A Collective Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

Now in its fifth year, the HEED Award continues to draw more applicants each year. INSIGHT Into Diversity is proud to recognize 83 institutions for their commitment to diversity and inclusion in 2016.

Like small cities within themselves, colleges and universities are tasked with educating and supporting a range of individuals of all backgrounds, beliefs, ages, and experiences. The ones that do this job best not only understand the value diversity brings, but also work diligently to ensure an inclusive campus community and an enriching experience for all, including students, faculty, staff, and administrators.

At INSIGHT Into Diversity, we know that this work is not done in isolation. To make progress in these areas requires a commitment from campus constituents at all levels to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion across all programs, services, and disciplines — and for people of different ages, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual and gender identities, nationalities, socioeconomic and disability statuses, and beyond.

This year, we are pleased to announce that 83 schools have demonstrated this commitment to diversity and inclusion and are being awarded the INSIGHT Into Diversity 2016 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for their efforts.

“Every year, as our applicant pool grows, we continue to set higher standards for the schools we select as award recipients,” says Lenore Pearlstein, co-publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “Each must demonstrate a strong and ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion through innovative programs and practices, training, curricula, on-campus support systems, and much more.”

The 2016 HEED Award recipients represent the diversity in higher education itself, with both public and private four-year baccalaureate-granting institutions, community colleges, law schools, and college districts and systems. They also include research institutions, religiously affiliated schools, and federally designated Minority- and Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Despite their differences, each college or university is held to the same high standards when it comes to assessing its efforts through the HEED Award application process. Understanding the complexity and breadth of this work, these institutions employ a collective approach to diversity and inclusion on their campuses.

studets“In order for schools to be successful in their diversity and inclusion work, it takes teamwork,” says Pearlstein. “Whether a school is a small liberal arts college or a large research institution, the entire campus.— from students to top-level administrators.— needs to be on board and take an active role in the programs, efforts, and initiatives created. It does take a village to truly be successful in this arena; no one person alone can be held accountable for diversity work.”

Valuing diversity means celebrating and engaging it, and HEED institutions actively facilitate these experiences every day. They create opportunities for engagement on campus through multicultural events, open forums, community service, the sharing of best practices, and more. However, the campuses that are flourishing are those where students, faculty, and staff are empowered by the administration to create these opportunities for themselves and others.

“The most successful institutions are those that understand that diversity and inclusion are both critical to success. A school can be diverse without being inclusive, and a school can be inclusive and not be diverse,” says Holly Mendelson, co-publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We expect both to be present.”

Beyond implementing policies and initiatives, assessment is key to ensuring the equity, effectiveness, and impact of diversity and inclusion efforts for all members of a campus community. Only through this process can institutions discover where gaps exist and make necessary improvements.

“There has to be accountability and metrics to measure progress,” Pearlstein says. “And if you aren’t moving the needle in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups, then you need to re-evaluate and determine what is and is not working.”

5yrThe HEED Award application itself has become a tool that many schools use to determine where their strengths and weaknesses exist. “We constantly hear from schools that they use our application as a way to measure their progress and learn where new efforts can be directed,” says Pearlstein. “This is extremely gratifying for us, knowing the impact we are making across higher education.”

This desire to move forward, to continuously work to improve the campus climate and experience for all, is a fundamental characteristic of HEED institutions. At INSIGHT Into Diversity, we aim to motivate colleges and universities to push themselves to continue to move the needle by focusing not just on today, but also on the challenges and opportunities still to come.

For HEED Award institutions, this should not be “a rearview mirror look,” Pearlstein says, “but rather a view of the road ahead.”●


Alexandra Vollman is the editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity.