As the University of Nebraska–Lincoln prepares for the State of Diversity forum on Oct. 28, Nebraska Today is sitting down with college leaders to explore how inclusive excellence is being folded into day-to-day campus activities.
Since 2019, the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has worked directly with institutional leaders in multiple ways, including through the Council of Inclusive Excellence and Diversity. Intended to connect colleges, primary campus units and ODI, the council is led by Nkenge Friday, assistant vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, with representation from across the institution.
The work of the council has been pivotal in guiding diversity, equity and inclusion plans university-wide. And, momentum realized through the council is being featured in this Q&A series.
Today, we’re kicking off the series by chatting with John Raible, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Education and Human Sciences. Throughout his career, Raible — who is a professor in teaching, learning and teacher education, and is affiliated with the university’s Women and Gender Studies program and the Institute of Ethnic Studies — has been focused on multicultural education.
This question and answer series exploring campus diversity, equity and inclusion planning will continue beyond the State of Diversity forum and into November. If your college, department or unit has a plan to feature, contact Troy Fedderson at email@example.com or 402-472-8515.
What is the state of diversity, equity and inclusion planning in the College of Education and Human Sciences?
First, we don’t have a standalone diversity plan. Instead, as part of Dean Sherri Jones’ vision for the college, we are embedding diversity, equity and inclusion directly into our strategic vision. When complete, the document will make certain that everyone — from the dean to all faculty and staff — understands that they are responsible for helping move us forward. Accountability will be a key component because if we are going to be successful, it can’t just be one person. It has to be all of us working together and taking diversity seriously across all units.
How will individual employees in the college be held responsible for advancing diversity?
It is part of annual review process across the college. Everyone will be asked to reflect on where they attended to diversity, equity and inclusion. This is a core component of our overall plan — a way to make certain everyone is thinking about DEI and working it into day-to-day activities in the college. This level of accountability is a big step forward for us. I’ve been here 15 years and never once have I been asked explicitly what I’m doing to advance diversity.
Are elements of the strategic plan already being implemented?
Yes. One of the dean’s first acts was to create two leadership positions, including my new role as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. The work I’ve been charged with is definitely a part of the broader goal to advance diversity in the college. We’re building it into the annual review process and we’re talking about it constantly, making certain everyone in the college understands the importance of the plan and how the role they’ll play in helping advance it.
We’ve also launched racial literacy roundtables. They are a way to directly engage with students outside of the classroom to talk about differences in the power dynamic.
And, in the classroom, we are conducting independent syllabus audits, looking at what is being taught, topics being selected, books that are being read, and guest speakers we host. We want to evaluate how diverse our activities are and where we can make improvements.
Is there an element of the plan that is most exciting to you and/or is having a positive impact on the college?
One of our goals is to become the leaders on campus in diversity equity and inclusion. That is exciting because we are uniquely positioned to achieve it. The disciplines in CEHS focus on human sciences and education — we are in communities through extension, and we work directly with underserved populations, including immigrants, refugees, indigenous, Latinx and LGBTQ. We do people and in a way that is collaborative rather than demanding.
I’m also excited about the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation occurring across the university. It feels like we have real momentum and are having deep conversations that will improve the entire university. And, I think what we are seeing is UNL doesn’t just talk about it, that we are truly becoming a place that cares about diversity and inclusion. I’m glad to be a part of it.