As your inaugural chief diversity officer, I am focused on three main priorities:
- Signaling the UF mission. “The University of Florida must create the broadly diverse environment necessary to foster multicultural skills and perspectives in teaching and research for its students to contribute and succeed in the world of the 21st century."
- Creating a sustainable and resilient network capable of supporting every Gator so they can thrive at UF and beyond.
- Shaping our climate and culture to foster the success of all Gators.
How am I doing in moving these priorities forward? Since arriving in July 2018, we have successfully launched the network of Campus Diversity Liaisons--experts embedded in each college and business unit who are working to advance our priorities in a site-specific, intentional way. Some recent accomplishments and initiatives include:
- Grants. We are in the process of applying for two significant diversity grants (Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence and AAAS SEAChange), with a focus on STEMM+ fields. UF was selected to join the Association of Public and Landgrant Universities ASPIRE IChange Network, which is focused on increasing diversity in STEMM+ faculty.
- Affinity groups. I meet regularly with the leaders of both faculty/staff and graduate student affinity group leaders to help strengthen the relationships among these leaders and to learn from their experiences.
- Mentoring. I am the co-founder of a UF mentoring initiative that brings together all the faculty and staff on campus who have a shared interest and expertise in mentoring. I am also instituting a reciprocal mentoring program among affinity group leaders and cabinet members.
- Teaching excellence. I am championing a faculty learning community around implicit bias and micro messaging to build upon the faculty expertise here at UF.
- Outreach. Last year I launched Level Up on Presence and Belonging, a weekly podcast that explores how students, faculty and staff are creating belonging at UF. I regularly give presentations to groups around campus on topics including why diversity matters and how to build inclusive networks and communities.
- Crucial Conversations. The foundation of an inclusive culture is the ability to have authentic conversations, especially when the stakes are high and we aren’t in agreement. That is why we have trained about 90 faculty and staff members in Crucial Conversations, and have supported 10 of these to become certified as trainers.
Perhaps you’ve spotted a trend? Since I arrived at UF, I am continually meeting faculty, staff and students with expertise and passion for the bright IDEA (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Access) and I see part of my role as bringing these experts together to build on our strengths. UF is a leader among its peers and a known innovator. (We are ranked 4th and 5th nationally when it comes to LatinX and African American graduates who go on to receive PhDs in STEM. We are ranked #1 in the nation when it comes to the number of tenured and tenure track African American female faculty in engineering.) Gators need to make this true in the IDEA sphere. We need our peers to ask themselves, “What are they doing at Florida? How have they found success in building inclusive cultures where excellence, innovation, and people thrive?” Every Gator has a part to play in bringing forth a Gator Nation that lives its highest values – I welcome you on the journey and look forward to continuing to serve!