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Inclusive Excellence Through Faculty Belonging, Empowerment, and Retention

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For years diversifying the faculty ranks has been an aspect of higher education’s goal to achieve inclusive excellence. However, according to a recent McKinsey report on racial and ethnic equity in U.S. higher education, the racial diversity of faculty at colleges and universities significantly trails that of the broader U.S. population. In fact, at the current rate that faculty are being hired, it will take more than 1,000 years for faculty diversity at institutions to mirror student demographics. Why does this matter? When faculty and staff reflect the students they serve, they can more effectively respond to diverse students’ needs and realities.

Diversifying faculty and staff ranks can bolster not only student success, but also employee retention rates. When leadership better reflects employee identities: faculty and staff may feel more empowered to freely explore their work environments with less fear of judgment or reprisal. This can lead to better decision-making at all levels within a college or university, a deeper sense of belonging, and retention of faculty and staff.

However, diversity in and of itself is not enough. To achieve inclusive excellence institutions must foster a climate of belonging and empowerment for faculty. This includes ensuring faculty have increased access to professional development and empowerment resources, tools, and support networks that center diversity, equity, and inclusion. Doing so improves organizational inclusivity, employee retention, and student success. Delivering consistent and easily accessible inclusive support and learning opportunities can be a challenge when academic departments and administrative units are decentralized. Two ways to bridge diversity, equity, and inclusion resources and support across siloed units are to:

  1. Centralize access to diversity, equity, and inclusion resources by creating a ‘one-stop-shop,’ and
  2. Create communities of practice with software-ingrained mentoring programs

In practice, this approach can expand institutional support capabilities, foster a sense of belonging with faculty, and improve student success outcomes.

“To achieve inclusive excellence institutions must foster a climate of belonging and empowerment for faculty.“

A One Stop Shop: Centralize Resource Access

Experienced higher education professionals have a wealth of institutional knowledge and can offer helpful insights to colleagues across academic units if given the conduit by which to share them. For example, if a university’s engineering department were hosting a workshop on developing an inclusive curriculum, this learning opportunity would be beneficial to the School of Business looking to diversify their enrollment base. Likewise, a college’s Disability Support Program may have knowledge of an off-campus resource that could be relevant to the Veterans Services Coordinator.

The wide use of technology to centralize access to resources for faculty & staff is similar to the implementation of smartphone app stores, which allows quick and convenient access to a wide range of tools and resources. Like smartphone app stores, resources are more valuable if they are appropriate, applicable, and accessible from a central location. Platforms like Includifi make the ‘one stop shop’ possible. They centralize access to resource with features like Community Library and Opportunities. These technical solutions manage and promote professional development resources, employee engagement groups, and academic best practices all in one easily accessible location.

The benefits of centralizing faculty resources include:

  • Equitably delivering professional development to all faculty,
  • Growing the institutional knowledge base,
  • Creating a consistent student experience by getting faculty on the same page,
  • Saving time and money in professional development initiatives, and
  • Building efficiencies and standardizing best practices surrounding faculty support.

By housing programs and resources under one digital roof, an institution can reduce the physical distance between departments on campus by combining tasks that previously required multiple steps into one streamlined workflow. Tools like Includifi pool resources into central digital libraries and make them easily accessible to university stakeholders at large, delivering the right opportunity and resources to the right people at the right time.

Mentoring Programs: Creating Communities of Practice

Building a sense of community among faculty can be challenging given the decentralized nature of many colleges and universities. This can have a negative impact on faculty members sense of belonging, particularly those from historically marginalized backgrounds. To combat this, many campuses appoint and pair mentors with mentees, empowering professionals by giving them direct access to a community and wealth of knowledge previously accessible only through first-hand experience and years of employment. Technology solutions can also augment the degree of interpersonal interaction and collaboration by creating a community of practice, or a framework through which professionals can connect and build social capital. Sometimes overlooked, social capital is the collective value of social networks in which trust, reciprocity, and shared knowledge improve the flow of information. Formalizing these connections is critical to empowering staff and faculty because the more connected they are to their peers, the deeper their sense of belonging, and the better positioned the institution is to achieve inclusive excellence.

A great way to use technology to create a community of practice is to systematize a software-ingrained mentoring program. Engagement tools like Includifi’s MentorConnect leverage institutional data to assign new hires to experienced faculty and staff, forging connections between multiple institutional generations, groups, and networks. In doing so, mentors foster professional empowerment by providing guidance on teaching and learning practices, exploring new technologies, considering pedagogical approaches, identifying resources to access, reviewing syllabi and assignments, troubleshooting technology issues, and connecting with other researchers who share area interests.

Building a thriving mentorship program is all about making connections, building relationships and offering visibility between colleagues. Easy to use platforms like Includifi automate, engage, andscale participation in mentoring programs that are critical to faculty and staff belonging, satisfaction, and success.

The Value of Investing in Technology: A Plan Without Resources is Just a Wishlist

A comprehensive approach to faculty development, including mentoring and resource centralization, can help faculty feel valued and supported, which is critical to achieving inclusive excellence. When we think about the future of higher education leadership — equity and inclusion in particular — it is important to consider how the role of technology will evolve over time. Like other aspects of higher education,the success of faculty DEI initiatives hinges on investing in the proper infrastructure. This includes technology that connects faculty to the inclusive opportunities, resources, and community that will support their success. Such investments support colleges and universities in achieving inclusive excellence, to the benefit of the entire institutional community. Why invest?

  • Expand access for faculty & staff
  • More options for collaboration between faculty & staff
  • Improve staff experience
  • Increase / improve service to students
  • Stay competitive
  • Comprehensive data analytics

For more information about Includifi’s Employee Engagement & Inclusion framework and suite of solutions, we invite you to schedule a demo.
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