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University's diversity, inclusion efforts earn national recognition

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for the fourth year in a row.

UL Lafayette is among 103 colleges and universities to earn the 2021 HEED Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. It is the largest diversity magazine and website in higher education. Honorees will be featured in the November issue.

The publication evaluated schools in the U.S. and Canada for contributions in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. Recruitment and campus leadership were also considered.

Dr. Taniecea A. Mallery, UL Lafayette’s executive director of Strategic Initiatives and chief diversity officer, said “the recognition represents the University’s ongoing commitment to providing educational opportunities that embrace underrepresented groups.”

“It also says a lot about some of the things we’ve done that position the University as a leader not only in higher education, but in the community. That’s especially significant now, given the political, economic, cultural and pandemic-related challenges we face as a nation,” she added.

Mallery pointed out several recent programs, initiatives and efforts, including the Educating for Equity Fellows Program. Faculty and staff members are coordinating a professional development curriculum this fall to examine diversity, equity and inclusion challenges in online and traditional learning.
The Louisiana Board of Regents is funding the two-semester initiative, which the Office for Campus Diversity is leading. A cohort of representatives from many areas of campus will research transformative social and emotional learning strategies related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The group will compile evidence-based research, and share findings with University of Louisiana System institutions and other schools across the state and nation.

Mallery also singled out a community book reading and virtual discussion series on voting rights that was hosted by the University’s Edith Garland Dupré Library.

The library was among 10 in the state that received a Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities grant for the “Who Gets to Vote? Conversations on Voting Rights in America” series. It examined voting rights since the country’s founding, the electoral process, women’s suffrage, and historic and contemporary voter suppression practices.
She also cited the Accelerate Northside economic initiative. The University’s Louisiana Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center collaborated with the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce during the 12-week program.

The entities enlisted volunteers who mentored people interested in starting a small business on the north side of Lafayette. The work was conducted as part of a larger LEED Center effort to help bolster economic development in several regions of Acadiana, including rural areas.
The Office for Campus Diversity’s weeklong “First to Geaux” initiative was designed to help first-generation students – those whose parents either didn’t pursue or didn’t complete a college degree program.
First-generation students are more likely to be from lower-income backgrounds, and be less familiar with processes on college campuses. “First to Geaux” included a social media campaign to promote awareness about campus resources, departments and programs.

The University was among 54 schools selected for a National Science Foundation initiative to help reshape higher education practices and policies for hiring and retaining Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics faculty.

The “Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty" effort is being coordinated by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. UL Lafayette and other institutions are addressing a national issue. According to NSF research, underrepresented groups hold 9 percent of the STEM professorships at the nation’s four-year institutions.

Mallery also mentioned a public dialogue series that the University hosted. It examined race, equality and social justice in the wake of police shootings and protest movements. “Race & Social Justice: A Three-Day Community Conversation” brought together students, University leaders, alumni, social justice advocates, and other community members.
Among the issues explored were the justice system and the history of incarceration in the region; police practices and reform; racial profiling; protest and free speech; social disparities and exclusion; the legacy of slavery and racism in Lafayette and the Deep South; the Civil Rights Movement and its legacy; and the Black experience in Acadiana.

Mallery said the University’s commitment to advancing diversity and equity is guided by the Office for Campus Diversity’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence. The comprehensive plan sets forth campus wide objectives for bolstering programs and resources that promote equity and inclusion.
“Among the plan’s overarching objectives are fostering engagement across campus and in the community, increasing enrollment and retention among underrepresented students, and creating more professional development resources for faculty and staff members,” she explained.

Learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion at the University at the Office for Campus Diversity website.

Photo caption: For the fourth year in a row, UL Lafayette has earned the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The HEED Award recognizes colleges and universities for programs, initiatives and resources that advance diversity, equity and inclusion. Recipients will be honored in the magazine’s November issue. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette