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Enact Our Commitment to Equity

The second principle of our 2020 Contingency Plan is to continue to enact our commitment to equity. Over the past several years, the College has implemented several initiatives to improve faculty recruitment and retention rates. We have overhauled procedures to align with equitable search best practices and hired 9 BIPOC faculty (5 African American) over the past three years or 32% of all tenure-stream hires (9/28) and 50% (4/8) in AY 19-20. We have developed proactive retention policies, both College leadership fellows and mentoring fellows’ programs, and continue work on an equitable policies review at the College and Department/Center levels. Over the past two years, we have successfully retained all tenure-stream African American faculty in the College and hired two new Black faculty in the new Department of African American and African Studies, including a new inaugural chair, Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, who was recently appointed as an MSU Foundation Professor. We successfully recruited Full Professor Dr. Stephen Di Benedetto as the new chairperson of the Department of Theatre. In addition, we hired new high impact faculty such as Kuhu Tanvir in the Department of English and Digital Humanities who works on digital media/cellphone film shorts in popular Hindi cinema. Abhishek Narula is new in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and hacks digital hardware to explore the relationship between technology and society. Betsy Sneller, new in Linguistics, has partnered with Suzanne Wagner, a senior colleague in the Linguistics program, to measure language change during COVID-19.

With $2.5M in support from the Mellon Foundation, the LCTL Partnership grant has taken a proactive approach by creating innovative courses through the Big 10 Academic Alliance CourseShare instead of relying on the on-demand model used for the past decade. Based on the foundation laid by our first Mellon grant, the research team has expanded the project to include one Indigenous language, Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), which is an Indigenous language spoken in the Michigan area and Great Lakes region. The LCTL Partnership will develop an Anishinaabemowin program that will serve the needs of Michigan’s Indigenous nations as well as establish a model for other Indigenous language instruction that is rooted within Indigenous communities and aligned with Indigenous knowledge systems.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have continued the MSUFCU supported Artist/Designer-in-Residence for Critical Race Studies program by hosting Young Joon Kwak, a multi-disciplinary artist who works primarily through sculpture, performance, video, and collaboration. Kwak has undertaken a bold creative project connected with the symbolism of the Sparty statue. Since 2017, the Critical Race Residency Program has hosted seven designers and artists to bring diverse creative perspectives to our community to broaden the scope and imagination of our work to create a more equitable, welcoming, and just community.

Advancing our commitment to equity requires advancing curricular and co-curricular experiences that foreground diversity, equity, and inclusion with the full knowledge that encounters with these matters make for transformative learning. The College’s Compelling Curriculum Initiative sets out to build a culture of learning assessment that helps faculty, staff, and students recognize and invest in the types of learning experiences that manifest this commitment to equity in and across the curriculum. The Office of Undergraduate Studies has worked with every curricular program–majors and minors–to review and, if appropriate–revise learning outcomes so that faculty and students see clearly how courses enact programs’ values. We are also building curricular maps to visualize student pathways through programs, an effort that helps us verify students’ encounters with diversity, equity, and Inclusion (DEI). One longer term goal is to conduct college-wide scoring of student work and close the assessment loop through relevant professional development opportunities. Additional phases of this initiative will use a data-informed approach to identify and address areas where we have opportunity gaps and other pressing equity concerns.