President Armacost accepts panel’s report, encourages more campus conversations to determine potential changes to the strategic plan
A University of North Dakota task force, initiated to find ways to build a stronger sense of belongingness, equity, diversity and inclusion at UND, released a report today (Dec. 2) with recommendations that could serve as a foundation for updating the University’s One UND Strategic Plan.
The “Report to the University of North Dakota President and Leadership Team on Creating Opportunities for Diversity and Inclusion” is the result of months of research and conversations by the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, a 27-member body comprising wide-ranging representation from the Campus Community and community at large. The Task Force has been co-led by Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs and diversity & dean of students; and Tamba-Kuii Bailey, assistant professor of counseling psychology.
The 48-page report provides specific recommendations, including a “Top Ten” priority list, for University leadership to consider potential actions that could enhance Goal 5 of the One UND Strategic Plan — to foster a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus climate. Based on a Task Force charter from UND President Andrew Armacost, the group also tried to identify gaps, opportunities and priority areas of need, while considering effective ways to better institutionalize equity, inclusion, diversity and anti-racism efforts at UND.
Armacost thanked Vice President Halgren, Assistant Professor Bailey and the rest of the Task Force for its efforts, which started, in earnest, in June, and resulted in the report released today. He said the report serves as a catalyst for public conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion that will take place across the Campus Community.
With today’s release of the report, a period of campus discussions about the recommendations will commence to determine potential short-term and long-term strategic efforts as well as their feasibility.
“We have an important opportunity, through recommendations made by the Task Force, to take positive steps toward an even more welcoming UND,” said Armacost, on Wednesday (Dec. 2). “Moving forward, all of the Task Force recommendations will be fully vetted through more conversations with our University stakeholders, on and off campus. We must think collectively and carefully about how we prioritize and embed initiatives into our strategic plans to strengthen the diverse and inclusive fabric of UND.”
While “re-envisioning a new paradigm of being at UND,” the Task Force crafted its recommendations against the framework of recent national events and how other institutions have used those societal touchpoints as catalysts of change to address forms of institutional racism.
“The Task Force spent a lot of time discussing ways that we can move forward to make UND a welcoming place for all students, staff and faculty, said Vice President Halgren “We are excited to share our ideas with President Armacost, University leadership and the campus, as we believe these recommendations provide a strong foundation for our continued work as a community.”
The following is the Task Force’s “Top Ten” priority list of recommendations:
- Create a Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion position at the university to oversee implementation of DEI policy and initiatives. (With resources)
- Create a division specifically for campus wide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives led by a Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
- Develop a strong statement regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). (with action and enforcement)
- Develop a protocol to identify and report issues of bias and discrimination on campus
- Create a standing DEI committee to contribute and advise on issues related to DEI (monitor the recommendations)
- Review and revise- Curriculum that infusion diversity throughout the curriculum and not only have “diversity classes”
- Provide adequate staffing and resources for culturally specific support services (e.g. American Indian Services, Black Cultural Centers, Multicultural Centers, LGBTQ Centers, Women & Gender Centers, etc.) on campus
- Create area studies programs with resources (e.g. Indigenous/Native American Studies, Black Studies, Latinx studies, Women/Gender Studies, Sexuality Studies).
- Create effective structures for faculty, staff, and student recruitment, retention, outreach, and accountability initiatives inclusive of hiring practices. (e.g. cluster hires of racially/culturally diverse faculty)
- UND should breathe life back into the American Indian Studies Department by hiring American Indian scholars that have backgrounds in literature, history, sociology, anthropology, and the visual and performing Arts as well as in the medical and legal fields (American Indian Student Support Services Center)
Task Force background:
In June of 2020, while considering national events and Goal 5 (Inclusion) of the One UND Strategic Plan, faculty members Jeff VanLooy (Past President- University Senate), Elizabeth Legerski (University Senate President), Student Body President Matt Ternus, Staff Senate President Megan Wasylow and President Armacost informed the UND Community that they were launching the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
This leadership group solicited nominations and self-nominations to form the Task Force. Upon receiving nominations from across campus, the elected leadership of the University Senate, Staff Senate and Student Government reviewed the list of nominees and forwarded their recommendations to President Armacost. In consultation with Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Debbie Storrs and Vice President Cara Halgren, Armacost made the final decisions on the task force membership. In July of 2020, Armacost invited the identified students, faculty, staff and Grand Forks community members to serve on the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
Once established, Armacost presented the Task Force with a charter, which, in part, directed the group to provide recommendations to University leadership for potential actions that could enhance Goal 5 of the UND Strategic Plan- to foster a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus climate. Additionally, the charter asked the Task Force to suggest which office(s)/unit(s) would be responsible for any approved actions. The Task Force reviewed UND policies, experiences, assessment measures as well as other universities’ models of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and scholarly literature on best practices associated with DEI work in higher education. It was through this review process that led the Task Force to identify and develop an overall list of 31 recommendations associated with DEI work for Armacost and the University leadership to consider.
