President's Office

The Role of Faculty in Inclusive Excellence and Diversity

“The Role of Faculty in Inclusive Excellence and Diversity”

Faculty Retreat / Northridge Center, University Student Union
California State University, Northridge
(prepared text for address)

January 12, 2015

(Click here to go directly to the reference/resource list of publications at the end of the address.)

 Good morning, Happy New Year, and welcome back for Spring semester, 2015!

I was pleased to learn that whoever selects the theme of your retreats had chosen “diversity” as this year's theme. Many of you have heard me challenge the existing levels of faculty and staff diversity relative to our student demographics so you might imagine that I would be highly charged to address this group today on this topic. What I intend to accomplish in this presentation is to lay out the case for why both inclusive excellence and diversity are critical to the success of all of our students and the roles that faculty can play in improving our campus climate for students and for faculty, staff, and yes, even administrators. My purpose is not to dwell on our employee numbers although those data are starkly revealing, but rather to focus on the immense benefits to student learning that can be derived from our sustained and aggressive attention to inclusive excellence and diversity at CSUN.

I will begin by defining and contextualizing both inclusive excellence and diversity. I will then describe various strategies all of us can employ to ensure that we can reap the benefits of inclusive excellence and diversity for all of our students and employees, noting both challenges and opportunities. Finally, I will describe a course of action that I intend to take this semester to bolster what I hope will be a renewed campus commitment to both inclusive excellence and diversity.

In November, 2012, the Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) adopted a new strategic plan and mission statement that put liberal education and inclusive excellence as the “foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice in higher education” (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2012). Serving on the board of that organization, I was privy to the rich and deep discussions that resulted in the new plan's goals and commitments. The board recognized, like many others in higher education, that our nation's new majority students – especially those from less-advantaged backgrounds – as well as all college students need access to a broad and rigorous education in order to succeed in an era of global interconnection and rapid societal and economic change. Inclusive excellence refers to the imperative that all college students, regardless of whether they are enrolled at a highly selective institution or one such as CSUN that provides broad access and typically serves larger numbers of underserved students, deserve and require a high quality and “horizon-expanding” liberal education.

AAC&U emphasizes that the success of the racial and ethnic populations of the new majority students is crucial to America's future.

As strategic goal 3, related to equity, innovation, inclusive excellence, and student success, states, “Accelerate broad-scale systemic innovation to advance educational practices that engage diversity and challenge inequities in order to make excellence inclusive.” The board affirmed that “access to educational excellence is the equity challenge of our time.”

Inclusive excellence means that every one of our students deserves the very best that we can offer to ensure not only that they complete their degrees but that they also can demonstrate achievement of the expected learning outcomes needed for success in the 21st century.

In 2005, Alma Clayton-Pedersen and Caryn McTighe Musil argued that “inclusive excellence consists of four operational elements, (1) a focus on student intellectual and social development; (2) purposeful development and utilization of organizational resources to enhance student learning; (3) attention to the cultural differences learners bring to the educational experience and that enhance the enterprise; and (4) a welcoming community that engages all of its diversity in the service of student and organizational learning (Clayton-Pederson and Musil, 2005, vi, as cited in Moreno, G., & Shope, 2014).

And what about diversity? What do we mean? Let me first say that conversations about diversity are happening all over the United States in institutions of higher education and many of them are not new. But they are occurring and reoccurring. As recently as last Friday, Jan 9, 2015, the Chronicle of Higher Education presented its own new section entitled, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”  On a broad basis, there are many and intersecting types of diversities – race, ethnicity, gender, class, age, religion, sexuality, ability, political and intellectual thought, and so on. Further, as Johnnella Butler, the provost at Spelman College, recently pointed out, “equal opportunity remains our national myth” and “ debates about diversity compete awkwardly with debates about immigration, same-sex marriage, environmental justice, poverty, globalization and global conflict – all viewed as separate, unrelated issues despite their connectedness within a multicultural context” (Butler, 2014).

I believe we need to have a shared understanding and appreciation of the role of diversity in higher education and specifically at CSUN and the policy and practices that are necessary to achieve the associated educational benefits for our students and our campus.

