Making Excellence Inclusive (MEI) is an initiative meant to assist our community in identifying ways to further institutional diversity and inclusion. President Michael Roth announced the launch of this initiative on November 18, 2010. MEI involves all parts of the University and is overseen by a Presidential Task Force tri-chaired by Sonia Mañjon (vice president for institutional partnerships and chief diversity officer), Michael Whaley (vice president for student affairs), and Rob Rosenthal (provost and vice president for academic affairs).
Wesleyan's initiative draws on the Making Excellence Inclusive project of the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) that re-envisions diversity and inclusion as "a multi-layered process for achieving excellence in learning, research and teaching, student development, institutional functioning, local and global community engagement, workforce development, and more."
A variety of useful definitions made by the AAC&U can be found here. The key definitions for our purposes are:
Diversity: Individual differences (e.g., personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations).
Inclusion: The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity -- in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect in ways that increase one's awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex interactions of individuals within systems and institutions.
MEI involves all university stakeholders. With regards to students, this initiative focuses specifically on:
- ways in which students currently explore issues of difficult differences (such as racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for human rights, freedom, and power),
- engagement in learning communities such as the Wesleyan Diversity Education Facilitation Program (Wes DEF) and certain student fora,
- implementation of programs and networks that promote awareness of and engagement with diversity on campus.
Students benefit from learning environments that make use of real-world challenges and that engage big societal questions, learning to see the relevance of their studies more readily and to become more adept at relating theories and concepts to their own everyday life experiences. They also develop intercultural competence.
With regards to faculty and staff, this initiative provides a framework for critical discussion of inclusion at the departmental level. The specific charge for every department/office here is to understand its engagement with diversity and to develop a concrete plan for such engagement going forward. Faculty and staff are asked to think about the level of their individual engagement with diversity and discuss with colleagues how inclusion can be strengthened in their areas. On the basis of these discussions, departments/offices will develop micro-level goals, metrics and assessment tools for making excellence inclusive in their specific domains.
Wesleyan's Board of Trustees has convened a working group to contribute to this initiative by looking at the university's record of recruitment, hiring, and retention of a diverse faculty, by looking at what is happening in this area at peer institutions, and by thinking about what would constitute success on this front.
The Presidential task force is charged with oversight of the initiative, examining internal data and external information so as to determine specific areas for further study, reviewing departmental process and outcomes, and making recommendations to the president regarding institutional change. The initiative has an initial three-year timeline.
MEI builds upon past efforts by the University to promote diversity and inclusion and responds directly to an objective set forth in its current mission statement: "The University seeks to build a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit."
Wesleyan 2020: A Framework for Planning also emphasizes Wesleyan's commitment to achieving diversity: "We believe that all students benefit from being part of a learning community whose members - coming from different geographical regions and belonging to different socio-economic, racial, and ethnic groups - approach the world from a variety of perspectives."