Applying for the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award is not an easy process, nor is it meant to be. The application seeks in-depth information on DEI practices and data across campus departments. It’s no wonder then that, over the past 11 years since the HEED Award was created, many colleges and universities have used the application as a comprehensive guide in creating strategic plans, metrics, and accountability for campus diversity and inclusive excellence.
Kiwana McClung was recently named chief diversity officer at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette). Although the school has been a HEED Award recipient for the past five years, this year marked her first experience gathering information for the application. UL Lafayette is in the final phase of developing an institutional strategic plan, and the HEED Award application has proved instrumental as McClung engages with campus-wide planning committees.
“In the strategic planning process, we’re asking, ‘What is the goal in five years, and how do we think about it through the lens of DEI?’ The HEED Award application has been very valuable in figuring out how you [prioritize DEI] because it’s so comprehensive,” McClung says. “When I talk with committees, I can say, ‘This is something that they’re thinking about when they give the HEED Award, so we definitely want to think about that in our strategic plan.’”
DEI is interwoven through every subcommittee of UL Lafayette’s strategic planning group, and McClung was able to expand on key questions being asked — and suggest additional topics for discussion — because of her familiarity with the HEED Award application. For example, she was able to amplify the discussion around hiring practices using questions taken from the application.
“It’s helpful to have targets when we are thinking about the different aspects of the university, such as the processes of hiring — ‘How do we form search committees? How do we ensure committee members are diverse? How do we ensure that everyone on the committee is getting diversity training?’ That’s the biggest part that the HEED Award helps with — giving us metrics,” she says.
The application is evidence-based and requires collaboration with institutional recordkeepers who can dig deep into the numbers and parse particular sets of data to provide a more complete understanding of DEI efforts on campus. The comprehensive nature of the application became apparent when McClung sought data from UL Lafayette’s Office of Institutional Research.
“It was interesting because as I was reaching out for information, I realized I had to ask for it in a certain way,” she says. “It was the first time that I had considered the idea that depending on what you need to use the data for, you count the numbers differently.”
For example, she says, if a question is about the diversity of campus leadership, does that include vice presidents? Directors? Department heads? Deans?
“It’s caused me to be a lot more cognizant about the information I ask for, because what I get may not be accurate if I don’t ask for the right thing,” she says.
Applying for the HEED Award is always enlightening for the institutions that participate. They discover gaps in their diversity goals as well as valuable strengths and surprising growth, and these revelations often serve as pathways forward in DEI initiatives on campus. Applicants also learn — through questions about specific programs and initiatives — what other schools are doing as best practices that they had not yet considered or implemented themselves.
“The HEED Award application asks a lot of questions about your institution, such as the number of Pell Grants and the makeup of tenure-track faculty, students, and the administration, but it also asks about admissions and retention strategies and what kind of efforts are in place for that,” McClung says. “It’s forcing us to ask, ‘In what ways can we improve this?’ In other ways, I found out things we’re doing well that I didn’t even know about.”●
Janet Edwards is the executive editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity.
This article was published in our November 2022 issue.