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Enact an Intersectional Approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Advancing our commitment to equity requires supporting 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. 

Partnership with Mellon Foundation – The College has seen unprecedented success over the past 6 years in garnering funding and support from the Mellon Foundation, particularly with but not limited to funding for initiatives that advance inclusive excellence. For example, with $2M in support from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MSU will launch the Diaspora Solidarities Lab (DSL), a Black feminist digital humanities initiative that supports solidarity work in Black and Ethnic Studies with a commitment to transformative justice led by Department of English Associate Professor Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez. The DSL will help build knowledge communities through technology and serve as a co-creating space. It will be a hub for Black feminist modes of academic and community partnership, and mutual aid for the study of technologies of diaspora and solidarity. Its primary purpose is to build power and critical knowledge within Black diasporic communities by bringing together diaspora studies projects, scholars, and community members accountable to Black feminist thought. With $2.5M in support also from the Mellon Foundation, the LCTL and Indigenous Languages 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. 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. Drawing on the creative power of art to change the ways we understand the world and respond to one another is another way we are advancing transformative change during the pandemic. The College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University received a $3M Mellon “Just Futures” Mellon Foundations grant led by Professors Natalie Phillips, Nancy DeJoy, and Julian Chambliss entitled “Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Art as a Tool for Combating Inequity and Injustice.” These grants, along with those connected to digital scholarly communication and values enacted scholarship through the Public Philosophy Journal, the HuMetricsHSS initiative, and the Humanities Commons, demonstrate the transformative power of the arts and humanities.  

Equitable Hiring and Proactive Holistic Retention – 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 12 BIPOC faculty (8 African American) over the past four years or 35% of all tenure-stream hires (12/34): 50% (4/8) in AY 19-20 and 50% (3/6) in AY 20-21. 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. This past year, we welcomed three new faculty members to the AAAS department as well as two academic specialists. These appointments also resulted in three associated partner hires at MSU. Embracing the intellectual substance of African American and African Studies by building curriculum, investing in faculty, and supporting an organizational structure that conveys, with clarity and urgency, the importance of Black and Africana Studies is at the heart of the transformative change we hope to lead. 

Social Justice and Equity Initiative (SJEI) – The College of Arts & Letters is collaborating with Colleges from across the University on the SJEI which is designed to amplify, support, and highlight existing and new work that revolves around issues of social justice and equity. The initiative will serve as a hub for amplifying existing work in three areas 1) engaged teaching and learning, 2) community-centered research and creative work, and 3) community engagement.  

Critical Race Residency Program – Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have continued the MSUFCU supported Artist/Designer-in-Residence for Critical Race Studies program by hosting Dan Paz and Elka Stevens. Since 2017, the Critical Race Residency Program has hosted nine 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.  

1855 Professorship – With a focus on Great Lakes Anishinaabe Knowledge, Spiritualities, and Cultural Practices, this position will advance MSU’s DEI objectives to increase diversity and transform the curriculum through a new strategic initiative in the Religious Studies Department to increase faculty representation through strategic partnerships across the University.  

Staff Restructuring – The College implemented a Functional Teams Support Staff Structure on July 1, 2021. While the first six months was primarily a transition period, we are already experiencing greater consistency, resiliency, adaptability, support, accountability, and equity. The teams are beginning to focus on specific processes to improve support across the College. The implementation of Campus Solutions and Slate systems has been challenging, but the new structure allows us to adapt more quickly and respond more effectively to the needs of students, faculty, and staff.