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Emory community encouraged to comment on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Report
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The final draft of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Report is available online, and community members are invited to offer their perspective through March 30.

“The greatest gift of being part of the Emory experience is our willingness to hear one another. The present moment offers another important opportunity,” says Carol Henderson, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, chief diversity officer and adviser to the president. Emory’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Report, conceived under Henderson’s leadership and submitted to President Gregory L. Fenves and Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda in January, seeks community comment through March 30.

“The strategic planning report represents a starting point for all of us,” says Bellamkonda. “Community feedback is vital for us to co-create an Emory where every voice is represented, heard and acknowledged. This is the shared work of everyone who calls Emory home and values its mission to create, preserve, teach and apply knowledge in the service of humanity. I view the work of diversity and inclusion as not just an expression of our values of being just and fair, but also critically necessary if we are serious about pursuing excellence in research and education.”

Based on extensive conversations with community members since arriving in 2019, Henderson conceived the plan, whose themes include professional development, education and awareness; climate and culture; and accountability. Representing the full diversity of Emory, seven strategic planning communities (SPCs) — encompassing undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, postdoctoral fellows and associates, staff, faculty, alumni and civic and community partners — gathered the data and made the recommendations the report contains.

The work began in 2020 and bears the stamp of the call-to-action that year represented. “What I am so proud of is that, in the midst of a pandemic that flipped humanity on its head, in the midst of a racial reckoning, we had more than 70 community members — many more if you count those individuals surveyed, those interviewed and other outreach that SPC members conducted — who were willing to share their time and contribute to this report,” notes Henderson. For those who have not yet offered their perspective, now is the ideal time, though commentary will always be welcome throughout the life of this plan.

As he thinks about the report, Douglas A. Hicks, dean of Oxford College, notes, “Diversity and inclusion are core values at Emory, and it is essential that we apply these values through actions so that every student can reach their full potential. This is foundational work that makes Emory, including Oxford, a community that prepares students to serve and lead in a remarkably diverse world beyond graduation. I’m grateful to President Fenves, Provost Bellamkonda and Vice Provost Henderson for their deep commitment to creating a culture of shared reflection and action to address DEI concerns and opportunities.”

Aligning goals to the One Emory framework

As an organizational principle, Henderson looked toward the One Emory framework, asking that the SPC recommendations map to the framework’s four pillars denoting Faculty Excellence, Academic Community of Choice, Innovation through Scholarship and Creative Expression, and Atlanta as a Gateway to the World. “These represent core values for our institution, and all of the pillars have the tenets of diversity, equity and inclusion infused throughout them,” she says.

Staff and administrators are also vital, as community partners and collaborators, in helping to execute the goals of the report. Indeed, as with all the SPCs, the report captures each community’s discrete experiences and contains links to their recommendations, including those of staff.

As readers of the report will discover, the SPCs generated more than 200 recommendations that run the gamut from localized suggestions that would impact areas, units and schools to division-level proposals. Where the implementation will start is with the goals that have the widest effect across the enterprise. Following is a brief sampling of the types of goals by pillar:

  • Faculty Excellence — “Provide institutional support to interrogate and remedy systemic barriers that maintain inequities, particularly salary disparities and salary compression as well as hostile work and learning environments, across all faculty groups.”
  • Academic Community of Choice — “The university should reconvene and reconstitute the Committee on Class and Labor, revisiting the recommendations of the report for the contemporary social and political moment. The subcommittee recommends that the work include considerations of wealth disparity among students (e.g., the effect of legacy status in the admission process on economic diversity) given significant student concern about inequality of resources at Emory.”
  • Innovation through Scholarship and Creative Expression — “Emory must express its stated goal to truly be a partner to the broader Atlanta community and to allow everyone to reach their potential by addressing racial, economic, environmental and health injustice.”
  • Atlanta as a Gateway to the World — “Make strategic and inclusive investments (e.g., endowment management and retirement funds) using, where possible, diverse financial investment instruments and DEI and environmental, social, and governance screens that strengthen the endowment and generate economic capital for the region.”

The race and equity climate survey that Emory began participating in last fall, known as the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (NACCC) survey, will provide critical additional data that will help to shape the planning process for the DEI strategic goals.

“While we are developing an infrastructure to meet the needs of the report, the survey data, which the NACCC will share with us soon, will undergird that work,” Henderson says. Moreover, given the importance of the NACCC data, which is another way that the community reflects its experience of climate and culture, she has arranged for Emory to repeat the survey every three years.

The plan in practice

After the conclusion of the comment period, the next step will be what the DEI Strategic Planning Report calls “developing the blueprint,” which will mean settling on 12 to 16 enterprise-level recommendations and developing a timeline for their implementation. For the remaining recommendations, Henderson describes a process whereby “lead people then will take up the other recommendations if it is connected to their area and they will be empowered to consider the remaining recommendations.”

From there, in partnership with the Office of Institutional Research and Decision Support, measurement of the plan’s effectiveness will begin in earnest. “It is not just numbers that we will be concerned with but also looking at processes and eliminating barriers to success,” Henderson explains. “We will be thinking about climate and culture and people’s ability to thrive. We want a multifaceted approach that includes system recalibration, evaluation and an emphasis on process and level setting as well as qualitative and quantitative data.”

Ultimately, the key element in measurement is something pretty simple — humility and a willingness, says Henderson, “to hold ourselves accountable when we fall short of these goals as well as transparency in acknowledging any disconnect between what our values are and how we practice them.” 

Implementing a DEI strategic plan at Emory for the first time will be a watershed moment, but Henderson and the many others associated with this process conceive it as a journey, not a destination. “In all we do, we must remember that transformation is daily, everyday work. This is how inclusive eminence is activated for the benefit of the greater good,” says Henderson.

Add your voice to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Report by March 30 using this online community comment form.

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