Comprehensive diversity work requires an institutional framework that illuminates a clear vision of impact, which can drive alignment and maximize success at the macro- and micro-levels. Indicators within an institutional framework define success and provide a roadmap that documents progress of diversity efforts towards a common vision. In other words, micro-level initiatives, such as those at the department-level or within specific offices, create a multitude of entryways for pursuing diversity work that draws on individual expertise, interests, and institutional responsibilities while macro-level efforts, such as campus-wide policies and structures, foster alignment and reinforce institutional accountability. The key to an overarching framework is to not only provide as many entryways for diversity work to emerge at all levels and across the institution, but also have these individual contributions converge on a specific vision for diversity rather than compete against each other, which can inhibit progress.
Therefore, we have chosen an institutional framework by Daryl G. Smith (1997) to guide our comprehensive diversity work. This framework has four major components, which are defined below.
- Institutional vitality and viability addresses the comprehensive university commitments to diversity (e.g., mission, strategic plan, and policies) and their effects on students achieving defined learning outcomes
- Education and scholarship involves the inclusion of diverse traditions in the curriculum, the impact of diversity on teaching, and the effect of diversity on scholarly inquiry.
- Campus climate focuses on understanding the environment of an institution in terms of promoting or interfering with student persistence and success.
- Access and success refers to policies, practices, and the benefits of increasing the numbers of diverse students on campuses and the ways in which that diversity affects the success of all students.
This framework helps map the connections and track indicators of success among all of the diversity work and determines if success has been achieved at Wesleyan University.
Two areas of Smith's framework guide the Dean for Equity and Inclusion work. The first is campus climate, and the second is student success. Campus climate efforts are based on research that indicates that the more intergroup opportunities for different social identity groups to dialogue the more likely a positive climate. In order to do this, safe learning spaces must be available, supported, and resourced, as well as focused leadership development that centers on fostering educational environments conducive to intergroup understanding through difficult dialogues.
Student success initiatives are driven by research that indicates the more that the institution fosters holistic belonging (i.e., intellectual, spiritual, cultural, emotional, and psychological) through seamless collaborations between academic and student affairs, the greater likelihood that students will achieve success. While the retention rates are high across racial/ethnic groups, which is typical of elite private institutions, the question we are exploring is to what extent are students are thriving (rather than surviving), especially students of color and marginalized students. By putting assessment at the forefront, we have developed elements of effectiveness (or outcomes) that inform our two areas of concentration. They are:
- Building Capacity to Foster Dialogue Among Different Social Identity Groups (new knowledge, abilities, and skills)
- Conducting Intergroup Dialogues (practice)
- Documenting Impact Using Qualitative and Quantitative Data (assessment)
Programs, activities, and events supported by the Dean of Equity and Inclusion must integrate these three elements of effectiveness. That is, ODEI initiatives must increase our capacity to sustain difficult dialogues with people from different social identity groups (e.g., anti-oppressive facilitating techniques and research on intergroup dialogue), collect data that documents impact (both testimonies and quantitative data such as attendance, demographics, and frequency of dialogues), and provide a plethora of both informal and formal opportunities in which diverse participants wrestle with tough and important issues.