Building an Inclusive Amherst College
Dear Campus Community,
I’m incredibly excited to share this three-year report with you. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (OD&I) was founded in June 2016 and has grown into a fully staffed division of the College, responsible for working with every division to steward a comprehensive, research-based approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
June: Office of Diversity and Inclusion is founded
July: Office expanded to include the Multicultural Resource Center, Queer Resource Center, and Women’s and Gender Center
Office assumes oversight of the Harold Wade Fellowship Program
Launch of Summer Intern Cohort Program
January: First Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Officers appointed
March: Resource Centers Team created
April: Office of Inclusive Leadership created to focus on staff initiatives and leadership development as they relate to diversity, equity and inclusion
May: Expansion of office to include the International Student Office
July: International Student Office renamed the Center for International Student Engagement
August: Creation of the Center for Diversity and Student Leadership
September: Launch of #AmherstIBelong photo campaign
February: Amherst College wins prestigious $500,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant
May: Creation of the Office for Student Academic Development
August: First Office of Diversity and Inclusion Welcome Showcase (first-year orientation)
September: Amherst College awarded the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award.
October: Launch of #AmherstChatBack dialogue series
January: Expansion of #AmherstChatBack to include faculty and staff
February: Launch of six Colleague Resource Groups
When I first came to Amherst, I was concerned about what adjustments would be necessary to make the transition from my previous position, which included compliance for Title IX, Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity, and Disability Services. As it turns out, the Amherst community contends with all these domains and more. Establishing an office dedicated to the work of diversity and inclusion requires that a great deal of diagnostic work be done in order to assess where we are relative to where we want to be on all these fronts. Over the last three years, I have worked with many different colleagues across all areas of the college to learn more about our community and our needs and to establish transformative programming that will move us towards accomplishing our goals of equity and inclusion.
Our commitment to accessibility, though strong in conviction, needs significant work in order to reach our goals. Among the areas in need of improvement: readily achievable barrier removal, enhanced digital accessibility, and accommodations for different learning styles. Our faculty and staff have spent countless hours on their own, in workshops, and in collaboration with our office and the office of accessibility services to develop a better understanding of the role played by identity and identity formation in student learning. Many institutions do not take the time to appreciate these complexities. They matter, and they make a difference in how equity and inclusion can be advanced.
OD&I has enjoyed fruitful relationships with the Office of the President, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Human Resources, the Office of Student Affairs, Finance and Administration, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Communications, Admission and Financial Aid, the Office of Information Technology, Campus Operations, and Advancement. These partnerships allow all of us to make progress on faculty diversity and development, climate in the workplace, students’ sense of inclusion and belonging, the engagement of our diverse alumni community, and our role in building programmatic pipelines for graduate and professional work. Our shared curiosity about the extent to which a full Amherst experience is available to everyone enables a greater sense of community cohesion.
Over the next three years, OD&I will continue to contribute to the pursuit of four overarching goals: to recruit, support, and retain a diverse community of first-rate faculty; to create a greater sense of belonging for all Amherst students; to help create the conditions for recruiting and supporting a more diverse staff; and to strategically engage with our diverse alumni community. Our Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Officers will continue their conversations with department chairs and individual faculty colleagues about inclusive hiring practices, promising practices for the retention of faculty of color, and achieving greater accessibility to our academic programs. We will continue to help support our resource centers, which now report directly to the Office of Student Affairs, and which aim to develop a more strategic and holistic framework for thinking about the place of identity in the undergraduate experience. Partnering with colleagues in Human Resources, we will support workforce planning and development efforts. We will also continue to address bias in the workplace through increased trainings on inclusive hiring practices, and, as always, we will continue to engage in identity-based learning opportunities to better support students.
Our office has been heavily involved in the continued work of the Presidential Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. Over the past three years, the task force has successfully written a comprehensive self-study examining the future work of equity and inclusion at the College. We will continue to examine these topics particularly as it relates to bias and the need to use restorative practices in preserving a strong sense of community connection.
I will end with a personal thank you. Thank you to every partner who helps the College better understand our individual and collective responsibilities to build a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and just community. This work is hard, messy, rewarding, and extremely gratifying. We have made great strides, and we will continue to learn and grow together.
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer