Some people discover their passions at an early age. A.T. Miller's interest in social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion began before he could walk. Some of his earliest memories include attending rallies with his parents, watching protests and listening to the songs from his stroller.
He's since spent decades promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education and now, as Central Michigan University's vice president and chief diversity officer, he's developing plans to help CMU leverage the power of its diverse faculty, staff and students.
Strengthening, expanding and building
"Just as a chief financial officer makes sure that budget operations and controls work well in all units of a university, the same is true for equity and inclusion in all units for a chief diversity officer," Miller said.
Many departments on campus already have diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives in place, including some that have achieved successful outcomes. Miller said his role as chief diversity officer is to strengthen, expand and build on those existing programs while collaborating on new strategies.
This includes collecting and sharing data so each unit can set goals and measure success. He will hire both a diversity data analyst and a communications specialist to help gather and spread information on campus. He also has been sending CMU representatives to national conferences to seek out best practices and spark innovation.
Earlier this semester, Miller invited each college and several units on campus to appoint a representative to serve on the University Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. The new working group includes faculty, staff and students who will review current practices, identify areas for improvement, solicit feedback and suggest new initiatives.
"An irresistible culture of inclusion"
Creating a more inclusive environment will involve everyone on campus, Miller said. CMU's
affirmative action and equal opportunity statement includes 22 protected classes, and every person falls into each of those classes.
"We all have diversity within ourselves. We all have a gender, we all have a race, an ethnicity, a height, a weight and an age," he said.
He hopes to "cultivate an irresistible culture of inclusion, where we constantly seek to learn more from others."
"We can all practice being less certain and more curious about what others bring to the table. We can be more self-aware and reflective in the way we respond to others," he said.
He's working on a series of events, called Conversations that Matter, that will encourage people from different backgrounds to sit down together over a meal and begin to share ideas.
Miller also plans to further explore the "tribe-town-gown" partnership among the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, the community of Mount Pleasant and the university. He is planning several events to connect members from all three groups to brainstorm ways to create a welcoming atmosphere in the broader community.
Diversity is central to success
Miller already has been approached by people wanting to get involved, and he hopes others feel welcome to participate. After all, everyone stands to benefit from a more welcoming CMU, he said.
"Diversity, inclusion and equity are central to the recruitment, retention and development of talented individuals. We can help to drive the production of knowledge, promote academic excellence and inspire innovation."
Speaking the language
Although these words can be defined in many ways, here's one way to think about some of the key terms in this story.Diversity:
Any number of characteristics that differentiate one person or one group from another, such as race, gender, ethnicity and religion, but also can include age, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education and more. Equity:
The guarantee of fair treatment, equal access and opportunity for all people.Inclusion:
Active, intentional and ongoing efforts to create welcoming environments and increase the awareness, understanding and acceptance of diversity.