Racial climate survey reveals variety of campus experiences

Students and teacher working together at front of classroom.

At Emory, and around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding racial reckoning in 2020 activated students, faculty, staff and alumni to examine systems, on and off campus, that allow some people to be treated differently from others.

When the campus community came back together, the need to further understand people’s perspectives was clear. To best gauge student, faculty and staff experiences of race relations — before, during and after the pandemic — Emory chose to participate in the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (NACCC) Survey.

The NACCC Survey was developed by the University of Southern California (USC) Race and Equity Center. With the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) leading the way, Emory joined the more than 160 private and public colleges and universities that have already participated.

“We are so grateful that members of the Emory community let their voices be heard, and we want them to know that their concerns have not been ignored,” says Carol Henderson, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, chief diversity officer and adviser to the president. “In order for Emory to ‘apply knowledge in service to humanity,’ as our mission states, we must ensure that when people step on our campuses, they feel valued.”

Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, adds, “At the heart of our key initiatives is a strong commitment to listening to our people and using their feedback to shape our efforts. The NACCC Survey provides us with vital information to guide us as we work together to create an environment that is diverse and inclusive, allowing our students, faculty and staff to flourish and achieve their best work.”

Inside the NACCC Survey


The NACCC Survey was developed based on more than a decade of research in the USC Race and Equity Center about race-related incidents on college campuses. The questions aim to elicit perspectives from students on ways they experience the campus racial climate. For the undergraduate student results, NACCC assigns each university a peer data set to which they are compared based on campus demographics. 

Emory is a part of a pilot group of schools to solicit graduate student feedback from the NACCC Survey; therefore, there is no peer data set for this group.

Students sitting on the Emory University Quad.

The NACCC Survey assesses student experiences in six areas:  

  1. Mattering and affirmation: This area assesses how students feel they matter in classrooms and various out-of-class campus spaces.  Additionally, students indicate the ways and the frequency with which faculty members affirm them.
  2. Cross-racial engagement: Students indicate the frequency and nature of their interactions on campus with same-race peers and with peers from different racial groups.  Additionally, they report their level of comfort in discussions with other students about issues related to race.
  3. Racial learning and literacy: Respondents consider if and where on campus they learn about their own racial identities and about other racial groups. Additionally, students indicate the extent to which they feel racial diversity is reflected in curricula and class discussions, and how prepared they feel to live and work in a racially diverse society after college.  
  4. Encounters with racial stress: In this area, students identify campus encounters they have experienced as racist, ranging from microaggressions and racial stereotyping to more overt acts of racial harassment and violence. They indicate the impact of these encounters on their personal well-being and academic success.
  5. Appraisals of institutional commitment: Here, students evaluate their administrators’ demonstrated commitments to racial diversity and inclusion at their institutions. They also assess institutional leaders’ responses to racial problems on campus.
  6. Impact of external environments: This section asks students to reflect on their sense of security and their encounters with racism in their hometowns, in the cities/towns surrounding their campuses, and in online and social media environments. 

Student results

All 15,844 Emory students — both undergraduate and graduate and professional — were invited to participate in the NACCC Survey in fall 2021. A total of 1,032 undergraduate students and 1,401 graduate students chose to participate. Students of color were overrepresented by the survey results. NACCC defines students of color as those who identify as Arab, Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latinx, Middle Eastern, Native American/Alaska Native or mixed race.

The institutional work to be more inclusive, equitable and diverse supports Emory’s educational mission and has centered on three areas of engagement: climate and culture, education and accountability. The results included in this article align with those pillars. To learn more, view the full survey results as well as recommendations from the NACCC researchers. 

Key takeaways from the undergraduate survey: 

  • 66% of students of color and 77% of white students indicated they mostly matter or strongly matter in classes with white professors.
  • 61% of students of color and 38% of white students felt moderately encouraged or completely encouraged about having conversations about race with students of color.
  • 29% of students of color and 28% of white students believed campus administration dealt with racism or racist incidents moderately effectively or completely effectively. 

Key takeaways from the graduate and professional survey: 

  • 63% of students of color and 80% of white students indicated they mostly matter or strongly matter in classes with white professors.
  • 66% of students of color and 44% of white students felt moderately encouraged or completely encouraged about having conversations about race with students of color.
  • 35% of students of color and 34% of white students believed campus administration dealt with racism or racist incidents moderately effectively or completely effectively.
Students talking in the Alumni University Memorial Center.
An Emory student holds a fan with the South Korean flag printed on it in one hand and a rainbow flag in the other hand at the Atlanta Pride Parade in October 2022.

