An 11-month analysis has found that diversity programming at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is plentiful but in need of a strategic direction to establish and effectively pursue goals related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
The results, presented in three public forums on Sept. 25, are the culmination of a university-wide diversity and inclusion study completed by Halualani and Associates, a national research firm selected by the university. The study is part of Nebraska’s continuous effort to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus. Watch a video from the Sept. 25 forums.
“You have a lot of activity and provide a variety of diversity events at this university — which is great. But, you do not have strategic framing or alignment to guide those efforts,” said Rona Halualani, managing principal and founder of Halualani and Associates. “I would describe this as a treading water phase. There is active movement and activity, but no directional momentum.
“What you need is a strategic effort to link diversity activities, to set campus goals related to diversity and inclusion and actively work toward achieving them.”
In the final report Halualani identified eight urgent areas for the university to address within the next five years to improve diversity and inclusiveness. Those areas include:
Creation of a university-wide diversity strategic plan.
Continued progress on diverse recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students.
Continued progress on student retention and graduation for diverse student groups.
Recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff.
Diversity-related professional development for faculty, staff and administrators.
Further development of diversity-based employee groups.
In the State of the University address on Sept. 19, Chancellor Ronnie Green reported that the university is moving forward on recommendations made in the diversity analysis. To help Nebraska make gains in this area, it will work toward creating an Office of Diversity and Inclusion Excellence led by a new vice chancellor. This new vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion excellence will join the chancellor’s cabinet and report to Donde Plowman, Nebraska’s executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer.
Nebraska’s Diversity Council, which provides the chancellor and his leadership team with guidance on high-level issues of diversity and inclusion, will work with the administration team as the university moves forward with this implementation.
“The new vice chancellor will be charged immediately with the development of a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion, clearly called for by the report,” Green said in the State of the University address. “I look forward to major moves forward in this area for us as we build to the future.”
Overall, Halualani said Nebraska is average in its current state of diversity efforts when compared with the other 48 institutions that have undergone her firm’s diversity analysis process.
In the firm’s scale in assessing the evolution of diversity practice, Nebraska is in the second of four orders. Institutions in the second order demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion through activities, efforts and programs, yet lack a strategic plan to achieve goals.
“Nebraska is not on the cusp of reaching the third order at this point,” Halualani said. “To reach that level, the university must establish a strategic plan, define goals and make progress towards them. If work on this started yesterday, I would say you are two to three years away from real progress toward engaging diversity in a meaningful way.”
The report also recommends the university conduct regular climate surveys over the next few years to inquire on and track the state of diversity and inclusion on campus.
The complete diversity and inclusion report is available online. Other findings from the analysis include:
Nebraska has produced a solid record in relation to diversity efforts with 1,151 activities in the last five years. Of that total, 99 percent were primarily focused on and designed to achieve a specific aspect of diversity.
The university is already approaching diversity programming with a team approach, with most of the main campus divisions contributing toward activities in the last five years.
Nearly all diversity efforts since 2012 have been from an intrinsic/proactive source of motivation as opposed to an external/compliance or in reaction to a crisis. Halualani said that shows the university is genuinely committed to engaging diversity in a meaningful way and that it is important to the campus community.
The university has integrated diversity into curricula at all classroom levels. Nebraska’s Achievement-Centered Education courses —which are required for all undergraduates — offer the largest amount of diversity- and inclusion-related instruction.
Nearly 3,200 faculty and staff submitted reports for Halualani’s informational survey on diversity efforts at Nebraska. That total is the highest received by the firm in the last 10 years.
Faculty responses indicated a desire for more pedagogical instruction related to diversity.