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Strategic Plan for Inclusion and Equity

Context For Planning

Framework for Equity and Inclusion at Grand Valley State University


Equity and inclusion are integral to our mission at Grand Valley State University to educate students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies, and to enrich the community through excellent teaching, active scholarship, and public service. 

The profound integration of Grand Valley's commitment and approach to equity and inclusion is visible across the university, and guided by values of inclusiveness and community: 

From Grand Valley Board of Trustees Policies, Chapter 1: Vision, Mission, and Values Statement 

Inclusiveness. Grand Valley State University values all identities, perspectives, and backgrounds and is dedicated to incorporating multiple voices and experiences into every aspect of its operations. We believe that diversity competencies are an intellectual asset and that a range of thoughtful perspectives and a commitment to open inquiry strengthens our liberal education tradition. We recognize that the long-term viability of the institution depends upon anticipating and meeting the needs of emerging constituent groups, especially our changing student body. Therefore, the institution seeks to include, engage, and support diverse groups of students, faculty and staff members, as well as community members. Grand Valley is committed to strengthening our living, learning, and working environment by recognizing and removing the barriers to full participation and providing a safe, inclusive, vibrant community for all.

Community. Grand Valley State University values its connections to, participation with, and responsibility to local communities, West Michigan, the state, the nation, and the world. We value the collaboration of faculty members, staff members, and students with external partners in addressing mutual interests and community needs. The university offers the communities it serves resources and inspiration in their own lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Faculty and staff members are encouraged to contribute their expertise and service working in partnership with communities. Students are encouraged to take part in various service learning and volunteer opportunities in their communities and abroad. To foster and expand these community connections, the institution and its members promote, value, and honor diverse perspectives. 

Grand Valley's vision is to become one of the nations premier institutions of higher education grounded in the tradition of the liberal arts. This commitment to liberal arts education is strengthened by providing a welcoming environment where all members of the Grand Valley community can safely and proudly be their authentic selves with equitable opportunity for success. Grand Valley strives to foster a healthy and diverse environment where all members of the community act with integrity, communicate respectfully, and accept responsibility for their words and actions. Authentic personal relationships and a spirit of community matter at GVSU. 

Grand Valley intends to be a national model for equity and inclusion in higher education, not only by implementing and innovating evidenced-based best practices and responding to regional and national and trends, but also by contributing to local and national discourse on the responsibility of higher education to provide equity and inclusion to all students, faculty and staff. Grand Valley aspires to embody the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of our region, thus becoming recognized as the practiced model and resource for equity and inclusion in West Michigan.

Long-Standing Commitment to Advance Inclusion and Equity
In 2008 and building on prior decades of work, President Thomas J. Haas (2007-current) created the Division of Inclusion and Equity. Grand Valley was one of the first universities to create a unit portfolio division structure to lead diversity efforts. This included a chief diversity officer (CDO) at the senior management level who reports directly to the president. The path to the creation of a CDO at GVSU was led by a significant number of factors that had emerged over the previous decade. Not only did the institution consider the importance of diversity to accrediting bodies, it also listened to its own constituents. GVSU conducted a climate study that gathered quantitative and qualitative information; it supported the growth of numerous grassroots efforts (e.g., the People of Color Network, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender [LGBT] Faculty/Staff Association, and the Intercultural Awareness Committee); and it listened to student concerns that had arisen as a result of bias incidents on campus. These strengths and challenges painted a picture of an institution ready to grow, and were propelled by the leadership of a new president who understood that notable and sustained progress required more formal leadership to lend authority and coordination to diversity efforts. 

Significant progress toward creating a welcoming environment has been achieved at GVSU since 2008. A university-wide Inclusion Implementation Plan (IIP) was completed in 2011 under the leadership of the inaugural Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, Dr. Jeanne Arnold (2008-2014). The IIP documents strategic initiatives from each college, division and unit detailing their contribution to making GVSU a more inclusive campus. Four action areas were highlighted: access and equity, campus climate, diversity in curriculum/co-curriculum, and organizational learning. Grand Valleys efforts to advance equity and inclusion are now embedded in the 2016-2021 university strategic plan. As previously noted, Grand Valley has also been a leader in campus climate assessment and will complete a fifth assessment in the fall of 2015. 

Grand Valley has received national recognition for its commitment to diversity and inclusion. In September 2014, Insight Into Diversity named GVSU among its Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) recipients. Grand Valley has also received the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council's Corporate ONE Award and was named a Role Model Institution by Minority Access Inc. 

