DEI: What 5 Methods Can College Leaders Implement?

DEI professor_and_student working promoting DEI

Many underrepresented faculty members feel invisible in their departments, especially women in STEM fields. At the same time, people of color may feel hyper-visible as diversity and inclusion programs roll out. Still, leaders face entrenched historical obstructions. Below are five ways leaders can encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on campus. 


Discuss DEI at All Levels   

First, deans set the vision, and the share the vision. Deans talk about DEI often. Inclusion plans make sure the school is reaching nearby communities. Also, schools that let the DEI lead, spur innovation to resolve problems. So, leaders must talk about inclusion, diversity, and equity every chance they get across all levels of the institution. A great place to start is facilitating discussions around policies. Examine policies that are in the way. Then, take steps to cut them. Still, large-scale inclusion programs often fail. So, break big projects into small steps. 


Champion DEI   

Inclusion programs need champions. Schools need diversity and inclusion chairs. Still, institutions need to do more than establish the DEI office. Therefore, leaders need to do more than write a memo introducing the department chair. Leaders need to show up and prioritize meetings. Also, deans shift efforts from the institution’s footnotes to the mission of the institution. Leaders and DEI officers cannot do this heavy lifting alone. It is everyone’s responsibility. Leaders must etch DEI into job descriptions, agenda items, and more. Deans and administrators must name barriers that block an inclusive campus. Then, get rid of these barriers so that students feel valued and respected.


Direct Mentoring Plans at Inclusion 

Most importantly, chief DEI officers need to be able to do their jobs. Deans drive strong internal goals and keep mentorship plans on track. Leaders make sure outcomes match the aim of the program. Also, chairs mentor proteges. They can monitor if promotions are consistent. Besides that, leaders review social interactions that foster exclusion. 


Connect Opportunities to DEI 

Also, deans connect opportunities to students. Research talks and service assignments are two examples of how deans can do this for students. Still, transparency is the key. Reports of women and underrepresented minorities overburdened with teaching and assisting duties are abundant. Therefore, time commitments and duties must be clear upfront. Facilitated, scheduled discussions around shared research interests ignite small inclusive communities. 


Leverage the Power of Regular Communication for DEI 

Still, large-scale diversity efforts fail without support and celebration. Likewise, small changes win. Historical constructs resist change. Also, chairs find some fields resist DEI efforts more than others. STEM fields, in particular, need momentum from small wins. STEM staff continues to report an environment of harassment and discrimination. Still, chairs feel they can do small wins. Besides that, small wins subtly shift the culture. Yet, leaders overlook the power of regular communications plugging these wins. Regular updates let leaders highlight faculty and their research to the school. Chairs recognize the work of diverse populations and give star performers awards. Chairs advertise these efforts with calendars, lectures, and social events. 


In sum, inclusion is best when it is critical to the core mission of the school. Leaders foster inclusion on campus and with staff by taking on the above items. Leaders talk early and often about DEI programs. They leverage communication tools to connect students to opportunities. Most importantly, college officers overhaul policy to promote supervised mentorship plans. Savvy deans champion initiatives that chisel away historical obstructions. 

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