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Developing tools to support campus DEIJ initiatives

July 29, 2022

Winston Roberts

Assistant Vice President for Student Services, Seton Hall University

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

For several years, researchers and policy makers have been discussing the shift in racial and ethnic demographics that is currently happening in the United State of America. The demographic shift can also be seen in our colleges and universities and the increased population of black and brown students attending institutions of higher education.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment rates for some minority groups (specifically Black, Hispanic, Asian, and those who identify as two or more races) has increased over the past few decades. This story is no different at Seton Hall University, as we have seen more than 40% of her student body identify themselves as students of color.

In looking at the direction of this capstone project, Seton Hall University is currently embarked upon a strategic plan that puts diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) efforts in the forefront. This focus on DEIJ initiatives has provided the impetus for various areas on our campus to step up and engage our campus community through education. In opening the door for these opportunities, we learned that we need to do more than just offer the programs and opportunities. We must learn how to help our students access and engage in the opportunities.

The great thing about having DEIJ initiatives be part of the strategic plan is that, in making the commitment on a university level, it empowers your campus community to buy in and participate in making the goal a reality.

The Seton Hall strategic plan entitled “Harvesting our Treasures,” is based on a foundation of guiding principles: a commitment to the whole person, dedication to the common good, the campus philosophy of servant leadership that extends beyond our campus gates to the surrounding community and abroad, and creating a campus where our catholic identity is seen as a hallmark of inclusion, not exclusion.

Within the strategic plan, the fourth goal focuses on DEIJ efforts of Seton Hall University. The goal states that its aim is to “Further cultivate and nurture a trusting and collaborative Seton Hall community that educates and empowers all its members to advance equity, inclusion and social justice on campus and in the wider world.” A sub-goal of this overarching expectation is to develop “diversity, global and intercultural fluency” opportunities for students to earn credits or “badges” and a certificate for pre-approved DEI activities and trainings inside and outside of the classroom.

During the spring semester of 2021, Seton Hall conducted a DEI Survey to the campus community. While the data compiled is favorable, we understand the need to continue to improve upon how we create an equitable and inclusive community that has become more diverse with every incoming class. We know that we are developing the skills within our community, but from our students there is a desire for more.

The data show that there may be a disconnect between how faculty feel about the skills our students are developing and where our students believe their skills are and the need for improvement. Our students are aware that there are efforts in place to promote DEIJ, but that does not mean they are satisfied with those efforts. There is more data from this survey that shows promising gains, but also areas that the university will continue to work on and evolve as the needs of our campus also evolve.

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The Hallmarks of an Anti-Racist Institution presentation given by EAB was helpful in providing markers for where Seton Hall is as an anti-racist institution. Topics in that presentation included whether your institution released a statement addressing DEIJ, as well as whether the institution addressed their personal history with oppression, both of which Seton Hall addressed this year. Seton Hall University has already begun to create programs and opportunities to educate the campus community about DEIJ. With the various opportunities that have been either done or planned, finding a way to centralize these opportunities is the lynchpin.

Seton Hall University recently purchased a new program called Engage. Engage is an involvement platform that connects students to clubs/organizations as well as other engagement opportunities on the campus. The program helps students learn about events while giving them the power to see what else the campus has to offer.

Engage also provides the opportunity to create sub-programs called Pathways. These “Pathways” allow administrators to identify co-curricular involvement and learning opportunities which can be tied to learning outcomes. Using the strategic plan goal noted earlier, a co-curricular pathway for DEIJ opportunities will be developed. Students who participate can earn a certificate (among other incentives) for completing the pathway.

I appreciated the support that I received from my home institution, specifically from our Vice President for Student Services, Monica Burnette. I also appreciate the resources and perspectives EAB provided and for pairing me with Joe Fritsch, who was a big help as we discussed our plans at our respective institutions.

See the fellows’ blogs from the capstone projects

Winston Roberts and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in spring 2022

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