New ways to engage students 

At Emory, many programs and initiatives have existed for several years, or have emerged in the past couple of years, to address equity issues. 

On the Atlanta campus, the Identity Spaces Project, which is expected to be completed this fall, will create five new spaces in Cox Hall for students from historically underrepresented groups (HUGs) to organize and socialize on campus. There will be designated areas for the Asian Student Center, Center for Women, Centro Latinx, Emory Black Student Union and LGBT+ Life. These groups have temporary spaces in the Alumni Memorial University Center that were renovated in 2021, but the spaces in Cox Hall will be permanent.

In addition to clubs and organizations, there are several programs to support students from HUGs. The 1915 Scholars program provides resources and support for first-generation college students, and Mariposa Scholars offers mentorship for undocumented students.  

Through the Office of Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE), the university also hosts a welcome event for students of color, supports heritage-month programming and provides peer-to-peer mentorship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.  

“We want Emory to be an environment where all students can flourish,” says Enku Gelaye, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life. “Finding community and belonging are essential to supporting student well-being and setting our students up for success. Assessments like NACCC help us quantify our students’ needs and meet them where they are so we can continue to enhance their student experience.” 

In partnership with Laney Graduate School (LGS), RACE has developed P2P Grad Connect, an initiative that connects early-career Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) graduate students with advanced LGS students. The Laney Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education initiative is also focused on building bridges among the many communities within the graduate school, hosting events and workshops as well as recruiting and retaining students from diverse backgrounds.

Emory also holds an institutional membership in the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, an online platform that provides training and career support for postdoctoral and graduate students. 

Oxford College has several programs aimed at DEI education. Diversity Diplomats is a student-ambassador program developed by the Oxford Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to educate students on various DEI topics and develop leadership skills. The popular Dooley Diversity Dialogue program invites students to discuss various DEI areas, such as microaggressions, as well as gender and sexual orientation, with peers. These programs are all designed to equip students to build respectful professional and interpersonal relationships with diverse groups of people.

“One of the things that I hear constantly from students, anecdotally and even from the data, is that the need to amplify the voices and spaces of underrepresented students is paramount in terms of increasing students’ sense of belonging,” says Wade Manora Jr., director of student DEI at Oxford College.

“Current staple programs will be modified, and others will be added, to meet the moment that has been established as a need from the NACCC Survey,” he says. 


Emory is a part of a pilot group of universities to use the NACCC Survey to elicit feedback from faculty and staff. For this reason, unlike the undergraduate student results, there are no peer institution comparisons. Employees responded to questions related to racial learning and literacy, encounters with racial stress and appraisal of institutional commitment, similar to the student survey. However, for employees, there are two differing areas.

Emory healthcare employee protesting for Black Lives Matter.

The NACCC Survey assesses employee experiences in two additional areas:  

  1. Workplace mattering: Respondents note the extent to which they feel they matter at their institutions and also to campus community groups. They indicate how much support they receive from their supervisor/unit leader, how often they experience disrespectful behavior in the workplace and the degree to which their perspective is valued in workplace decision-making processes. 
  2. Workplace equity: Respondents indicate their personal experience with discrimination based on their demographic characteristics (e.g., race, gender, age, sexual orientation). They report experiences receiving support for career success and advancement as well as how accessible and transparent their institution’s policies are related to promotion and tenure. 

Faculty and staff results 

All 17,867 Emory University employees were invited to participate in the NACCC Survey in fall 2021 or spring 2022. In total, 4,633 employees responded to the survey, of whom 3,101 are staff members and 1,532 are faculty. These respondent groups are more representative of Emory’s employee demographics than the student survey.

View the full survey results as well as recommendations from the USC Race and Equity Center staff. 

Key takeaways from the staff survey: 

  • 51% of staff of color and 61% of white staff indicated their perspective is mostly or strongly valued in decision-making processes at the workplace.
  • 57% of staff of color and 61% of white staff were satisfied with the overall quality of the racial equity, diversity and inclusion training from Emory. 
  • 31% of staff of color and 34% of white staff believed campus administration dealt with racism or racist incidents very or extremely effectively. 

Key takeaways from the faculty survey: 

  • 51% of faculty of color and 63% of white faculty indicated their perspective is mostly or strongly valued in decision-making processes at the workplace. 
  • 59% of faculty of color and 66% of white faculty were satisfied with the overall quality of the racial equity, diversity and inclusion training from Emory. 
  • 31% of faculty of color and 36% of white faculty believed campus administration dealt with racism or racist incidents very or extremely effectively. 

