Colleges and universities are extending diversity and inclusion (D&I) into recruitment, procurement and other core activities. Higher ed’s growing D&I commitment has become a business imperative that’s helping to foster a new generation of leaders.
1. PROMOTING CRITICAL DIALOGUE
With political strife on campus drawing negative publicity, university administrators are expanding their D&I commitments to include staff and student coaching, and in-depth dialogue about complex issues.
Unrest at UC Berkeley presented a strong case for administrators, says Rosemarie Rae, the university’s vice chancellor of finance and chief financial officer: “We’ve stepped back and said, ‘We’re going to need to double down to be able to have a civil discourse on campus…to think about what it means for us to engage with each other as students and faculty and staff…to think about how we’re doing that with our surrounding community and the rest of the world.’”
2. GAINING A COMPETITIVE EDGE
Although college diversity has been improving over the years, the demand for quicker change comes from a critical revenue source: the student body. Says Berkeley’s Rosemarie Rae, “Our students are demanding it. They’re not being ambassadors—they’re the leaders.”
The slow rate of progress presents a challenge for higher education, where women represent only 37.5% of tenured positions, and African American and Hispanic faculty represent 9% in total. But at Notre Dame, overcoming this challenge represents a opportunity for attracting high caliber students and staff. “It enriches the classroom experience for our students, it enriches the staff experience by having people from different cultural backgrounds interacting. And we feel that it will help us keep our competitive edge in the world,” says Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion.
3. ATTRACTING TALENT
Many colleges have introduced hiring programs that better reflect demographic shifts—and draw a wider candidate pool. Notre Dame’s Eric Love says the university employs a dedicated recruiter to seek out diverse talent at career fairs and through numerous outreach activities. The university keeps records of promising, but unsuccessful, candidates on file in case new positions open up.
At the majority-minority campus of California State University, Fullerton, recruiters advertise job openings in a range of publications, and not just academic journals. “We have position announcements that are broad based to try and capture all of those individuals who are qualified,” says John Beisner, interim associate vice president, human resources, diversity and inclusion. “Even if the paths to their qualifications might not be the standard paths...”
4. EMPOWERING PROCUREMENT
Increasing diversity in the U.S. population means that there are more companies owned and operated by women, minorities, veterans and people with disabilities. These businesses represent a huge opportunity for colleges and universities seeking diverse vendors and broader procurement choices. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) created a dedicated program to enhance its supplier and vendor relationships.
According to Troy A. LeMaile-Stovall, the university’s COO, this approach ensures UDC gets the best quality goods and services, while nurturing local vendor relationships. “It’s not easy because many of them don’t have the scale,” he explains. A strategy to remedy the scale issue is to assign contracts to small providers, which then contract with larger, more established businesses. Arrangements like these produce local benefits. Says LeMaile-Stovall. “If you can create wealth in minority communities, you can uplift them.”
LIFE AFTER COLLEGE
If D&I is preparing the next generation for professional life, are employers ready for the next generation?
According to Cal State Fullerton’s John Beisner, “The focus needs to be on preparing students: preparing a workforce to be intellectually engaged and nimble enough and responsive enough to issues as they arise.”
But extra steps at the workplace can help UDC’s Troy A. LeMaile-Stovall, who frequently speaks with companies about onboarding, recommends coaching programs to make this new diverse cohort feel at home, “There has to be a group of individuals in that company who will mentor them, steer them, guide them.”
- In addition to enriching campus culture, D&I offers business benefits to higher ed institutions
- Administrators are expanding their D&I commitments into operational areas, such as hiring and vendor procurement
- Greater diversity in the U.S. population creates more opportunities for institutions to benefit from their D&I commitments