Successes, but more work
The work of the Task Force is the latest in a series of examples across campus – recent and long-established – in which the University is striving to be a more welcoming and inclusive place for all.
In October 2020 (Indigenous Peoples’ Day), UND was among the first institutions in North Dakota to announce a Land Acknowledgement statement, recognizing the University’s physical position on ancestral homelands of regional American Indian Tribes. UND also has long been a national leader in the education of American Indian healthcare workers through its Indians into Medicine (INMED), Recruitment/Retention of American Indians into Nursing (RAIN), and Indians into Psychology programs (INPSYDE). Last year, UND also became the world’s first institution of higher education to offer a Ph.D. in Indigenous Health.
Furthermore, in 2016, UND Aerospace established the nation’s first collegiate chapter for the National Gay Pilots Association. And continuing that legacy of respect for diversity in education, on Oct. 20, 2020, UND Aerospace, led by faculty member Daniel “Kwasi” Adjekum and student Jordon-Elijah Apienti-Gyapong, launched UND’s Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP).
Still, the University has more work to do if it wants to become even more welcoming and inclusive, according to the Task Force’s report. The Task Force noted that it’s the third such UND body in seven years that’s been empaneled and has issued a report improving diversity and inclusion. This most recent Task Force strongly urged that UND fully commit, this time, to a cultural shift on campus, while carefully considering its recommendations, as well as those of two previous task forces, as a means of moving closer to diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
Armacost said he is hopeful that the UND community is up to the important task at hand.
“A college campus must be a place where we have tough conversations to build a sense of understanding of why we think the way we do and why others think the way they do,” he said. “Such conversations will go a long way in helping us make UND the kind of welcoming place for all that we want it to be.”
Full Task Force Membership:
Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs & diversity and dean of students
Tamba-Kuii Bailey, assistant professor of counseling psychology
Luah Beah, student, School of Law
Max Blosser, UND alum (2018), High Plains Fair Housing Center
Stacey Borboa-Peterson, director for student diversity & inclusion
Darin Buri, manager of the FD Holland Jr. Geology & Geological Engineering Library, president of UND United
Caroline Campbell, associate professor of history
Sharon Carson, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of English & philosophy and religion
Katherine Dachtler, student records specialist, Office of Extended Learning
Ranju Dhungana, student, psychology
Hal Gershman, community member and UND alumnus
Jeff Gibson, assistant director for student diversity & inclusion
Matt Gilmore, associate professor of atmospheric sciences
Ashly Hanna, student, criminal justice and American Indian studies
Grace Heron, student, commercial aviation and sociology
Andjela Kaur, assistant professor of education, health and behavior
Beth Klemetsrud, assistant professor of chemical engineering
Patrick Mapp, operations center specialist, Office of Emergency Management
Lynnette Morin, project coordinator, School of Law
Adelynn Mrosko, UND alum (2019), flight instructor, UND Aerospace,
Jacob Odom, student
Casey Ozaki, associate professor of higher education and teaching & learning
Danielle Romero, student, nursing
Carolyn Shabb, licensed addiction counselor/licensed counselor, Counseling Center
Terrill Taylor, grad student, counseling psychology
Charles Vondal, staff, Chester Fritz Auditorium
Donald Warne, director, Indians into Medicine & public health programs, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion
David L. Dodds
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