We should not focus exclusively on numbers or simply relax because we have an incredibly diverse student body. Rather, the generally recognized and legally sanctioned approach is to focus on the educational benefits that flow from diversity, including improved teaching and learning, preparing students for a 21st century workforce, and enhanced preparation for civic engagement and leadership, among others (Coleman, 2014). These benefits can be gained by students from all backgrounds and depend on more than compositional diversity or critical mass and they depend on an understanding of diversity that is about more than race and ethnicity.

We need to be open to dialogue and discussion on issues of diversity and inclusion. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell appreciated the “wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth out of a multitude of tongues” in higher education settings (1978). Building an understanding and shared endorsement of the role of diversity on our campus and the ensuing educational benefits for our students are critical for success. We need to be intentional and strategic about our diversity and inclusion efforts. We must walk the walk. This requires focus, sustained efforts, and collaboration across many institutional sectors.

So what roles can and do faculty play in diversity and inclusive excellence? I want to concentrate on two areas. The first of these is your pedagogy or approach to teaching and the potential impacts on student learning. The second area is faculty hiring and retention.

Some of you have heard me talk about academic self-confidence and the need that so many of our students have to develop and discover their own academic self-confidence. Right before the holidays, several of us attended a conference on Accelerating Academic Success, sponsored by the NCAA and focused primarily on student athletes who were under-performing academically. One of the keynote addresses was delivered by Dr. Eric Cooper, Executive Director of the National Urban Alliance. In his remarks Cooper argued for a sea change in the way we approach underachieving students. Integrating research findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience he basically outlined approaches and strategies that assume all students (athletes or not) are capable of extraordinary academic achievement and success. I highly recommend that you read Yvette Jackson's book, The Pedagogy of Confidence, that describes these strategies in detail and how they are particularly relevant for closing the achievement gap and inspiring high intellectual performance among students who lack academic self-confidence and who are typically described as “academically at risk” but who Jackson described as “ students of opportunity” (Jackson, 2011). It is a strengths-based approach that guides educators to create the environmental, psychological and educational conditions that encourage the upward mobility of students who grew up in conditions of poverty and discrimination. Listening to Eric Cooper describe the necessity of this type of model for under-performing students almost gave me whiplash because I was head nodding in agreement with his comments and examples so often. I was also excited and inspired by the potential for application with all of our students at CSUN, not just student athletes, or the multitudes of underprepared students who are relegated into remedial or development courses, but all of our students.

Consistent with the Pedagogy of Confidence model, we also know from many different sources and research studies that students are more engaged and have better learning outcomes when they participate in active, applied learning activities that involve real world issues and cultural contexts to which they can relate personally and also better understand and apply course content. High impact practices that include students in research, community service learning, internships, and capstone and culminating projects that occur over more than one semester, should be available to all of our students. I suggested last fall that we consider requiring at least two of these activities for all students. We know they improve and deepen students' learning. I was very impressed last fall at the annual Faculty Showcase on “Celebrating Teaching in the Digital Age” to see some of the innovative ways some of our faculty are using both technology and out of class activities to engage students in real community problems such as homelessness, language barriers, and health disparities. In two weeks, I will have the opportunity to present to a national audience the great work that is being done at CSUN in our GE Paths program and I want to take this opportunity to thank those faculty and administrators who have worked incredibly hard to initiate and sustain these programs on behalf of our students. Our challenge is to scale such programs up so that all of our students can be exposed to these enriching types of experiences.

And what is the role of faculty diversity and the recruitment and retention of a more diverse faculty at CSUN? I understand some of you were able to hear Dr. Nancy Gutierrez (2014), from UNC Charlotte, speak on our campus last October. She provided in five of her slides an impressive set of answers to the question, “Why is having a diverse faculty important?” Starting with what we owe our students, she noted that a diverse faculty enables students to be exposed to a range of viewpoints that ensures a robust exchange of ideas. A diverse faculty can demonstrate to students in whatever field or major that the path to leadership is open to everyone of every race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on. Equally important was her point that exposure in college to a diverse faculty along with diversified curricula and teaching methods produces students who are more complex thinkers, more confident in traversing cultural differences, and more likely to seek to remedy inequities after graduation. For faculty themselves, having a diverse faculty is important for governance because multiple and diverse perspectives and practices of leadership are needed at every level of college teaching and governance. She also noted that it is important for the intellectual growth of faculty overall, it makes for better decision-making, and that the lack of diversity is a sign that an institution – any kind of institution – is out of touch.

