Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative announces selected proposals and next steps

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to the entire Colorado State University community on May 11, 2020, by Blanche Hughes, Vice President for Student Affairs, and Mary Ontiveros, Vice President for Diversity, co-chairs of the Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative at CSU.

Today, we are excited to share some important news with you on behalf of the Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative. Over the past six months, countless individuals have been working hard to bring this university initiative to life, beginning with the gathering of thoughtful and impactful ideas from our community through the proposal process. What follows in this message are announcements about the proposal decisions as well what we have outlined for the future of the Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative at Colorado State University.

The value of RBEI

First, we want to share the vision for RBEI with you as President Joyce McConnell conceived it and as our Core Team has simultaneously refined and expanded it. While the first phase was centered on the proposal process, RBEI will not be limited to only policy ideas and proposals. The potential for this initiative is limitless and we hope to be a collaborative hub for lasting, marked transformation across the university.

We are looking at what comes as a sort of next chapter for RBEI, expanding our focus to not only include movement on the selected proposals, but to serve as a connector and a partner to the many individuals, departments, and organizations at CSU who are doing critical work in the realm of diversity, equity, race, inclusion, and bias. We, as co-chairs of RBEI, will be working this summer to define clear goals and expectations of the initiative to share with you all prior to the fall semester. It will take each of us to see these efforts succeed in every area of CSU.

Proposal review decisions

Many of you took an active role in the proposal process, either as a proposal author or reviewer. We are grateful for your time, energy, and support of RBEI and for your patience while we worked through the proposal review process. As with many novel and ambitious university initiatives, it has taken time to develop RBEI, its areas of focus, and a system that answers the specific needs of our university community. Your input helped us shape this initiative and showed us where we need to be spending our energy.

What we learned

As you may know, we received more than 100 proposals, from every college and unit, and from students, staff, and faculty. You can review the thematic data of the proposals submitted in an infograph here. The depth and span of the proposals was astounding and we learned a great deal from reading them. Key takeaways include the following:

Blanche Hughes, VP for Student Affairs

Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes

Mary Ontiveros portrait

Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros

• We learned that CSU is a community ready for big, transformative change, eager to help with that change, and equipped with the knowledge and expertise to achieve it.

• While there were several new ideas, many proposals were similar to existing programs and initiatives. This demonstrated that we need to do a better job connecting individuals, colleges, and units to the resources available to them and that we need to communicate more widely and frequently about the work we are doing related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

• Many proposals shared similar themes, showing us where our gaps as an institution lie and where we can make the biggest impacts.

• Several proposals aimed to bring thought-leaders and speakers to CSU. We are keeping a record of the nominated individuals for future events and opportunities.

• A handful of proposals pertained to programs or needs at the college level. We believe that RBEI can make crucial connections by sharing these ideas with the leadership teams in these divisions.

• Finally, we learned that there are a variety of ideas and proposals that need to move through existing university channels and processes. RBEI can both lead and facilitate that process.

Transforming the university through the selected proposals

After a lengthy review process to consider each submission carefully, including input from student groups, faculty, and staff, RBEI Core Team has made decisions about next steps. It is important to note that in order to truly begin making progress we must focus. While we wish we had the capacity and resources to pursue all the ideas submitted, we wouldn’t be able to do so without risking the success of each. Keeping this in mind, the proposal ideas that we will be moving forward at this time are:

Unify and strengthen First Generation efforts at Colorado State University

First Generation students come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, but one thing they have in common is the shared experience of being the first in their families to navigate the higher education environment. This creates unique opportunities and challenges for First Gen students, as well as First Gen faculty and staff. Unifying and strengthening the current initiatives, including research, scholarships, committees, and countless individuals dedicated to guiding and supporting these students, will transform the First Gen experience at CSU. In the unique budget environment that COVID-19 has presented, we will begin this work through seed funding for RBEI that has been provided by the President’s Office and we will look to creative options for additional funding sources to ensure this project has the support it needs to succeed. We plan to release more information this summer outlining the process and steps we will need to take to achieve our goal of unifying our First Generation programming at CSU.

Create a Teaching Certificate Program for graduate students

Graduate students are the future of higher education, as many of them go on to pursue careers in academia both here at CSU and across the country, as well as serve as graduate teaching assistants while on campus. In addition to their contributions to higher education, graduate students enter fields in the private sector where they become thought leaders and change makers. It is critical that these brilliant, up-and-coming minds have the tools and resources they need to become inclusive and adaptive leaders. A Teaching Certificate Program, focused on diversity and equity in the classroom, for all graduate students will be one step toward creating a unified approach to inclusive classroom environments. In addition to the focus on graduate students, RBEI aims to enhance and support existing programs for faculty and staff diversity and equity training. We feel hopeful that this proposal will create a meaningful difference for students through their experiences in the classroom and we see a direct connection between it and the recently shared student demands. We are also grateful and excited to share that the Provost’s Office has offered funding to move this project forward. We plan to release more information later this summer, as we work alongside several university partners on next steps.

Many members of our community submitted proposals that sought to achieve goals related to either diversity and equity training for classroom teachers or support for First Gen students; the frequency with which these ideas rose to the top helped us prioritize them. There were also specific proposals in each case that laid out structures and plans for achieving the outlined goals. The authors of those proposals will be contacted directly to begin next steps.

What happens to the rest of the proposals?

RBEI is excited and energized to move forward with the First Generation proposal and the Teaching Certificate Program, but this doesn’t mean that any proposals have been forgotten. Here is what we plan to do with the proposals that remain:

• We will share a summary paragraph of each full proposal for our community to read on the Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative website. Proposals will be shared anonymously to protect the identities of the authors.

• Additional proposals will move forward as we identify partners and collaborators at the university and beyond who can both lead and help fund them. There are already several proposals we are discussing with strategic partners throughout the university and we will announce more about those as we are able.

• Proposals related to existing programs and initiatives will be shared with the groups who own those programs so that they can potentially expand their offerings to include any new ideas and contact individuals interested in helping, if appropriate.

• Proposals that pertain to initiatives and needs at the college or divisional level will be shared with the leadership teams within those colleges and units for further consideration and development.

• Finally, full proposals that don’t fit into the categories above will be kept by RBEI for future consideration and development if possible based on resources and capacity.

Stay connected as we begin our next steps

While change of this magnitude takes time, we look forward to keeping you up to date as we make progress, as well as introducing new programs for our community to ideate and learn with us along the way. Keep an eye out for future events and opportunities to engage with RBEI, to give to initiatives you care most about, and to participate with us and our countless university partners as we work together to transform CSU into the institution we know it can, and must, be. If you haven’t already, be sure to follow our Twitter account and visit our website to stay connected with RBEI as we move into this exciting new chapter.

Thank you once again for your part in this important era of CSU’s history.

– Blanche Hughes and Mary Ontiveros