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Diversity & Inclusion
A Letter from President Drinan, Spring 2012

President DrinanOne of the areas that I continue to be excited about at Simmons is the focus we've placed on issues of inclusion and diversity. Because this is such a priority for me and for the College, I wanted to provide you with an update on our progress.

As many of you know, two years ago I created the President's Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council (PDIAC), whose work is to provide me with advice and consultation, to set priorities, shape strategies, and integrate diversity and inclusion principles in all facets of the College. Provost Charlena Seymour has provided a leadership role as chair of the committee during my travel absences. In addition, Professor of Practice Gary Bailey has moved into the position of vice chair. My thanks to both of them.

President's Diversity and Inclusion Council: Providing Leadership

At Simmons we strive to be an honest, open and inclusive community that draws upon the strengths of the many perspectives represented here. At the same time, we prepare ourselves for the future, paying attention to things like the changing demographics among high school students, the need for all of us to be responsible global citizens, and to the increasing role that technology plays in linking us to one another. The PDIAC integrates what we know now with what we anticipate about the future to position Simmons to thrive.

Building on the good work done by our predecessors, we have conducted some thoughtful research and analysis to ensure that the diversity and inclusion strategies we build are fact-based. And while we define diversity broadly -- to include class, sexual orientation, religion and many other dimensions of the differences among us -- we have intentionally decided to focus some of our near-term strategies on race and ethnicity. Below I share with you specific examples of the PDIAC areas of focus.

Priority Focus #1: Recruiting & Retaining Simmons' Students

Of course, students are our top priority and the reason we are all here. We believe that the student experience is far richer when we surround ourselves with people from different points of view and life perspectives. Towards that end, we specifically seek at this time to increase the recruitment, admission and retention of undergraduate and graduate students of color.

For instance, Vice President for Marketing and Admission, Cheryl Howard, is working with her team to carve out new, specific strategies with regard to student recruitment; building strong relationships with schools in diverse communities in Massachusetts; and investing in targeted international recruiting efforts.

And I'm very excited to report to you about the Funded Initiatives program, supported by the PDIAC and initiated by Provost Charlena Seymour, calling for proposals from faculty to support the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students and faculty of color.

Priority Focus #2: Faculty, Administrators & Staff

Recruitment of students and faculty of color intertwine. Provost Seymour’s call for “Funded Initiatives” (supported by PDIAC) provides a place to address both discrete and intersecting recruitment. Simmons faculty members were asked to submit ideas for projects that will be funded to increase student and faculty diversity. The proposals we've reviewed demonstrate the breadth of commitment to this priority and offer invigorating ways to engage in and address our concerns about recruitment and retention. Three projects were funded in Spring 2011 and the 2012 applicants are in the review and selection process.

Simmons faculty embodies the teaching excellence of which we are most proud. Among our strategic priorities is our intention to increase the recruitment and retention of administrators, faculty and staff of color. Under the leadership of the Provost Office, the process for recruiting and hiring faculty is being rigorously examined, with the intention of supporting those processes that yield the fullest, most dynamic slate of candidates among our many prospects. We have cast our net widely and have made good progress with some of the hires that have been recently made at the College. We will continue to search for diverse faculty and administrative prospective candidates, and we will pay attention to the myriad issues that contribute to retention and engagement of our faculty.

In addition, we're looking at some exciting work that involves drawing upon the best practices demonstrated by our faculty in creating an engaged and inclusive classroom. As always, we have so much we can learn from one another.

Priority Focus #3: Continuing to Build an Inclusive Culture

Dean of Student Life, Sarah Neill, and Renee White, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences work closely on institutional efforts tied to retention. Dean Neill has led the PDIAC in a close examination of the systematic ways we listen to students, such as through campus surveys, resulting in a prioritization of the many survey options. Simultaneously, Registrar Donna Dolan is working with the PDIAC to closely track trends among students currently enrolled at Simmons so that we can learn more about their experiences.

Whether in the residence halls, the classroom, the cafeteria or a college-sponsored event, everything we do is a reflection of our campus culture. Our Student Life staff does a stellar job of working with students regarding life in the residence halls, and I am particularly appreciative of their leadership. While each one of us has a role to play in setting the tone for our culture, Simmons graduate and undergraduate campus leaders play a particularly important role in carrying the mantle, and I am grateful to those of you who do so with such intention, grace and courage.

Building Momentum

The PDIAC addresses topics that are tightly woven throughout the core purpose and values held by Simmons. In an area in which we are all stakeholders, I established the PDIAC to underscore the importance of our work around diversity and to bring to the table many of the leaders upon whom we rely to articulate and enact our strategic goals specifically related to diversity. During the fall semester, we increased our membership particularly from areas of the College not represented. Standing members include the President, Provost, Associate Provost, faculty and staff members from each of the Schools, at least one member of Dean’s Council, Vice President for Marketing and Admission, Dean of Student Life, and members of the Simmons Strategy Team. We are building momentum and I greatly look forward to implementing additional plans.

The Simmons culture is carried by each and every one of us. Together I am confident that we will continue to build the sort of community of which we all strongly desire to be a part. Let us look to PDIAC for leadership and disciplined tracking of our progress as we individually and collectively move forward.