The state of diversity and inclusion remains at the forefront of conversations on college campuses across the nation, including Central Michigan University.
This month, a universitywide assessment will launch at CMU to identify the university's most effective inclusion efforts and opportunities to strengthen its living-learning environment. The assessment follows a diversity and inclusion town hall meeting with hundreds of students, faculty, staff and Mount Pleasant residents convened by President George E. Ross in December.
"I'm proud of our community for continuing tough conversations during and after the town hall in December," Ross said. "It's our duty to continue to do all that we can to support the most inclusive experience possible for students in and out of the classroom."
The Barthwell Group, a certified woman-owned minority consulting firm headquartered in Detroit, was selected to conduct the assessment based on its global experience and expertise in diversity and inclusion. The firm has worked with other colleges and universities, including Indiana University, Iowa State University, Claremont McKenna College and the University of Texas at El Paso, to take a closer look at the inclusion climate and provide strategies specific to each institution.
A small team of Barthwell experts will conduct an assessment in coordination with several key staff. These university liaisons, each required to work outside of the subject matter being explored, will assist in reaching out to students, faculty and staff to gather program information, climate studies, input about diversity and inclusion efforts, and ideas for the future. Information and opinions, collected over several months, will be used to develop a final report presented to the university later this year. Provost Mike Gealt will coordinate the project in collaboration with the following university liaisons:
- Christi Brookes, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
and co-chair of the Shared Governance and Communication Committee;
- Katherine Lasher, executive director of the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity;
- Tony Voisin, associate vice president of student affairs; and
- Stan Shingles, assistant vice president of university recreation, events and conferences.
The liaisons were selected based on their understanding of the university's infrastructure, historical knowledge of CMU, and the aspects of student and employee life their offices represent.
The Barthwell assessment is designed to eliminate assumptions and provide an accurate, impartial analysis — something that can be difficult or impossible for organizations to achieve on their own, according to experts at The Barthwell Group. Their report will include observations from focus groups and one-on-one interviews, as well as a customized strategy that aims to strengthen CMU as an inclusive community.
"We have inclusion programs, support and a team of hardworking staff. It is important that we periodically reflect on our ever-changing community and recent efforts," Gealt said. "This assessment is a critical next step."