversity councils of the colleges and units on March 13 to continue this process of assessment and future planning.

Brown said that initiatives in the area of composition, or demographic makeup, are often readily defined and measured, as are initiatives that support such individual achievements as faculty promotion to tenure, staff career development and student academic success or graduation rates.

The core principles of inclusion and engagement are sometimes harder to quantify, Brown added, and developing initiatives that demonstrate progress in those areas can be challenging. The revised TND document includes definitions of the core principles as well as sample initiatives in each case.

Engagement is defined as the level of an individual's personal, social and professional commitment to institutional goals and activities. It can be measured by such indicators as informal leadership roles or creative opportunities available for and filled by underrepresented individuals.

Inclusion comprises climate and interpersonal relations and involves the long-term cultivation of an environment in which all groups are welcome. It can also involve the development of measures to provide and cultivate an environment free of bias, Brown said.

The revised TND also includes a section on "targeted groups" to describe the potential breadth and scope of diversity efforts, giving colleges and units the flexibility to designate target groups appropriate to their own strategic plan, profile and mission, and to the distinctive nature of their own constituencies.

TND diversity planning needs to become part of the life of the organization as well as the everyday lives of Cornell's students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents, Brown said. To further this aim, the revised document includes a diversity planning calendar and templates for annual initiatives that simplify and institutionalize reporting. College or unit initiatives will be part of each respective college's or unit's annual report, and will also be compiled as a universitywide diversity report and ongoing archive.

"We want to build a story of the institutionalization of diversity across Cornell," said Brown. "We want to establish an archive of the records of opportunities, successes and challenges, so that those who come after us can learn from our experiences. We also want to show that the university's ongoing investment in diversity is part of our institutional memory going forward."


March 2011: Administrators announce creation of three new diversity positions.

April 2011: Renee Alexander '74 named associate dean of students/director of intercultural programs.

May 2011: A.T. Miller named associate vice provost for academic diversity, heading the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives.

July 2011: Sheri R. Notaro named associate dean for inclusion and professional development at the Graduate School.

October 2011: The Cornell Intercultural Center and the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives celebrated.

February 2012: John Siliciano, senior vice provost for academic affairs, and Yael Levitte, associate vice provost for faculty diversity and development, lead faculty diversity efforts.

February 2012: President David Skorton announces new diversity approach, "Toward New Destinations"; University Diversity Council restructured.

May 2012: New diversity website launched.

August 2012: Intergroup Dialogue (Educ. 2610) three-credit course launched.

September 2012: Cornell's senior leadership holds diversity retreat to share Toward New Destinations college and unit diversity initiatives.

September 2012: Cornell partners with Posse Foundation to bring students from urban public high schools to campus.

November 2012: Cornell wins $1.1 million McNair grant supporting underrepresented students seeking doctoral degrees.

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John Carberry