"Benchmarking Best Diversity Practices"

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March 2011

photo of Victoria SanchezOn Tuesday, March 29, 2011, Victoria Sanchez, Assistant Vice Provost for Educational Equity, led a panel of speakers including Renata Engel, Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Engineering, Janet Murphy, Director of General Administration and Planning in the University Office of Global Programs, and David Gnage, Chancellor of the Mont Alto campus, to discuss how they frame their strategic decision-making in response to the seven challenges posed by the latest Framework to Foster Diversity. Addressing more than 100 attendees across multiple campuses, they talked about how they achieved high levels of individual participation in the planning process, how they linked diversity planning to their strategic plans, how they planned to increase diversity awareness, and how they used data to inform their work.

Fostering diversity must be recognized as at the heart of our institutional vitality, a core value of the academic mission, and a priority for Penn State.

Victoria Sanchez

Sanchez presented an update on the progress of the Framework to Foster Diversity. She explained that it was in its third planning cycle, and that it was clear that successful diversity efforts required both active and reliable support from leadership with a strong focus on collaboration. After reviewing the challenges for creating a more diverse university as presented in the Framework, Sanchez introduced the panel members as individuals whose unit plans did an excellent job of demonstrating how units can be strategic in meeting those challenges.

photo of Renata EngelEngel started the panel discussion by acknowledging that her unit had been engaged in planning a long time, and that the way they developed the diversity plan influenced the way it was implemented. To that end, she and others worked to make sure the process was as focused and inclusive as possible. Working to address the challenges in the Framework, multiple groups led by those with responsibility for each targeted area developed specific actions and outcome measures. About 30 people participated in developing the action items and projected outcomes identified in the plan. Ultimately over 100 people are expected to participate on the task teams.

Many of the actions taken by the teams focused on how they could create more diverse experiences for students. For example, not all students can make arrangements for international travel, but the college wanted to give its students increased opportunities to work on projects with an international scope. To that end, the Challenge 5 Task Team is identifying and communicating other ways to help students obtain significant international experiences, such as working with students in other countries using communications technology or having students work on more long-term projects that will directly benefit people in other countries.

photo of Janet MurphyMurphy then spoke about how the University Office for Global Programs, as a newly reformed office, used their strategic planning process for the Framework to Foster Diversity as an opportunity to look at how they could improve their operations. Examining each challenge with the goal of developing specific actions and thinking about how each action also aligned with the goals in the University’s strategic plan proved fruitful. Even though some participants initially resisted the exercise as they considered concern for diversity as part of the work they already do, they found value in thinking strategically about how to improve already good programs.

Murphy gave examples of some of the initiatives that came out of that process: encouraging students to visit less traditional locations for international study, increasing recruiting efforts of minority and international students at all campuses, providing training to encourage more diverse hiring practices, and being more strategic about the countries partnered with through the Global Engagement Network.

photo of David GnageGnage explained to the audience that he conceives the Framework to Foster Diversity as being a part of Mont Alto’s overall strategic planning. Efforts to improve diversity on the campus are embedded in their values and actions, and the impacts of such are identified using student and program outcomes. Visible leadership to encourage diversity efforts is present in each department.

Gnage emphasized the importance of using data to improve diversity efforts. He recommended making use of data the University already gathers, such as that found in the Faculty Staff Survey. He also recommended conducting targeted surveys and focus groups to gather additional information. Using such approaches, Gnage and his team were able to identify areas for improvement, such as program planning for residential students, minority recruitment, and making students more aware of available resources.

The panel then took questions from the audience. They were asked about promoting diversity in the office on a day-to-day basis, scholarships for students traveling abroad to non-traditional locations, forming strong diversity committees, the Global Certificate program being developed by the UOGP and HRDC, and more.

View the PowerPoint slides from Gnage, Murphy and Sanchez.

photo of panel

The Quality Advocates Network meets several times each semester to share ideas and examples of improvement and change. To join the Quality Advocates Network mailing list or to learn more about the meetings scheduled, contact the staff at psupia@psu.edu.

The Quality Advocates Network is open to all Penn State faculty, staff, administrators, and students.