Tasked with educating and preparing the next generation of leaders, higher education institutions in the U.S. bear great responsibility when it comes to ensuring a bright, sustainable, and economically viable future for our country.
As we as a nation become more diverse, so do our college and university campuses, making the efforts of these institutions to create safe and inclusive spaces for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators to learn and work paramount to not just their individual success, but also our collective success as a country.
At INSIGHT Into Diversity, we know that this work requires a comprehensive and strategic approach. Ensuring a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all involves a commitment to members of the campus and the surrounding community, the investment of resources, continuous dialogue and education, awareness of and attention to the campus climate, and opportunities for socialization and celebration.
This year, we are pleased to announce that 80 colleges and universities have demonstrated this commitment and are being awarded the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for their efforts. Of these, 15 institutions are being recognized as Diversity Champions for ranking in the top tier of HEED Award recipients. Additionally, seven institutions are being recognized as HEED Award Honorary Mentions for their commendable work to improve diversity and inclusion on their campuses.
Now in its sixth year, the HEED Award evaluates colleges’ and universities’ commitment to diversity and inclusion through a variety of lenses. Recipients proactively work to ensure the representation and inclusion of people of all backgrounds and circumstances, including those of different races, ethnicities, religions, nationalities, abilities, veteran statuses, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and gender identities.
Each facing distinct challenges, 2017 HEED Award institutions — which include two- and four-year, public and private, undergraduate and graduate, and law schools — have developed unique and thoughtful approaches to addressing the needs of their diverse constituents. They understand that progress involves both proactive efforts and those that respond to issues as they arise. Through the creation of a range of programs, initiatives, services, scholarships, events, forums, offices and centers, trainings, and policies.— and with support from the highest levels of the administration — these colleges and universities have and continue to provide spaces that foster the academic, professional, social, cultural, and personal lives of every member of their campus communities.
With a mission to retain students who are struggling financially, micro-grants have helped one institution prevent thousands of students from leaving. Bonded by similar backgrounds and experiences, men of color find a support network and learn to develop together as leaders through a program centered on brotherhood. Other students, such as veterans and LGBTQ individuals, find the services, support, and resources they need via centers that help provide a sense of belonging on campus.
A new $100 million investment drives one university’s commitment to diverse faculty recruitment and career development, while another institution is striving to improve the
recruitment and retention of female faculty in STEM disciplines through research and analysis. For men of color, one program serves as a national model for increasing their representation in K-12 schools by recruiting from and requiring that these students serve in districts with the greatest need.
In the community, a collaboration between a university and a retirement community has created a mutually beneficial partnership in which students are paired with senior citizens and learn about the
power of resilience. Recognizing the importance of calling out injustice, one institution is acknowledging its historical ties to slavery through the development of a memorial to the enslaved laborers who helped build and found the university.
Annual diversity reports, campaigns, surveys, and forums have informed many schools’ efforts around improving the campus climate and have sparked meaningful dialogue. These include a speakers series to foster conversations on critical and controversial topics, as well as an event focused on discussing Islamophobia following months of attacks on the Muslim community.
All of these efforts and more are what set HEED Award institutions apart. Their commitment to creating the best experience and ensuring the best outcomes for all is witnessed by the ways in which they invest in members of their campus communities. By not taking their responsibility to educating and preparing the next generation lightly, these 80 colleges and universities have proven themselves worthy of national recognition.●
Alexandra Vollman is the editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity.