Dear Rackham Community,
As the university’s annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Summit comes to a close, I am pleased to share this update on Rackham’s DEI Strategic Plan and our collective work toward its implementation. We are now beginning year three of the plan, which was developed in collaboration with Rackham students, staff, and program faculty. I am proud of and thankful for how deeply engaged we all have remained in this work.
A few highlights of our progress thus far include our ongoing faculty workshops on Graduate Admissions for Excellence and Diversity. These workshops use research to analyze the practices of admissions committees, and to show them the value of holistic admissions practices. We have also continued to work directly with faculty to improve the quality of faculty-student mentoring relationships through the Mentoring Others Results in Excellence— or “MORE”— committee. And our Faculty Allies program engages faculty directly in the climate and inclusivity of graduate programs. This program includes a Student Ally component through which graduate students work collaboratively with faculty and receive Rackham support to advance DEI in their programs.
Last year, we began, under the leadership of Debbie Willis, a DEI Professional Development Certificate designed to prepare graduate students to work in a diverse environment while fostering a climate of inclusiveness. In its pilot year, 174 students from 13 U-M schools and colleges applied for the certificate, and the program was recognized as one of this year’s unit spotlights for U-M’s 2018 Strategic Plan Progress Report. Also last year, we were thrilled to welcome two new members to our community whose work is essential to our progress on DEI. Edmund Graham became Rackham’s first Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) coordinator, with the aim of promoting interactions across campus with our MSI partners to benefit both them and U-M. In addition, Ethriam Brammer joined Rackham as an assistant dean to lead our DEI initiatives.
These are a few examples of our efforts to date. However, we acknowledge that there is still much to do, and we are constantly developing new ideas and implementing best practices. To that end, and under the guidance of Assistant Dean Brammer, we are working with students, student organizations, and other stakeholders to receive feedback about Rackham programs and their strategic direction through the creation of the Rackham Diversity Advisory Committee, along with hosting events to hear more about the experience of our international students. Rackham will also be partnering with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center; and the Office of Institutional Equity to pilot Sexual Harassment, Misconduct, and Assault Prevention for Graduate Students workshops, beginning in November. And we will continue to enhance staff climate through professional skill development in DEI and through mechanisms for increasing opportunities for career advancement.
As part of our Year 3 Update, we have restructured the DEI Strategic Plan around three strategic objectives:
- To recruit, retain, and support the success and degree completion of students who reflect the richness of domestic and international diversity, while promoting an equitable and inclusive community where all students feel a deep sense of belonging.
- To foster and promote a diverse, equitable, and inclusive working environment where all team members are valued, respected, and provided with opportunities for lifelong learning, professional growth, and advancement.
- To work collaboratively with faculty from graduate and professional programs in order to develop, evaluate, enhance, and prioritize strategic actions collectively impacting DEI and student success outcomes.
You can find a complete copy of the update on Rackham’s website. I hope you’ll take the time to read more about this ongoing work, and to engage with others at Rackham at our upcoming events. The highest goal of our strategic planning is not only to attract a diverse student population and staff, but also to create an environment in which all feel valued, welcome, and supported. I believe this goal can be achieved through the close collaboration of all us in the Rackham community.
Vice Provost, Academic Affairs – Graduate Studies