Phase II of Brown’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to focus on equity, inclusion

In launching Phase II of its ambitious action plan, Brown assessed progress to date, reaffirmed the essential role of diversity and inclusion to academic excellence, and outlined new actions toward a more fully equitable community.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In the five years since launching an ambitious action plan to create a more fully diverse and inclusive campus, Brown University has increased diversity among students, faculty and staff, created new opportunities for underrepresented scholars to teach and conduct research, and established a campus-wide understanding of the essential roles that diversity, equity and inclusion play in Brown’s success as a leading research university.

On Thursday, April 1, the University reaffirmed its commitment to the plan’s goals by launching Phase II of its Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, commonly referred to as the DIAP. The second phase outlines new actions to build on the University’s increased diversity, address barriers to inclusion, and create a more equitable academic community that enables all members to make their marks as leaders, thinkers and problem-solvers.

In a letter sharing DIAP Phase II with the Brown community, President Christina H. Paxson wrote that diversity and inclusion are fundamentally important to research and teaching excellence, and make Brown an academically stronger university.

“We know that people learn better and make better decisions if they’re surrounded by others who have different perspectives, life experiences and backgrounds,” Paxson said. “We know that if we don’t conduct broad searches for faculty and staff and look broadly for students, we’re going to lose some of the best talent on the planet. We also know that people learn better and work better in environments where they feel respected, included and valued. For all of these reasons, the DIAP is central to our academic success.”

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Reflections on the DIAP

 

Members of the Brown community reflect on what the DIAP has helped accomplish thus far and the work Phase II will drive in the years ahead.

In February 2016, Brown launched Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University, the formal name of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. It serves as the institution’s strategic plan specifically aimed at fulfilling aspirations for diversity, equity and inclusion that were articulated in the University’s Building on Distinction 10-year strategic plan, launched in 2014. The DIAP was shaped by broad community input and established concrete, achievable actions to address obstacles that have long inhibited the success of historically underrepresented groups in higher education.

Under the leadership of the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), DIAP Phase II was developed over the past year with input from students, faculty and staff. The completion of the Phase II plan comes amid heightened calls for racial justice across the nation, which have reverberated in higher education as colleges and universities determine how best to address racism and inequities on their own campuses.

Shontay Delalue, vice president for institutional equity and diversity, said that Phase II extends the DIAP’s role as a community-based plan, with the investment of departments and individuals across campus as an essential component in meeting its objectives.

“Over the past five years, the DIAP has enabled us to create and institutionalize practices that have built a strong foundation for meaningful long-term change, but there is still much to accomplish,” Delalue said. “For Brown to achieve its mission of serving society through high-impact research and teaching, it must retain and support the diverse community the DIAP has helped to build. Phase II is the necessary next step to fulfilling the promise of making Brown a place where every member of our academic community can thrive.”

Delalue said that Phase II does not replace the original DIAP, but serves as a companion to the original plan. It provides an overview on progress to date, includes new actions to achieve goals in the DIAP’s six priority areas — People, Academic Excellence, Curriculum, Community, Knowledge and Accountability — and lists actions that continue from the original plan. DIAP Phase II is intended to set Brown on a path to implement transformative and sustained change across the University by 2025.

Recruiting and retaining underrepresented faculty, students and staff

The strengths of the DIAP are its concrete goals, University-wide engagement to achieve the goals and commitment to accountability, including annual reports on progress.

Aided by persistent data collection, DIAP Phase II assessed each of the 2016 plan’s major goals. The document notes that with 50 of the plan’s 56 major actions implemented or incorporated into regular University processes, Brown has made significant strides toward a campus-wide climate that support the diverse community critical to academic excellence. According to the Phase II plan, among the most significant successes has been in the recruitment of individuals from historically underrepresented groups (HUGs) — those who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.

Phase II of Brown’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to focus on equity, inclusion
Professor of Physics S. James Gates Jr. first came to Brown through the Provost’s Visiting Professor Program.

“The heart of a university is the people we’re able to recruit, hire and retain,” Provost Richard M. Locke said. “The DIAP has enabled us to come up with concrete strategies for how we can attract the best and brightest from all backgrounds, from all identities, from all different perspectives — and to make sure that while they are here at Brown, they are supported, mentored and able to be their authentic selves.”

According to the DIAP Phase II plan, the number of graduate students from HUGs has doubled since 2016, a period over which the Graduate School established multiple initiatives to recruit and retain underrepresented students. Among initiatives intended to enhance diversity at the undergraduate level is a partnership with QuestBridge Scholars, a national program that provides financial support to high-achieving students from low-income families. With increased funding beginning in 2018, Brown has admitted 119 students through QuestBridge — a jump from just three students in 2016.