Grand Valley intentionally recognizes its place among larger systems of marginalization and oppression, the cumulative effect of racial inequality that plagues the education system, and the continued existence of identity-based tension on campuses that sometimes results in educational and experiential inequalities. Grand Valley, as a complex social system, is neither immune to the impact nor the root causes of systemic oppression and takes stock of the history that has marginalized some communities and prevented full access to the benefits of higher education on a systemic level. Unfortunately, college access continues to be stratified along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. Underrepresented communities are more likely to have feelings of exclusion, isolation, and experiences with insensitivity and microaggression leading to a general sense of vulnerability and even invisibility. Consistent with national trends, findings of GVSU's 2011 campus climate study show that some groups on campus, particularly people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and women, reported having less comfort with the climate in some areas in relation to their counterpart groups. And while these dynamics are not isolated to Grand Valley, or even always under the universitys direct control, the equity and inclusion framework provides the necessary accountability to ensure even greater progress for all communities despite these historical challenges. 

Next Phase of Grand Valley's Commitment to Advance Inclusion and Equity 

The noteworthy leadership and commitment of President Haas, other senior leaders, countless members of the GVSU community, and community partners are indicative of a strong foundation for advancement. Grand Valley acknowledges the need for a new, coordinated, and comprehensive strategy to advance equity and inclusion. The challenge ahead is to continue to transform GVSU into a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive university. This effort honors the diversity of West Michigan, renews a commitment to individuals and communities of every background and perspective, and advances social justice locally and nationally. 

Higher Learning Commission.  Grand Valley's continued efforts will align with the university accreditation standards of the Higher Learning Commission. The framework articulated here and the university's strategic planning for equity and inclusion advances HLC's guiding value that education for a diverse, technologically and globally connected world is essential, and demonstrates an example of Grand Valley's culture of continuous improvement amid great success related to equity and inclusion. Importantly, equity and inclusion efforts at GVSU will be driven by evidence-based institutional learning and a commitment to evaluation and assessment that aligns equity and inclusion efforts with the evidence and assessment critical quality assurance function of accreditation. (See https://hlcommission.org/Criteria-Eligibility-and-Candidacy/guiding-values-new-criteria-for-accredit... for more information about HLC's guiding values).

Commitment to Advance Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Social Justice

Diversity. Diversity refers to the presence of difference and variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from difference of culture and circumstance. Such differences include race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, age, class, religion and spirituality, geographic and international, and more. Diversity, in all its forms, is at the heart of Grand Valley's mission to provide a liberal education that will help shape lives, professions, and societies. Diversity is affirmed and celebrated at GVSU and in the community as a necessary intellectual asset and institutional resource. Grand Valley believes it has a responsibility to serve all members of our community through a coordinated equity and inclusion strategy. 

Inclusion. Inclusion refers to GVSU's support for the success and engagement of all students, faculty, staff and campus visitors in creating a healthy and affirming climate. Inclusion is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect in ways that increase one's awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within value systems and institutions (Association of American Colleges and Universities, AAC&U). Inclusion establishes an environment in which all individuals and communities are able to thrive in authentic ways. Moreover, an inclusive and welcoming climate embraces difference so that all people can fully participate in the university's opportunities. Grand Valley is committed to the advancement of inclusion the act of creating environments where individuals feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued. 

Equity. Equity is a guiding principle at GVSU. It refers to the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for students, faculty, and staff at every stage of educational and career development. Grand Valley acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations. Every effort is made to identify and eliminate barriers preventing their full participation. 

Social Justice. Social Justice serves as the conceptual foundation for Grand Valley's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The institution recognizes its responsibility to examine traditional power structures and to address unfair treatment of any university constituent within these structures. Moreover, Grand Valley intends to educate and empower all members of the community to think critically about systems of marginalization and oppression. This includes a deeper understanding of privilege and the need for all in the community to work toward equity and fairness in the pursuit of transformation of lives, professions, and societies.

Strategic Planning and Accountability for Inclusion and Equity
  An organized strategy that focuses on diversity, inclusion, and equity, solidly grounded in a foundation of social justice, drives the next phase of the university's work. Looking forward, Grand Valley's commitment includes sustaining institutional efforts to ensure that equity is embedded across the campus, and ingrained in all functions, decision-making, and planning. Grand Valley will also redouble efforts to eliminate inequities and advance access while continuing to create a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all.
A social justice foundation motivates the increased intellectual depth that is crucial for solving societal challenges. It also contributes to the mechanisms and advocacy that are necessary to ensure access and support for all at GVSU. This plan will also support university efforts to:
 Multifaceted and Coordinated Approach
  Grand Valley is a large and complex institution, with over 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students, nearly 3,500 faculty and staff, and over 100,000 alumni. In addition, the University partners with countless community members, organizations, business, and other institutions across the world. This framework for inclusion and equity seeks to engage GVSU in activities related to faculty, students, prospective students, staff, administrators, trustees, alumni, and external community members. In the next phase of this commitment, Grand Valley seeks to organize its efforts to advance equity and inclusion through an integrated and multifaceted approach with a focus in three broad areas: equity and structural diversity, inclusion and campus climate, and, learning and development. In each of these broad areas, an intersectional social justice lens and strategic planning and accountability are central organizing frameworks.
1.  Equity and structural diversity: how does GVSU eliminate exclusionary barriers and support the educational pipeline? Grand Valley seeks to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff who more accurately reflect the diversity of West Michigan. As a public institution, GVSU can shape the educational pipeline by supporting equity in education for K-12 students, increasing college-readiness and college eligibility, promoting the success of students through undergraduate graduation, and encouraging the pursuit of graduate degrees at equitable rates. Areas of focus within equity and structural diversity include:

