Recommendations and insights are considerations, from the local institution perspective, on various topics throughout the project lifecycle. The recommendations and insights are arranged in five general areas: 1. Planning; 2. Awareness building; 3. Capacity building; 4. Networking, engagement and commitment; and 5. Continuous engagement (ongoing work for sustaining relationships and projects). The general areas of categorization are fluid and contextual. You may find that some points fit better in other areas depending on your institutional context, project goals or the current stage in the life of your project.
- It is important for a university to do a fundamental self-study and thorough planning at the university level before engaging in multi organizational diversity, equity inclusion organization change initiatives.
- Consider in advance the constraints and how you will deal with them. Examples of constraints faced at the local level included:
- Inflexibility of the grant structure and proposal
- Bureaucratic hurdles
- Balancing faculty duties as both a research advisor and professional mentor. Traditionally students rely on research advisors for professional growth mentoring, however there might be an inherent conflict based on short and long term goals by each. Identify and promote formal professional growth mentoring activities to students outside the research lab; examples that we have used include resources provided by our local Graduate School, Center for the Integration of Research Teaching and Learning, Association of College and University Educators, National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity.
- Follow the Institutional Network Mapping Exercise instructions [link to Institutional Network Mapping Exercise page, set page to open as separate window] to create a holistic relationship map of existing institutional partners and identify new partnerships to be developed (at all levels) for project success; highlighting where energy in relationship building should be invested (Goals and objectives 1). Identify who might be able to provide support for the DEI goals.
- Discuss the degree to which your institution is ready to engage in a long term, multi-institution change project (Goals and objectives 2)
- Summarize key points necessary for sustained engagement in a multi-year, multi-institutional change project (Goals and objectives 3)
- Get everyone on board with learning the new terminology. This is particularly important when onboarding new team members and partners to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the language used.
- Define goals for the work; educating faculty in departments, educating faculty at large.
- Be aware of and inform others that Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous (BHI) scholars are often asked over and over to do DEI work that is above and beyond their research priorities. For example, they may be asked to take a leading role in DEI activities or to talk to URM high school students about their experiences and the climate at their department and university as role models without a direct benefit onwards completing their doctoral research. It is important to make graduate students aware of how these activities can be structured to add value to their CV. A bullet on a CV related to DEI activities, especially in the current climate where some DEI knowledge and/or exposure is sought by employers and in academia. The DEI work may also help a student develop a strong diversity statement for their prospective employers.
- Highlight to the local partners the benefits of getting involved. Be sure to understand their needs, and frame the benefits to speak to the needs and challenges they face.
- Dedicated support with project and intervention planning and execution is necessary. Explicit conversations with interested parties on time commitments from staff members and others (champions, partners but the administrators – people who control budgets).
- Identify and develop students who have a vested interest to participate in diversity, equity inclusion initiatives and encourage them to take a leadership role and. Have a few STEM student leaders who can reach out and develop a network to get students together to discuss issues. This could take various forms, focus groups, listening sessions, interventions/workshops, affinity group graduate student associations, etc.
- Faculty should develop relationships with administrators and communicate to administrators how the project will address challenges to gain their buy-in and support and vice versa from administrators to faculty.
- Identify local champions; people who are able and willing to participate, make sure there is representation of faculty in the trenches and administrators who recognize the need for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, allocate release time, and recognize DEI work in faculty/staff evaluations.
- Provide or advocate for financial incentive to the students who participate in DEI work so they can justify spending their free time on this important work.
- Develop a sustainable on-boarding process to smooth transition when roles change in your institutions
- Consider a shared leadership model in teams at both the alliance level and local institutional level. The shared leadership model leverages and values the diverse skillset, expertise and lived experiences across the team. Implementation of the shared leadership model at your institution may in fact be part of Actuating.
Networking, engagement and commitment
- Holistic admissions, or any other singular approach to improving institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion is not enough. It is important to partner across departments to understand what the main challenges are, what is and has been done, and what is and has been working. Working across units will provide the necessary insights and allow for pooling of resources.
- Develop long term relationships where there is inherent buy in.
- President and Provost level needs to emphasize that DEI work is prioritized at the institution and note that it will be rewarded. DEI needs to be valued, measured, and considered as an important component of promotion and tenure package. Patents may be used as an example of a recent paradigm shift in tenure and promotion.
- University leadership should provide an explanation of the benefits of having DEI credentials as faculty, staff, etc. As the faculty observe that these credentials are valued they may be more likely to encourage their students to obtain some level of credentials during their studies.
- Chairs and/or program directors should strongly inform faculty research advisors to encourage their students to participate in DEI activities (within reason) and that they can use their reasonable involvement with DEI work/activities to develop their own Diversity Statement in application letters. Example “Okay, you can spend an hour every 2 to 3 weeks participating in DEI activities such as workshops, focus groups or talking to visiting students. However, do not overdo it since priority is your research work.”
- Pay attention to, document, and share challenges and success observed at the alliance level, these will inform similar challenges and success at the local institution level.
- Communicate and connect within and across institutions:
- Maintain ongoing communications with local partners through whatever means works best for both parties
- Document and share activities and interventions
- Report success and challenges
- Seek advice and support
- Recognize how the needs at the alliance level migrate and apply to the institution local level.
- Continuously work on trust at all levels. Ways we worked on trust included:
- Open lines of connection, we could email or call individuals to discuss problems and challenges, seek advice and ask for help, and clear the air when misunderstandings arise
- We were not afraid to reach out to ask for help, advice or bounce ideas. We found that vested partners are interested in the success of the work, this was true at the local and cross institution alliance level.
- Meeting regularly to check in and get work done.
- Recognize where the grant project is positioned within your institution and the positionality of team members. Network mapping allows you to highlight these dynamics and pivot when organization changes impact your project.
- Uniform assessment across institutions has to be done at the NIC level, can not be done at the institutional level. And even at the NIC level, assessment must reflect the differing contexts across institutions. Progress at individual campuses can not be compared or measured the same way.
- Periodic and continuous self-assessment is needed at the institutional level and at the NIC level. Use products from this module as points of reflection and assessment; adapt, update and pivot as needed (see Goals and objectives 1-3).