Penn State maintains lead in diversity strategic planning in higher ed

University Park, Pa. -- Since 1998, Penn State has continued to be among national leaders in fostering diversity through strategic planning. In 2010, Penn State will embark on its third five-year plan, A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State 2010-15. Within each planning cycle, the University conducts a self-assessment of all campuses, colleges and administrative units to ensure the promotion of equity among its faculty, staff and students. Each assessment reveals best practices and continuing challenges, which determine the goals for University-wide achievement during the next five-year phase.

W. Terrell Jones, vice provost for educational equity, said promoting equity and inclusivity in higher education is not only the right thing to do, but the strategic thing to do.

"A more diverse group is beneficial to higher education; it gives rise to creativity and a competitive edge," said Jones. "Because the demographics of the nation and workforce are changing we need to successfully educate all students in order to maintain our institutional vitality and economic viability and to continue to contribute to our society and economy, locally and globally."

When the original five-year plan was established in 1998, seven Challenges were outlined as the infrastructure of this initiative. These challenges continue as guidelines for each five-year plan. While each unit throughout the University is reviewing the progress made from the 2004-09 plan (the results of which will be submitted in December), the goals for the 2010-15 period have been set. Under each of the original seven challenges new efforts are being targeted to make Penn State even more of a trailblazer with this initiative.

Some targeted areas of improvement under the first challenge, "Developing a Shared and Inclusive Understanding of Diversity," include using multiple communication strategies to share diversity information, goals and accomplishments throughout the University; increasing the responsibilities and influence of the unit diversity committee; and actively demonstrating support of and adherence to Penn State's nondiscrimination policy.

Under the second challenge, "Creating a Welcoming Campus Climate," areas targeted for improvement include climate assessment processes and approaches for addressing climate concerns; maintaining high visibility of diversity resources; and promoting an atmosphere where differing strengths can be recognized and valued.

The third challenge, "Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Student Body," focuses on assisting students from underrepresented/underserved populations in gaining access to higher education and developing their skills for success; increasing commitment to need-based aid and other means of support for low-income; and helping to ensure student success.

Under the fourth challenge, "Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Workforce," hiring processes are targeted, with an emphasis on use of the Affirmative Action Office and the Office of Human Resources to attract talented and diverse pools of employees at all levels. There also is a focus on the value of diversity expertise and diversity professional development within the staff annual review process.

Targeted areas of improvement under challenge five, "Developing a Curriculum that Fosters U.S. and International Cultural Competencies," include promoting curricular and research initiatives that increase all students' capacity to understand domestic and international diversity issues; infusing diversity issues, topics and perspectives into undergraduate and graduate courses; and emphasizing student capacity to understand contemporary U.S. diversity issues within national, international and historical contexts.

Challenge six, "Diversifying University Leadership and Management," will test Penn State in the next five years to strengthen the articulation between unit-level and department-level diversity planning, implementation and reporting; ensure that search committees for leadership positions require expertise in fostering a diverse, inclusive and equitable environment; and promote diverse composition of leadership teams at all levels of the University.

Finally, the seventh challenge, "Coordinating Organizational Change to Support our Diversity Goals," looks at fostering synergies among diversity, mission and institutional viability and vitality; instituting necessary organizational realignments, systems of accountability, resources and allocation strategies, and long-term planning strategies to realize the University’s diversity goals; establishing solid connections between executive-level and department-level planning and implementation; and augmenting partnerships with underrepresented/underserved communities.

These are just a few of the goals Penn State is determined to improve upon over the next five years to foster diversity on all of its campuses, according to Jones. To see the Framework in its entirety, visit: . The Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity Web site maintains a comprehensive repository of unit diversity strategic plans, updates and feedback reports from each Framework cycle. Results of the 2010 assessment will be available in fall 2010.

Last Updated July 30, 2009