Trustees hear from commissions on diversity efforts

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State trustees will meet today (Sept. 19) with members of the University’s Equity Commissions to learn about the role of those groups and their efforts to foster diversity across the University.

The annual discussion includes leaders and representatives from the Commission for Adult Learners; the Commission for Women; the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity; and the Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity (CORED). Supporting adult learners, mentoring programs for women, ensuring the presence of campus resources for LGBT community members and promoting best practices for increasing diversity on all the Penn State campuses are a few of the issues the commissions are focused on this academic year.

Victoria Sanchez, assistant vice provost for Educational Equity, said the annual lunch gives representatives from each of the commissions a chance to have tablewide conversations with trustees and University leaders about the topics the commissions are focusing on in 2014-15. She said those conversations, which have been taking place since about 2001, can lead to new ideas and approaches.

“The opportunity to talk about these issues with members of the Board of Trustees is very important as the University develops its priorities moving forward, including supporting an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Sanchez said.

Among the collaborative initiatives this year is the 10th annual pre-tenure symposium in October. The symposium, sponsored by CORED, Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity, and Commission for Women, will look at ways to support the success of tenure-line faculty from underrepresented groups, including women.

The lunch offered a chance to talk about those topics and ones each commission is spearheading. The Commission for Women is focused on supporting the Personal Safety and Sexual Assault Awareness Committee. The committee also is focused on “Women with Influence,” a digital media campaign celebrating the contributions of women at Penn State and noting the importance of having women and diversity in senior leadership positions.

Working with Student Affairs to have liaisons on each campus who can support LGBT students and staff is one of the key initiatives for the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity.

CORED is reviewing recommendations from a task force it had initiated in 2009-11 to look at student debt at the same time that it discusses best practices for making sure first-generation and low-income students don’t incur large amounts of debt while pursuing their degrees. CORED also is looking at issues related to subtle stereotyping and bias and the best ways to address them.

The Commission for Adult Learners’ priorities include forming a strategic plan that builds on President Eric Barron’s areas of focus, in particular issues of affordability and accessibility for adult learners, hosting the annual Hendrick Best Practices for Adult Learners Conference, monitoring various academic programs and other efforts to provide a supportive climate for adult learners.

The work of all the commissions is in step with the topics Barron outlined as areas of focus for the upcoming year, which included diversity and accessibility related to the affordability of higher education. Participating in the review of “A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State,” the University’s long-range strategic plan for diversity, first launched in 1998, is another important area of focus this year across all four commissions.

Sanchez said the strategic plan provides a picture of how far the University has come, where it needs to go and what needs to happen to get there.

“Members of the commission and our office are very pleased President Barron’s initiative includes diversity and accessibility and affordability,” Sanchez said. “These are issues the commission has worked to address through these programs and we look forward to working with the president to advance these priorities.”

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Last Updated May 10, 2016