Also last fall, I invited Dr. Darryl Smith (2014) from Claremont Graduate University and another national expert on faculty diversity, to speak to the Extended Cabinet. One of her compelling points was that because of the increasing domains of diversity and the demographic changes that are occurring in every state (and we are well aware of this in California), we need to build our institutional capacity for a much greater pluralistic society. Our student body reflects these various domains for diversity, whether it be based on religion, sexual orientation, physical abilities, immigration status, internationalization, gender, race, ethnicity, class, first generation, or veteran status. They have multiple and intersecting identities. And these diversities “intersect with virtually all issues such as the environment, health, education, the arts, politics, history or science.” As a result, the types of knowledge and skills required for our credibility and viability in a more pluralistic society suggest that we need to build greater institutional capacity given our mission and student population. Dr. Smith spent considerable time discussing faculty hiring and retention, specifically focusing on our underrepresented groups. She had reviewed our institutional data on both hiring and retention. I do not intend to dwell on this but while there were some pockets of success, the overall picture that emerged for the institution, both from a hiring and a retention perspective, was extraordinarily disappointing to say the least.

Both Drs. Smith and Guitierrez spent time discussing best and poor practices in both hiring and retention and debunking myths about both of these processes. Because of our largely decentralized hiring practices, deans, department chairs and search committees need to play a particularly important role as you identify curricular, research and hiring priorities. I believe there is a direct connection between diversity and a department's own excellence, its’ future and place in the university. Through the results of program reviews and academic planning, departments and colleges can create new job descriptions and position requirements that reflect changes in the field and the needs of the institution. I mention the needs of the institution because while the hiring takes place at the college and departmental levels, this is an institutional priority, not just a college or departmental issue. We need to be both current and future oriented in our thinking. Is our curriculum responsive to a pluralistic society and to evolving changes in your discipline? Or are we teaching the same content, using the same pedagogy that have been in place for decades? Are we broadening the content of scholarship, research and creative activity in all of our disciplines? Often, it is with a more diverse faculty that these types of changes occur.

Faculty retention is equally important as hiring and we need to do a much better job in that arena as well. We need to address the issue of critical mass and what Darryl Smith and others call the “problem of one.” With only one underrepresented faculty member in a given department, it is often the case that this person falls prey to differential burdens particularly in the areas of service and student advising and mentoring. This can negatively affect progress to promotion and campus climate. Are we intentionally mentoring and supporting these faculty? It matters a great deal.

I will be the first to admit that all of this requires effort and hard work. If we simply do the same things the same way we have done in the past we should not expect different outcomes. As one example of several, I want to give a special shout out to Dean Jay Kvapil, from the Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, and Department Chair Linda Bowen, from Journalism, both of whom have done yeomen's work so far this year and are having success. I would suggest talking to them about their strategies that have proved successful.

So aside from the work involved what challenges or barriers exist that may inhibit our success from the college, departmental and institutional perspectives? Most of the time when faculty talk about the difficulty of recruiting (or retaining) underrepresented faculty, the discussion quickly turns to common myths that have been repeatedly debunked by the research literature. Myths such as scarcity of faculty of color in the sciences (or name your field) that means few are available and there is keen institutional competition; that we cannot compete with more wealthy institutions; that the kinds of scholars we are recruiting are only interested in more prestigious institutions; and so on, are not supported by the data. I would urge you to review Darryl Smith's book, Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work (2009), and if nothing else, read chapter 5. It is included in the list of references/ resources that will be posted after this presentation.

I would suggest that there may also be a challenge in overcoming our implicit bias, a term that refers to our unintentional, automatic, and outside our awareness biases that can be contradictory to our conscious beliefs. We all have internalized stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups of people that end up influencing our judgments and evaluations without our even realizing it. I believe that while these stereotypes and biases exist and persist, the vast majority of faculty try to overcome them. I would refer you to Project Implicit ( that Nancy Guitierrez cited as another resource on implicit bias, diversity and inclusion, leadership, applying cognitive science to practice, and innovation. I would also highly recommend that you read Whistling Vivaldi, an incredible book by Claude Steele that addresses stereotype threats and identity contingencies and how we can diffuse the power of stereotypes and implicit bias. Just to tempt you more into reading this powerful book, I want to tell you where the title originated. Steele is a social psychologist who relayed in his book the experience of Brent Staples (now a columnist for the New York Times) but then a psychology graduate student at the University of Chicago who found that as a young African American male dressed in informal student clothing walking down the streets of Chicago's Hyde Park he became an expert in the language of fear. When he would smile at people passing, strangers were scared of him, people would literally cross the street to avoid him. They were clearly responding to the stereotype of young African American males in that neighborhood being violence prone. But out of his own fear and nervousness, he began whistling Vivaldi's “Four Seasons” as he walked. In a single stroke, he made the stereotype about violence prone African American males less applicable to him personally and he was less threatening. Read it, you will enjoy it and learn a lot as well.

Finally, let me describe for you what I intend to do this semester and in the future. You recall that shortly before the break our country was in tremendous turmoil following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, and Ezell Ford in L.A. by police and the outcry for change and justice was loud and heartfelt by many. Three of our own students were arrested in a protest in downtown L.A. and our Black Student Union organized protests and conversations here on campus. Clearly, more education and dialog are needed. I think we have lots of efforts going on in many parts of campus addressing diversity and social justice issues as well as faculty and staff hiring, and campus climate, but I believe that often these efforts appear fragmented, not widely shared, or even, at worst, reactive and temporary. While we have an Office of Equity and Diversity, it is being weighed down by a multitude of the important compliance requirements in diversity matters, including Title IX, ADA and other areas, and a handful of executive orders. My intention is to raise the visibility and coordination of our efforts by appointing a Chief Diversity Officer who will report directly to the president. I will also create and appoint a Commission on Diversity and Diversity Initiatives composed of faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community leaders, whose charge will be to conduct a diversity map or overview of current diversity efforts and the current status of inclusive excellence at CSUN; to make recommendations for addressing areas of strength and gaps; and to basically monitor and evaluate our practices and initiatives that advance an intentional and sustained focus on diversity and inclusive excellence. This will require focus, direction, and collaboration across the university. I will work with Acting Faculty Senate President Adam Swenson and the Faculty Senate A.S. President Tiffany Zaich and Associated Students, well as Susan Hua and others in requesting recommendations for members of this commission.

Let me end by quoting Johnnella Butler once again.

 ...diversity is neither solely demographic nor wholly intellectual.... The more diversity is reflected in our classrooms and labs, in our teams and study groups, and in our faculty and administrators, and the more inclusive our research, scholarship and teaching, the more likely it is that these sharp divides [that exist in our country] will gradually lessen – not only in higher education but outside the ivory tower as well.

Thank you.



References/Resource List:

Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). (2012). Strategic Plan 2013-2017: Big Questions, Urgent Challenges: Liberal Education and Americans’ Global Future

Butler, J.E. (2014). Replacing the Cracked Mirror: The Challenge for Diversity and Inclusion. Diversity & Democracy, 17(4), 1-2

Cantarella, M. (2012). I Can Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide. Naperville, Il: Sourcebooks EDU

Chronicle of Higher Education (2015, January 9). "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion."

Clayton-Pederson, A.R. & Musil, C.M. (2005). “Introduction to a Series.” In Toward a Model of Inclusive Excellence and Change in Postsecondary Institutions, edited by Damon A. Williams, Joseph B. Berger, and Shederick A. McClendon. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, vi.

Coleman, A.L. (2014). Behind the Headlines: Remembering the Fundamentals about Diversity.  Liberal Education, 100(2)

Gutierrez, N.A. (2014). Hiring for a Diverse Future.  [PowerPoint]. University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Halualani, R., & Hurtado, S., (2014). Diversity Assessment, Accountability, and Action: Going Beyond the Numbers. Diversity & Democracy, 17(4)

Jackson, Y. (2011). The Pedagogy of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance In Urban Schools. New York. NY: Teachers College Press

Moreno, G., & Shope, B. (2014). Inclusivity in Practice: Engaging an Institution’s Hispanic-Serving Mission to Support Student Success. Diversity & Democracy, 17(4)

Smith, D.G. (2014). The Imperative of Faculty Diversity: Debunking Myths and Effective Strategies. [PowerPoint]. Claremont Graduate University.

Smith, D.G. (2009). Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Steele, C. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. New York, NY: W.W. & Company, Inc.

Taylor, O., Burgan Apprey, C., Hill, G. McGrann, L., Wang, J. (2010). Diversifying the Faculty. peerReview, 12(3)