As part of a continued focus on expanding socioeconomic diversity among undergraduates, Brown began new outreach efforts to prospective students from rural areas and small towns, launched a comprehensive effort to double the number of U.S. military veterans enrolled as undergraduates, and hired an associate dean for financial advising to oversee living and learning expense support for students from low-income families. A new plan for intensified outreach and recruitment focused on increasing enrollment among Black/African American undergraduates is also currently underway in the Office of College Admission.

When Brown launched the DIAP, among the most visible goals was an aspirational goal to double the number of faculty from HUGs by 2022. With 42 new HUG faculty joining Brown over the past five years (a 72% increase), that goal is within reach, Phase II notes. That progress is a result of revised hiring practices and new recruitment programs — these include cluster hiring, which allows multiple faculty with a shared research interest to be recruited through a single search, and the requirement that academic departments submit plans for diversifying applicant pools.

The Phase II plan notes that efforts to transform faculty hiring have been developed in tandem with targeted initiatives to expand opportunities for faculty from HUGs to contribute to Brown’s intellectual community. 

“For Brown to achieve its mission of serving society through high-impact research and teaching, it must retain and support the diverse community the DIAP has helped to build. Phase II is the necessary next step to fulfilling the promise of making Brown a place where every member of our academic community can thrive.”

Shontay Delalue Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity, Brown University

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Phase II of Brown’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to focus on equity, inclusion

In 2017, the Office of the Provost launched its visiting professor program, which invites senior scholars from a range of fields to conduct research and teach at Brown. The program has brought five distinguished scholars to Brown, two of whom have since joined the University in long-term positions: physicist S. James Gates Jr. now serves as the director of the Brown Theoretical Physics Center, and Ronald Aubert has been appointed a visiting professor at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the School of Public Health.

In the same year, the Office of the President established the Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship, a two-year program that identifies Ph.D. graduates from HUGs and/or who have demonstrated support for underrepresented groups through teaching and research. The program has served as a pipeline to tenure-track positions: Of the 28 scholars who have completed the program, 22 have gone on to faculty positions at schools across the nation, with nine becoming permanent faculty at Brown.

Assistant Professor of American Studies Kevin Escudero, who first came to the University as a Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow, said the program provides structured support to early-career scholars at a critical time: “The various structures that were offered within the program were very, very helpful,” he said. “For a lot of folks who may be the first in their immediate families to become a faculty member, these are things that you don’t know, and the program was instrumental in providing that structure for myself and for many of my colleagues.”

The University has also increased professional development opportunities for staff, including an annual Professional Development Day focused on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition, the Administrative Fellows Program provides mentorship, training and support to a cohort of staff working on diversity, equity and inclusion projects, and culminates with a travel experience that offers on-the-ground learning in a variety of cultural and historic settings. The fellows program was launched in 2017.

Phase II of Brown’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to focus on equity, inclusion
Administrative Fellows from Brown’s second cohort spoke with Claudia Santos, educational collaborator with Brazil Cultural, at the Museu Afro-Brasileiro in Brazil.

Joi-Danelle Whitehead, who directs diversity, equity, inclusion and access for Brown’s Pre-College Programs, is one of 20 staff who have participated. “The Administrative Fellows Program was a tremendous opportunity,” she said. “I went on this journey with a cohort of colleagues from different areas that really pushed me to reflect on why I do this work … how it aligns with my purpose, but also aligns with Brown’s mission, and how we can really create capacity and support the work that OIED is doing.”

Paxson said the shared commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives is one of the DIAP’s core strengths.

“The 2016 action plan recognized that achieving a truly diverse and inclusive community would only be possible with all academic and administrative units across the University sharing in this commitment and evaluating their roles in this work,” she said.

Education and research on equity and justice

The Phase II document notes that as part of an effort to develop an increasingly inclusive curriculum, Brown created a new undergraduate course designation to promote academic engagement with issues of power, privilege and oppression. Since these courses were introduced, they have reached a majority of undergraduates — during 2018-19 alone, 4,074 undergraduates enrolled in 211 DIAP courses within 37 departments. 

Kaitlan Bui, a junior English concentrator who has taken four DIAP courses, said they have been her most fundamental academic experiences at Brown. “To me, DIAP courses are ways to expand my view of the world, and to understand why these subjects and these themes matter to society, to politics, to representation — not just in the academic sphere, but in the world in general, to me as a person, to me as a student,” she said.