Relevant objectives in GVSU's 2016-2021 Strategic Plan:

2.  Inclusion and campus climate: how does GVSU continually improve campus climate and become an integrated member of the broader community? Grand Valley desires to sustain an institutional climate that allows all members of the community to thrive and seeks to eliminate incidents of bias and discrimination on campus. Understanding the impact of the external environment on campus climate, Grand Valley strives to be a voice of progress and an advocate of social justice for and within the broader community. In an effort to better understand the experiences and perceptions of the campus community and to promote openness and accountability, Grand Valley prioritizes the collection of campus climate and diversity-related data. It commits to developing sustained action plans to respond to findings. It considers relationships with diverse external communities and strives to develop compelling messages and initiatives that resonate with those communities. Areas of focus within inclusion and campus climate include:

  Relevant objectives in GVSU's 2016-2021 Strategic Plan


3.  Learning and development: how does GVSU ensure that university expertise related to equity and inclusion is relevant and innovative? How does GVSU support the community's continual development of greater self-awareness, knowledge, and skills required for the advancement of equity and inclusion? Social justice education is a life-long learning process. Areas of focus within learning and development include:

Curriculum and Instruction

Research and Inquiry

Leadership Development

Social Justice Education

Relevant objectives in GVSU's 2016-2021 Strategic Plan:

4.  Intersectionality: GVSU's multifaceted and coordinated framework for equity and inclusion considers and affirms the role of multiple identities with relationship to various social contexts and interlocking systems of power, privilege, and oppression in shaping experiences of our community members. The University's efforts broadly consider complex experiences and needs through multiple dimensions of identity, with particular centrality to marginalized identities, including:

While intentional focus on intersectionality is central to the University's framework, community- and identity-specific efforts are necessary until full equality is realized. These efforts acknowledge important nuances within diverse communities and identities and allow for strategic attention that advances the work more broadly.

5.  Strategic Planning and Accountability: Strategic planning focuses on creating measurable ways inclusion and equity can support the strategic direction, goals, and objectives of the university. At GVSU, strategic planning is centralized through the 2016-2021 University Strategic Plan. Although all academic and administrative units contextualize objectives and outcomes, all objectives, across the university, should advance the goals enumerated in the university plan. To ensure the success of Grand Valley's strategic planning related to equity and inclusion, accountability is key. Efforts should include opportunities to review progress and articulate course-corrections, if necessary. While efforts should be broadly shared across campus, accountability partners should be identified to ensure timely progress. Accountability helps to ensure that "everyone is on board" and actively engaged in the equity and inclusion process. At GVSU, the Division of Inclusion and Equity is charged with supporting and advancing the university's strategic framework for equity and inclusion.

Charge of the Division of Inclusion and Equity. In its policies, the Board of Trustees of Grand Valley State University charges the Division of Inclusion and Equity to direct diversity planning for the university, address equity issues in collaboration with other divisions and units, and support the vision and mission of the university by providing leadership and services. The Division will provide leadership to the University through a divisional strategic plan. The Division of Inclusion and Equity supports GVSU in being the model for equity and inclusion among public, comprehensive regional universities in the nation.

Everyone has a stake in these efforts. While the Division of Inclusion and Equity takes a leadership role in advancing this framework through its divisional strategic plan, the participation of the entire campus is essential to its success. Everyone has a stake in this work! - equity and inclusion makes each member of our community better and is fundamental to what it means to be a Laker.


Mission

Through collaboration, consultation, and leadership with students, faculty, staff, administrators and community partners, the Division of Inclusion and Equity advances Grand Valley State University's social justice framework for equity and inclusion. The division coordinates sustainable and strategic institutional efforts to engage all members of the community while also intentionally supporting and advocating for historically underrepresented communities. The division's work furthers the university's liberal education and student-centered mission.

Vision

Grand Valley State University is transformed as a national model for equity, inclusion, and social justice through pioneering, innovative, and dynamic leadership by the Division of Inclusion and Equity and its shared efforts.

Strategic Priorities, outcomes, and key objectives

Strategic Priority Area 1: Actively engage learners at all levels.

Strategic Priority Area 2: Further develop exceptional personnel.

Strategic Priority Area 3: Ensure the alignment of institutional structures and functions.

Strategic Priority Area 4: Enhance the institution's image and reputation.

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