Confronting Diversity and Inclusion’s Complexities
In mid-November, CASE convened the Minority Advancement Institute, which drew together 60 higher education advancement professionals and has been held annually since 2006. Three panelists shared their thoughts about the most pressing diversity and inclusion issues in answers to several questions posed by moderator Karl Miller Lugo, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
On the panel:
- Kevin McDonald, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, University of Virginia
- Rosemary Kilkenny, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Georgetown University
- Sue Cunningham, President and CEO, CASE
What do you see as the one issue in the higher education landscape, as it relates to diversity, that you feel is most pressing, most current?
Cunningham: I have the privilege of traveling to many parts of the world and speaking in front of audiences. I think the main challenge for us is, as far as diversity is concerned, every audience does not look like this one. I’m often looking out on seas of dedicated, committed faces, but predominantly white faces. As we know, the community is much broader, much richer, much deeper than that. I think it’s critical that our profession reflects the communities in which we’re working. From programs like this one to our internship program, which now has 100 young people every year, to our graduate residency program, we’re really focused on how we build a profession that is truly diverse.
McDonald: A critical area is the development of strategic, metric approaches for diversity and inclusion that moves this discussion from talking about doing what’s right to what actually gets done, so that units in higher education are truly reflective of their own diversity and inclusion guidelines. There are still many institutions that are wrestling with that. I started at the University of Virginia on Aug. 1, and there has never been a university-wide strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. Some are doing intentional work on the academic side but have done nothing with any of the administrative units.
Most of our institutions do a poor job with multicultural alumni engagement. I suggest the message we send is that the university doesn’t believe there’s a connection between multicultural alumni and philanthropy because if it did it wouldn’t leave that money on the table. Those alums who have had marginalized experiences are looking for a reason to be reengaged and are looking for what’s different at this institution, who can help provide that narrative. There are so many missed opportunities that are not leveraged at our institutions.
Kilkenny: The most pressing problem we face is racism. Let’s just name that, it’s racism. As a foreign-born person [from Guyana] coming to this country, I wasn’t even thinking about race, and all of a sudden there’s this black/white boundary, which has now expanded to other groups. On a positive front, we’ve named it, we’re working toward solutions and trying to do what we can to create structures where everyone, regardless of whether they’re black, Latino, Asian, Native American, a member of the LGBT community, or an intersection of groups, is included. When you come to Georgetown, you’re signing on to a mission-driven institution where these values are important to us and reflected in everything we do.
What are some the goals and aspirations you have, particularly in talent management?
Kilkenny: I think it’s fairly easy to go out and do the recruitment and bring people in. But what you want to make sure you do is create opportunities so that a person can see themselves having a career there. Everyone is being held accountable, not just the person who has the diversity title. Each of our institutions has been asked to identify a key person within their sphere of influence who will have to ensure that when vacancies occur that you not only do the national outreach, the regional outreach, but you also make sure that the hire is set up for success by taking steps so that person is fully integrated in the role of the unit and more broadly in Georgetown’s institutional structure.
McDonald: There is clearly a growing identified need for a sense of belonging for our faculty and staff in particular. Research often speaks to it for students, but it was interesting coming into the community seeing the number of people who say they commute from Washington, D.C. or Richmond or they’re still not sure that Charlottesville is giving them everything they need. It’s really this notion of a sense of belonging and how we impact the climate and culture to create a collegiality that imparts a sense of community and makes them want to stay at UVA.
Cunningham: Four years ago, we did some research that showed that only 12% of our advancement professionals in this country are diverse, and therefore there is seriously considerable work to be done. We need to think about how we strengthen and grow talent across the membership because huge opportunities are being missed because our profession does not look like the community. I think we need to break out of the old models. If all the institutions do is talk to the same people in the same networks, we’re not moving into a future that allows us to truly engage everyone.