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Building a Dynamic Diversity Equity & Inclusion Infrastructure at DU

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Accelerating Success

The following is the executive summary of a report entitled "Accelerating Success: Building a Dynamic Diversity Equity & Inclusion Infrastructure at the University of Denver." To read the full report, login to PioneerWeb.

A senior diversity administrator is not a superhero who steps in and solves everyone’s problems. Instead, they serve as a critical link in a chain of leadership and shared vision that extends both laterally and vertically through the university. In this way, they inspire the superhero powers within other leaders and within each individual on campus to step up to support diversity and inclusion in their corner of the university, creating a safer and better environment for all.

This report responds to University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp’s request to consider the potential for an elevated strategic diversity leadership role at DU that would collaboratively galvanize the university’s inclusive excellence agenda. In this decision, the University of Denver admirably seeks a more formal approach to accelerating its diversity and inclusion potential by elevating diversity leadership and integrating it into everyday campus functioning.

In this report, Dr Damon A. Williams and his colleagues at the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation worked to capture the voice of the DU campus community, explore national best practices and models, and present several key recommendations for consideration in finalizing a plan to support the university’s diversity and inclusion infrastructure and change steps moving forward. This report has emerged from:

(1) A thorough review of the University of Denver’s diversity, equity, and inclusion documents and reports;

(2) Interviews with numerous individuals, committees and leadership groups across campus in a 2-day-long site visit;

(3) Top-level benchmarking of diversity infrastructures at peer institutions as well as for national models of practice;

(4) A consideration of evidence-based diversity officer design and strategic diversity leadership principles to move this work forward in an intentional and focused manner.

We examined how a diversity and inclusion infrastructure could operate both horizontally and vertically through the university, flowing from an understanding of its strategic agenda. The five sections in this report provide an in-depth look at the university’s current situation and where it can go from here, including: (1) Six diversity leadership themes we identified, (2) Fourteen design themes for a well-functioning diversity and inclusion officer, (3) Benchmarking to other comparable institutions, (4) Designing the role in question, and (5) Thoughts for using this report.

Since we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to diversity- and inclusion-themed organizational design and strategy, the insights and recommendations offered in this report are a reflection of DU’s campus voice, our prior work in this area and DU’s pre-defined design contingencies.

The University of Denver has a powerful opportunity to take a stand to create meaningful change that will be positively received and improve campus life for both students and faculty. Campus sentiment is deeply and broadly supportive of the elevation of diversity and inclusion and its embodiment in an executive position. By going forward with clear communications and the other suggestions entailed in this report, DU has the capacity to change and inspire the institution to greater heights across a wide range of pressing issues and towards a greater good for all.

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