As the first in her family born in the U.S., Bui found that the experience of exploring her Vietnamese heritage academically gave her new perspective on the relationship between personal identity and scholarly research.  

The University has also invested heavily in scholarship that furthers knowledge around issues of race, power and privilege. In 2016-17, Brown committed to promoting innovative research on race and ethnicity by increasing funding for the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. Since then, these centers have hosted 26 visiting scholars, and both have expanded staffing to support their work.

In the same year, the University founded the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, which offers courses, conducts research and engages with campus and community partners on issues important to Indigenous communities. The initiative is currently developing an undergraduate concentration in Native American studies with support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

“To me, DIAP courses are ways to expand my view of the world, and to understand why these subjects and these themes matter to society, to politics, to representation — not just in the academic sphere, but in the world in general, to me as a person, to me as a student."

Kaitlan Bui Class of 2022

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Phase II of Brown’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to focus on equity, inclusion

In the same year, the University founded the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, which offers courses, conducts research and engages with campus and community partners on issues important to Indigenous communities. The initiative is currently developing an undergraduate concentration in Native American studies with support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

The expansion of research and education on issues of equity and justice has been fueled by generous donations from Brown alumni and friends, as well as the receipt of competitive grant awards. To date, Brown has committed more than $157 million toward the DIAP’s priorities through a combination of operational funds, donor contributions and grants to support diversity and inclusion over the past five years.

Beyond compositional diversity to true inclusion

Delalue said that while the first five years of the DIAP’s implementation have led to significant progress in compositional diversity, new actions outlined in Phase II will focus on making Brown a more inclusive community.

“Everyone at Brown benefits when all of its members can fully engage in our research, teaching and learning community,” Delalue said. “This is why Phase II of the DIAP calls upon the entire Brown community — every academic and administrative unit — to develop policies and practices that create an inclusive, equitable community where everyone can flourish.”

The plan outlines new actions to establish additional measures to retain and support staff, faculty and students from HUGs and refine methods for collecting the demographic data that inform these initiatives. Other new actions will evaluate campus practices and structures to identify opportunities to adopt changes that will create a more inclusive campus environment.

While many actions will begin in the coming months, others are underway. The University Library, for example, has embarked upon a project to create resources that can be used to develop more inclusive and equitable research, teaching and learning. Separately, the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning has launched the Seminar for Transformation Around Anti-Racist Teaching (START), an intensive teacher-training program.

Because the DIAP prioritizes the work of administrative and academic units in setting goals for themselves, Phase II features actions that will provide additional resources for achieving ambitious goals in department-level action plans. A core driver for achieving the 2016 DIAP’s goals was the requirement that academic and administrative units report annually the progress of departmental diversity and inclusion action plans (DDIAPs).

“For the DIAP to truly transform Brown, each department needs to set bold goals that focus on deep, structural change,” Delalue said. “The new resources we are sharing in Phase II will help departments assess how well they have met their existing goals — what has worked and what hasn’t — and determine what new goals they need to set for themselves to achieve the inclusive, equitable community that Brown aims to create.”

OIED is consulting with each department’s DIAP committee and will establish a DIAP Liaison and Ambassador Program to train a corps of faculty, staff and students to assist departments with access to resources that support the goal-setting and evaluation processes.

For members of the Brown community, Phase II’s reaffirmed commitment to diversity and new actions to promote inclusivity mark a critical next step.

“Phase II recognizes that we can’t stop where we started,” Whitehead said. “We have to evolve to continue to be innovative and strategic in ways that are really critical to the whole University.”

Matthew Pratt Guterl, a professor of American and Africana studies and co-chair of a board that oversees the DIAP’s campus-wide progress, agreed.

“All of this change we’ve been trying to manifest in structures and personnel has to be felt by students, faculty and staff,” he said. “They have to feel that Brown has changed, that they are as welcome here as they would be anywhere. What I want more than anything is five years from now for people to look at the DIAP and to think that it created fundamental transformation at Brown.”

With the launch of Phase II, the Brown community is demonstrating a sustained commitment to meeting its campus-wide inclusion and equity goals, and bringing transformative change within reach, Paxson said.

“We know that this is work that has to take place over a long period of time,” she said. “We know that it requires continuous, steady commitment to progress. I’m very excited about Phase II of the DIAP because our progress thus far has shown that, when we work together to achieve our goals with focus and persistence, we can achieve our vision for diversity, equity and inclusion.”

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