Dear Wolfpack Community,
As our first semester of transition back to campus comes to a close, I am reflecting both on the work we’ve done — because of and in spite of — some of the greatest challenges we’ve faced as a nation and as a university, and the work we have in front of us. During the tremendous upheaval from the global pandemic and the sharpened focus on racial inequities after the killing of George Floyd, we have made great strides in advancing our vision to make NC State more diverse, equitable and inclusive. And, we have much yet to do.
This past year, we provided diversity training for all students, faculty and staff, with thousands actively participating; we worked with University Human Resources to add a DEI professional development goal to employees’ annual performance plans; and launched or expanded major educational initiatives such as our Inclusive Excellence Certificate, Intercultural Diversity Inventory and Credential programs.
Many of our current and future student-facing efforts address the findings from our most recent student Campus Climate Survey, conducted in 2019. This survey, administered every five years since 2004, helps us understand student experiences and perceptions, which in turn gives us important information about where we are improving, and in what ways we need to make changes to our culture and climate. In Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, results were presented to campus leadership and partners to help inform their priorities and decision-making based on data from the voices of our own students. It is critical that we continue to use climate data and higher education research to inform our practices and priorities around DEI.
To that end, last fall, we hosted our Racial Equity Summit, bringing together faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni for a half-day summit that centered the Appreciative Inquiry framework to advance our vision of what an equitable campus looks like. Participants were engaged around the question of how we can move forward to make racial equity a reality, with particular emphasis on elevating inclusion and belongingness within our Wolfpack community. We published reports from the Summit earlier this spring. NC State also participated in the UNC System’s Racial Equity Task Force, which worked to identify areas of improvement across all of our state universities. Many of the action items in both reports have either been put into action or are being developed.
We take the voices of our students very seriously. Over the past year, we’ve addressed several demands presented in a petition from our Black student organizations in the summer of 2020. At this time, we have addressed, resolved and/or completed all of the items contained in the petition and will continue to be responsive when our students point out ways in which we can improve in creating an equitable campus experience. Please read over these items to see more specific information about what changes were suggested and what has been done to address these areas.
The NC State Police department also took proactive measures to provide transparency about its operations and demonstrate its commitment to preserving and building trust within the campus community and surrounding areas. OIED helps train the force in topics such as implicit bias awareness so that they can maintain a high level of sensitivity and cultural competence in their work. In addition, Student Government and NC State Police are working together to keep the dialogue going and allow for the ideas and concerns of students to be heard frequently.
We held our annual Chancellor’s Creating Community Awards virtually for the second year, recognizing outstanding achievements in diversity, equity and inclusion across the Wolfpack, elevated by the chancellor as an important part of the work we all do together. If you would like to nominate an outstanding change agent in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, please review the nomination criteria and consider recognizing them for one of these special awards in Spring 2022. People all across our campus are contributing to NC State’s advancements, and we want to know about, recognize and celebrate these efforts.
Looking forward, we have several key initiatives underway. NC State is proud to be a charter member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s SEA Change initiative, which will help us progress in assessing and elevating our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). The SEA Change team will convene in 2022 to identify key areas for improvement, particularly for faculty, postdocs and graduate students. This multi-year program will help us shape specific priorities for clearing out roadblocks and building on promising practices for diversifying our faculty, retaining our current diverse faculty and increasing inclusive practices for the benefit of all.
College deans have spearheaded the inaugural Equity Research Symposium with support from myself, Provost Arden and Vice Chancellor Vouk. The symposium, to be held February 8, 2022, will be a key opportunity for the campus community to engage in sharing research that has an equity focus as well as to dialogue about equity in research. The keynote speaker will be Raj Chetty, the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University.
This fall, we kicked off celebrations commemorating the thirty-year anniversaries of our Women’s Center and of our African American Cultural Center making its home within Witherspoon Student Center. It is exciting to think about the tremendous growth of these centers from small havens on campus to major powerhouses of cultural and identity programs and services as well as advocacy and support for marginalized populations.
And perhaps most incredibly, we were fortunate to receive record-breaking generosity from donors in the past year to our DEI funds, as well as similar efforts across the university. Our community enthusiastically invested in the continued support of our mission as shown on Day of Giving, helping fund important program initiatives through our Diversity and Equity Fund and those designated for each of our campus community centers, the African American Cultural Center, GLBT Center, Multicultural Student Affairs and Women’s Center. If you’d like to donate or get involved, we encourage you to reach out and help us make a difference. If you haven’t yet joined us as a supporter — whether it be through your time, talent or treasure — we always welcome newcomers to our work. Subscribe to our Diversity Digest newsletter and follow us on social media at @NCStateOIED.
Looking forward, we anticipate working diligently and innovatively to support the university’s new Strategic Plan, Wolfpack 2030: Powering the Extraordinary, which includes Goal 4: “Champion a culture of equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging and well-being in all we do.” Dedicating one of the seven goals of the new plan to diversity, equity and inclusion, along with changes to the university’s values and vision, demonstrates NC State’s fundamental commitment to DEI across the entire institution and reflects our inclusive vision. The new Plan will help ensure that we are actively moving forward and that metrics will help communicate our advancements to ensure the accountability that is necessary for sustained change.
I wish for each of you a successful end of the semester, and a safe, happy and inclusive holiday season and new year, and that we all continue in our commitment to making our university a place of belonging and inclusion for all.
Sheri L. Schwab, J.D., M.Ed., ‘97
Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity
Title IX and ADA Coordinator
NC State University