NEWS

Engage with CMU’s new diversity strategic plan

Community invited to explore plan, participate in goal attainment

| Author: Ari Harris | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

After more than a year of engaging student, faculty, staff, alumni and community stakeholders, Central Michigan University’s new five-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan is ready for implementation.

And now that the plan has been approved and shared, Shawna Patterson-Stephens, vice president for Inclusive Excellence and Belonging, hopes everyone at CMU will review its goals and priorities and, more importantly, will choose to explore their role in bringing them to fruition.

There are opportunities for individual units and divisions to contribute, and also for individuals to participate in making the university a more inclusive place for everyone, Patterson-Stephens said.

Setting institutional goals

Following months of engagement and plan development with a variety of campus stakeholders, Patterson-Stephens said members of the University Diversity, Equity and Inclusion council and other campus committees and groups helped to fine-tune the plan.

“What was most apparent from the start of our effort was that in the decades of diversity planning conducted at CMU, several concerns continued to emerge that appeared to go unaddressed,” she said. “The starting point for developing our current plan was determining which systemic issues we could effectively prioritize and address that might have a long-standing, positive impact on our community.”

Patterson-Stephens said the working groups analyzed the university’s previous four diversity plans and saw consistent patterns and themes emerging; those recurring themes helped to shape the new plan’s three priorities:

  • Equalize student graduation rates.
  • Diversify faculty and staff.
  • Foster a more inclusive community.

“While we would like to attend to all matters simultaneously, we needed to be strategic in prioritizing emergent concerns,” she said. “It is our hope that everyone feels as though their lived experience is reflected in our institutional goals.”

Ways to make a difference

“Here at CMU, it is clear that many people are invested in making certain our various communities and constituencies feel included and that they belong,” she said. “And while the adage, ‘diversity is everyone’s responsibility’ is often signified, many people do not know where to begin or who will take the lead on accomplishing the tasks that have always been at hand.”

To ensure goals are achieved, individual objectives and goals have been assigned to project leads — divisions and units responsible for managing the processes needed to achieve the goals. The plan also includes accountability resources in the section concluding each goal.

“Each unit should have been advised by the lead of their division to begin outlining the ways in which they will work to meet our institutional goals,” she said.

To empower community members to engage, the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion created multiple versions of the plan information, from the full plan document to a more narrative overview document and even a brief video highlighting plan goals - a link to the video is provided at the end of this story.

“The most important things an individual can do to promote a more inclusive campus are to become aware of current issues, to seek opportunities to enhance their personal growth and understanding, and to connect with different segments of the university to provide additional support to achieving our institutional goals,” Patterson-Stephens said. 

“We highly encourage our community to review the plan and, if someone is curious about figuring out where to begin, they can reach out to the OIDEI office or to members of the University Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.”

A new plan for inclusion and belonging

Development of the new diversity strategic plan has been ongoing since Patterson-Stephens rejoined the CMU community as vice president and chief diversity officer in spring of 2021. Initial efforts to engage the community included live listening forums and online feedback forms, and also included meetings with student leaders, as well as with faculty and staff groups.

Emerging themes and priorities also were a focal point of the 2023 Diversity Symposium, held in April.

Work on the plan began earlier this year, Patterson-Stephens said, and has progressed this fall. Units across campus have received invitations to liaise with the University Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, creating new opportunities for collaboration and partnership toward goal attainment.

And, at the end of each academic year, Patterson-Stephens said the OIDEI office and the Council will publish an annual report to update the university community on CMU’s progress on each of the priorities.