What about Diversity?

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Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
In the months leading up to my transition to Director, Equity and Inclusion for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) I spent a significant amount of time thinking about what was needed within CFAES and what the title of this new position needed to convey.  In deciding on Director, Equity and Inclusion, I left out diversity and avoided the title, “Chief Diversity Officer”. This decision was driven, in part, by what the title; “Chief Diversity Officer” often carries with it, a sole focus on Affirmative Action, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Compliance (AA/EEO).  These are important legal mandates and this position does provide over site for these as required by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  However, our goal in CFAES is not only to adhere to these laws but to move beyond what “we have to do” and to bring true culture change to the college.
Opting for a title that incorporates equity and inclusion without diversity does not mean that diversity is not a priority for me or the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.  Diversity is the foundation on which we are building.  Our goal is to create a college-wide culture that is inclusive of all faculty, staff and students and the diversity that we all bring.  You can see below that diversity is difficult to define with a just few words. Given its breadth, diversity is all around us.  
Diversity=race, ethnicity, religion, age, ability, gender, sex, socio economic status, sexual orientation, veteran status, gender identity and expression, birth order, place (where we grew up), personality, thought process, research interests, personality….the list is almost endless.
With all that diversity encompasses we are diverse as a college.  At the same time, there are areas of diversity where we are underrepresented.  Increasing the numbers of underrepresented populations is a goal. However, increasing numbers is meaningless if we have an environment where faculty, staff, and students do not feel like they belong.  If the environment is not inclusive CFAES will not be a place where students, faculty, and staff want to be.  Our college is on a journey to create the best place to work, learn and to grow.  I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions for future topics.
September 16, 2015 - 9:52am -- lechman.1

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