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  • Dr. Nickey Woods

DEI Done Right: Ten Considerations for Meaningful Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Work in Higher Ed


Now more than ever, diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and social justice are top of mind for colleges and universities across the country. The benefits of intentional equity work are long documented, and in the wake of 2020’s social justice movement, educational leaders must demonstrate a tangible commitment to DEI. I recommend ten considerations that are critical to this important mission, with an eye toward moving beyond performative equity and into meaningful, sustained change that benefit all members of an institution or organization.


Leadership: Effective DEI leaders model a commitment to equity and social justice; they create opportunities to empower historically marginalized groups.

  • Leaders regularly communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion.

  • Leaders share power appropriately, considering equity in allocating resources.

  • Leaders create and maintain systems of DEI assessment and accountability.

  • Leaders engage in self-reflective practices to keep their own biases in check.

  • Leaders empower and make space for diverse voices, perspectives, and experiences.

Outcomes, assessment, & accountability: Clearly articulated DEI goals and outcomes, methods of assessing progress toward those goals, and a plan for accountability throughout the process.

  • Implement a strategic plan that addresses the institution’s DEI gaps and barriers to equity. Consider goals and outcomes that are specific to your institution’s unique challenges and opportunities.

  • Establish an equity team/advisory board comprised of individuals from varied backgrounds to manage DEI efforts. Meet regularly to monitor progress toward goals.

Policy: Centering the experiences of historically marginalized groups in policy-making benefit everyone; policies reflect a commitment to equity and inclusive excellence.

  • Leaders create and reinforce policies that shield the organization from bias.

  • Policies address historical barriers to equity and inclusion.

  • Policy review includes an analysis of any potential disparate impacts on various groups, including students of color, LGBTQIA students, female students, and students with disabilities.

Programming: Programming, activities, and events amplify a commitment to DEI/social justice; it is intentional in its commitment to having tough but necessary conversations on race, power, capital, equity, and inclusion.

  • Extend invitations to guest speakers who demonstrate a commitment to diversity, social justice, and inclusive excellence in their work.

  • Consider intergroup dialogue and dialoguing across differences as strategies for engaging in uncomfortable conversations around race, power, and privilege.

  • Utilize an equity lens when developing programmatic goals and objectives.

  • Implement a team approach when planning events in order to cultivate a culture of inclusion in decision-making.

  • Weave diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice into orientation/reorientation events.

Training & professional development: Regular training and professional development is provided to faculty, staff, and students; a commitment to DEI/social justice is evident in orientation/reorientation activities.

  • Utilize data and constituent feedback (climate surveys, etc.) to inform professional development decisions.

  • Consider various modes of professional development (Lunch & Learn, multi-day workshops, retreats, web-based, etc.).

  • Consider expertise both within and outside of the organization to facilitate training.

Curriculum: Curricular decisions consider issues of race, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice; inclusive pedagogy strategies are supported and encouraged.

  • Implementing courses that address issues of race and equity within the broader scope of the subject matter demonstrates a commitment to inclusiveness.

  • Faculty is provided with professional development opportunities that deepen their understanding of inclusive teaching practices.

Feedback loop: Regular opportunities for constituents to provide feedback and input; prioritizing feedback of historically marginalized groups.

  • Students are empowered to share their experiences and provide feedback (regularly scheduled town halls, focus groups, meetings with leadership, etc.).

  • Stakeholders have an opportunity to provide input on significant decisions that impact the organization.

  • Historically marginalized groups are encouraged to provide input; their voices are amplified in order to ensure that systems of oppression are not replicated, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Collaboration with campus partners: Avoiding duplicative efforts, forming campus-wide coalitions, and building critical mass for equity work via partnerships with those invested in the same work.

  • Various campus entities co-sponsor or co-host DEI activities and events, with an eye toward eliminating silos in ongoing equity efforts.

  • Leverage the talent of group members who have the capacity to support the efforts of campus partners’ DEI efforts.

Holistic wellness: Considering the wellness needs of faculty, staff, & students; being intentional about student mental health support via a lens of trauma-informed care.

  • Encourage constituents to take advantage of campus-wide wellness supports.

  • Create a culture of wellness within the organization by maintaining open dialogues about wellness needs.

  • Provide adequate mental health and wellness supports for students.

  • Many students of color find value in therapists of color. Consider hiring qualified clinicians of color.

Community building: Affinity groups have the necessary resources to engage in culturally-affirming, community-building activities that connect students to each other and the larger campus community.

  • Affirm the organization’s commitment to supporting student affinity groups through the provision of adequate space and resources.

  • Provide regular opportunities for student leaders to share their thoughts and ideas for building community.

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