A member of the Emory community participating in the 2022 Atlanta Pride Parade
Emory Healthcare staff participating in the 2020 White Coats for Black Lives Protest

Recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and staff 

Ensuring that all Emory employees feel like they can bring their full selves to work is a top priority for Emory Human Resources (HR). In the past two years, HR has launched four employee resource groups (ERGs): Emory Pride Employee Network, Emory Black Employee Network, Emory Veterans Employee Network and Emory Latinx Employee Resource Network. These networks provide opportunities for connection, social engagement and career development strategies for employees from HUGs.  

In addition, next school year, HR will add a DEI competency to supervisor evaluations.

“We want our faculty and staff to know that they are valued,” says Theresa Milazzo, vice president of HR. “We are looking forward to working with the data from the NACCC Survey to help focus planning around diversity initiatives for staff. The workforce is more diverse than ever, and in order for Emory to continue to attract top talent in all areas, we have to make sure that the environment people walk into is one where they can bring their whole selves.”

Beyond HR, there are opportunities for Emory employees to increase their awareness of other people’s lived experiences.

Through Learning and Organizational Development, all employees have access to Communication for Inclusion, a course that covers topics such as microaggressions and implicit bias. Starting next school year, all faculty and staff will have access to a two-hour DEI training course each month. Data from NACCC will also be compared with results of the COACHE Faculty Satisfaction Survey.

Next steps 

The results revealed that students and employees of color have significantly different experiences from their white peers on Emory campuses. The Institutional Research and Decision Support team is doing further analysis on the NACCC data, which will be made available to Emory faculty, staff and students at a later date. In the coming months, the Emory community can expect to see the new DEI strategic goals, which employ short-, middle- and long-term tactics to achieve a more equitable campus environment. 

Results from the survey are one element that has already informed Emory’s new DEI strategic goals, which will be shared later this year. Other documents that have influenced the development of the goals are the results of the 2016 Diversity Engagement Survey; demands issued by the Coalition of Black Organizations and Clubs in 2020 and recommendations listed in the 2021 DEI Civic and Community Partners Report. In addition, in 2022, the Institutional DEI Strategic Planning Communities developed a strategic plan, which included more than 200 recommendations gathered from Emory alumni, students, staff and faculty.  

The DEI strategic goals align with other campus-wide initiatives such as the One Emory: Ambition and Heart strategic framework. The Commitment to Our People focus area of One Emory is about “ensuring [staff] are celebrated, given career pathways and inspired to grow and develop.”  

These goals also address aspects of the Student Flourishing and Faculty Eminence focus areas of the 2O36 Campaign. They address Student Flourishing by making efforts to “[create] an inclusive environment so that our diverse student body feels at home, strengthening their values, developing their skills and preparing them for advanced studies and for their careers.” The goals also address Faculty Eminence because “the diversity of our faculty is a strength for our university, as they contribute to our eminence today and in the future,” according to the campaign website.   

“With this information in hand, it is the responsibility of every member of Emory — our leaders and all of our people — to listen attentively and act accordingly,” says Bellamkonda. “In the Office of the Provost, we will do all we can so that our leaders and community members at every level have the responsibility, autonomy and ability to be the agents of positive action this work demands.” 

During the next five years, efforts to create a more inclusive environment will be seen in every part of campus. The overall goal of the DEI initiatives is to close the experiential gap, so that everyone has a chance to develop their best selves at Emory. 

Since fall 2021, all incoming Emory College students have been required to complete one course before they graduate that fulfills the Race & Ethnicity General Education Requirement. Students can choose from a wide variety of classes to expand their understanding of different people’s languages, cultures and customs. 

Looking forward, the Twin Memorials will honor enslaved laborers and their descendants who lived and worked on Emory’s original campus in Oxford, Georgia. The Indigenous Language Path will memorialize Indigenous peoples, such as the Muscogee (Creek), who previously lived on land where Emory is now located.

“Transformation is happening at Emory, and we are positioned to lead the way in higher education,” says Henderson. “This survey has confirmed for us that our compass is pointed in the right direction, and we intend to see this journey to the end.”

For additional information about the NACCC Survey and DEI programs at Emory, visit the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website or email odei@emory.edu.  

Written by Kelundra Smith. Designed by Ruby Katz. Images by Emory Photo/Video.

Three Emory graduate students on campus

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