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Journalism and Mass Comm aims to show progress toward diversity, inclusion goals
As the University of Nebraska–Lincoln moves forward with diversity planning, 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 continuing the series with the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, chatting with John Bender, professor of news-editorial and chair of the college’s Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
This question and answer series exploring campus diversity, equity and inclusion planning started prior to the State of Diversity address on Oct. 28 and continues 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 Journalism and Mass Communications?
We are in the process of developing a diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan with outcomes that align with the university’s N2025 plan. We have formed a committee, charged by Dean Shari Veil, to work on that plan. It will include specific goals and metrics for goals we aim to meet in the next two to five years. As we move forward with our plan, we will work to coordinate its outcomes with the university’s N2025 report.
Ultimately, we want to show that the college is indeed accomplishing or making progress toward our DEI goals. As part of that, we’ve started to work on reaching out to a greater concentration of students from minority and underrepresented populations. We’re doing the same in our search processes, working to let industry professionals from varied backgrounds know about the openings within the college.
Are elements of your DEI planning already being implemented?
In addition to making the college more diverse, we recognize that our faculty must incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into our curriculum. This is not only something that we want to accomplish as a college, but something that is being emphasized by our accrediting association.
As we move forward addressing this issue this semester and next, you will see evidence of our success within syllabi and elsewhere in our college.
We are also planning to offer a symposium in the spring related to the national debate on critical race theory. The idea was inspired by one of our graduates. The general concept is to talk about how the conversation on critical race theory has affected people in their jobs.
And, we are rethinking our Global Eyewitness program, making certain that our students are better prepared for going into countries where their situation is different than what they encounter here in Nebraska. While our plan is tentative, one idea we are considering is having our students first go through the Mosaic program, which is focused on telling the stories of minorities and underrepresented peoples in Lincoln.
How are individuals within Journalism and Mass Communications helping advance inclusive excellence?
Everyone recognizes that increasing diversity, equity and inclusion is important for the future of our college and the university. If we are going to grow and continue to succeed as an institution, we need to have our programs appeal to people of all backgrounds.
I also believe everyone in the college understands it’s the right thing to do.
Our individual impacts will be better defined when we finalize our strategic plan. Right now, improvements from individuals within the college are directed through our rethinking curricula and the professional development lectures and events we offer to our students.
Is there a part of the plan that is most exciting to you and/or having a positive impact on the college?
I’m encouraged by our ongoing conversations regarding DEI and the ideas that we are starting to develop. My hope is that we relaunch the book club that our faculty and staff took part in last year and featured a variety of books on race and diversity. We are also discussing the launch of some kind of annual symposium or lecture on DEI issues, maybe bringing in industry professionals, alumni or academics to tell their stories.
It is especially important for the future of our industry that we prepare our students so they have the tools necessary to interact with and accurately reflect the world we live in. Our plans are taking us in that direction, and I look forward to where this work takes us.