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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Moving the Needle on Equity

Kirsten Dellinger (left) and Valeria Ross (right)

Kirsten Dellinger (left), PhD, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and Valeria Ross, MS, Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion

Last summer, in the midst of the pandemic and a national reckoning with racism, we wrote to you about the emerging College “10 in 3” plan (10 major equity initiatives and the College’s commitment to anti-racism and institutional change necessary to create an environment where all faculty, staff, and students can expect respect and thrive). 
Since then and following the University-wide Pathways to Equity strategic plan roll out in January 2021, we have been working diligently with a wide range of faculty, staff, students, and administrators to develop a “Focus 5” among these items which are now listed in the CLA Pathways to Equity plan on the Chancellor’s website.

One important step this year has been building an infrastructure within the College to make progress and hold ourselves accountable for “moving the needle” on equity by identifying greatest areas of need.  We are grateful for the work of these important advisory and working groups and look forward to progress on the fronts defined in the plan and other ideas and initiatives that continue to emerge.
CLA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Advisory Council

Liberal arts student leaders in undergraduate and graduate governing student organizations identified the following priorities for students from underrepresented groups:

  • accessible advising
  • mentorship in the first-year and beyond
  • support for transfer students
  • access to internship opportunities and support for related travel and lodging
  • more tutoring outside of Greek organizations
  • recognition and support for student work towards diversity, equity, and inclusion

CLA Faculty Equity Leadership Advisory Board

Members of the CLA Faculty who are leaders in work supporting equity and inclusion on campus and in our communities are advising the College and have developed and are pursuing the following initiatives:

  • Increased recruitment and retention of minority faculty and support for the new CLA Cluster/Thematic Hire initiative.
  • Development of a “sense of mattering” among underrepresented students to enhance student success, well-being, and retention.
  • Promotion of pathways to graduate education and grant funding for the UM international student community.
  • Fostering broadened understandings and enhanced research support for community- engaged scholarship on race, racism and social change through new summer grant programs.
  • Analysis of existing faculty awards on campus to strengthen fair and transparent processes and more diverse pools of nominees.
  • Increasing effectiveness in securing grant and foundation funding focused on institutional transformation and support for scholars from underrepresented groups.
  • Creation of and funding for a summer workshop program that enhances recruitment and retention of faculty, staff, and students doing community-engaged research focused on LGBTQ lives, particularly queer people of color.
  • Examination of barriers to success for women and people of color in SEC STEM departments.
  • Review and development of engaging educational strategies using innovative theatre techniques to enhance student, faculty, staff, and administrator education around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

CLA Faculty and Staff Department Equity Representatives

Faculty and staff members from all Departments and units in the College are serving as liaisons to the College on diversity, equity, and inclusion matters and have gathered feedback from their colleagues and provided valuable feedback on the current CLA Pathways to Equity Plan. Some major initiatives from the group this year will include:

  • Review and analysis of demographic snapshots of Departments and units using the new Diversity Dashboard, as well as other available climate data.
  • Assessment and selection of effective models for sustainable Department equity reviews that encourage reflection on current policies and practices to ensure that we are supporting inclusive excellence for all faculty, staff, and students and continually improving.
  • Development of new faculty and staff awards and professional development opportunities and processes.

If you are interested in supporting these efforts, we would welcome your help!