WMU awards recognize diversity and inclusion efforts

contact: Deanne Puca
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will recognize campus efforts toward promoting diversity and inclusion by honoring two individuals and three organizations at the University’s first Spring Convocation at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5, in the Fetzer Center.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will recognize its honorees for two Excellence in Diversity Awards: a Trailblazers for Diversity Award and a Rising Star in Diversity Award. Also at that event, Extended University Programs will honor, as previously announced, two faculty members with Innovative Teaching Awards.

Excellence in Diversity Award recipients will receive this distinguished Universitywide honor for exemplifying outstanding efforts in diversity and inclusion work. This year's recipients are the College of Aviation and two employees—Jeff Carr and Mariam Konaté—who created a campus learning community that explores diversity issues.

College of Aviation 

The College of Aviation at WMU has been focused on diversity and inclusion for 20 years. Starting with a W.K.  Kellogg Foundation grant in 1995 focused on bringing women and minorities into the field of aviation, it has continued to strive toward diversity and inclusion.

Specifically, it has developed a Diversity and Inclusion Committee with the vision to be consistently described by students, staff and faculty as a college that embraces and celebrates diversity and is inclusive of all people, experiences and ideas. Committee members include faculty, staff and students. Each year the group selects areas to focus on for outreach and education. In 2013-14, the committee produced a newsletter for faculty, staff and students that highlighted where WMU students come from, the experiences that they have had both growing up and at college, and articles from faculty and staff. In 2014-15, it focused on the "climate" of the college, trying to better understand how the environment feels to those in traditional minority positions. Currently, the committee is focused on developing an action activity for all students in AVS 1200 to begin the discussion of race, gender, privilege, diversity and inclusion.

Also during 2014, the college participated in self-awareness research to better understand the welcoming and inclusive climate of the aviation program. It received internal funding from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The college's committee has supported the formation of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Student Chapter at WMU, and the active involvement of the national organization. This organization is tasked with reaching out to elementary students and inspiring careers in aviation, while retaining a diverse student body in the College of Aviation at WMU.

Jeff Carr and Mariam Konaté

Photo of Jeff Carr.


Jeff Carr, manager of maintenance services in the Department of Facilities Management, and Mariam Konaté, associate professor of gender and women’s studies and Africana studies, are being honored as the co-facilitators for the 2014-15 Race, Power and Privilege learning community.

Through their co-facilitation of the learning community, Carr and Konaté created a safe space for those less knowledgeable about a shared and inclusive understanding of diversity, multiculturalism, institutional bias and affirmative action to learn, grow and become agents for change. They researched diversity efforts at other campuses by visiting two exemplary programs in the greater Chicago area to meet with their leaders.

They developed, in partnership with the Multi-cultural Mindedness Tactical Action Committee, a project to help inform and educate the First-Year Experience instructors by purchasing copies of Allan Johnson's "Privilege, Power and Difference" to supplement their race unit in the FYE courses. In addition, the group presented an interactive workshop for the FYE instructors based on Johnson's text. 

Photo of Mariam Konaté.


Carr also was instrumental during the past year in the creation of the Campus Climate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tactical Action Community anti-bullying policy and procedures. He conducted exhaustive research of other model policies and actively participated in what was essentially taken up by senior leadership for refinement and potential adoption by the WMU Board of Trustees.

Konaté actively pursued reinstatement of the Africana Studies program at WMU. She is also working with the Lee Honors College to help improve diversity and inclusion in its curriculum.

Trailblazers for Diversity Award

The Trailblazers for Diversity Award is bestowed upon those who incorporate diversity efforts and accomplishments into work on campus and show a commitment to further develop sustainable action to affect positive change. The LBGT Student Advisory Council is this year's winner.

The LBGT Student Advisory Council includes up to 15 students who meet every two weeks with leaders from campus departments and organizations to advocate for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender-inclusive practices and policies at WMU. 

Over the past two years, the LBGT Student Advisory Council has successfully advocated for the development and implementation of the Student Preferred Name Policy, which was adopted by the University in spring 2015 and implemented fall 2015, and Spectrum House, an LBGT living learning community that will be launched in fall 2016.

For the Student Preferred Name Policy, the council sought to address barriers for students to be recognized by a name different from their legal name on class rosters, identification cards and email addresses. In December 2013, the council met with senior administrators from academic affairs, student affairs and diversity and inclusion to advocate for a preferred-name policy to better support transgender and gender non-conforming students. Council members participated in the Preferred Name Task Force, helped to draft the Preferred Name Policy, and participated in focus groups to inform the preferred name policy development process.

The council is also supporting efforts to recruit, retain, and graduate a diverse student body and promote a diverse workforce at all levels. For the past two years, it voiced the need for more inclusive on-campus housing options. Together with the staff from Residence Life, the Student Advisory Council advocated for the creation of an LBGT and ally learning community, Spectrum House, where students of diverse gender identities/expressions and sexual orientations, including allies, will live and learn together in an inclusive and supportive community. 

Rising Star in Diversity Award

The Rising Star in Diversity Award is an honor for those who are new contributors toward enhancing the environment of inclusion at WMU and have made significant progress in this area. The Sindecuse Diversity and Inclusion Committee is this year's winner.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Sindecuse Health Center has assessed and improved the environment, the processes, and the professional development of employees at the health center. Formed in spring 2014, the committee has accelerated the health center’s adoption of inclusive practices, identified physical challenges and put a focus on staff development. The committee is composed of employees from all functional areas of the health center, as well as students from the Student Health Advisory Council. The committee is led by Sarah Good, LPC, counseling specialist.

Shortly after the committee formed, diversity and inclusion grant opportunities were made available. In 2014, the committee secured two grants from the WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The first, a $3,000 grant, was to conduct an assessment of the environment at the health center in relation to diversity and inclusion, including accessibility. The second, a grant for implementation of the assessment findings, was awarded for up to $15,000.

Staff education is a priority of the committee, and members have recommended multi-faceted efforts to improve staff understanding and skills, including completing an Intercultural Development Inventory in 2015, participating in a group feedback session, creating a professional development opportunities calendar for 2015-16, monthly Lunch and Learn events, a half-day of training per academic year, campus and community activities and weekly departmental meetings to discuss upcoming diversity and inclusion initiatives, an additional employee performance review requirement regarding diversity and inclusion, the purchase of resources for a Diversity Resource Library accessible to employees, and creation of a Book Club and lending library for employees to learn together on topics related to diversity and healthcare.

Further improvements to health center forms and patient interaction were made as a result of committee efforts.

Spring Convocation

"Spring Convocation: Recognition of Discovery, Diversity and Global Engagement" events will take place Thursday and Friday, Feb. 4-5. Thursday will feature "Share the Story: Scholar Talks" from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Fetzer Center. Friday activities will start at 9 a.m. in the Fetzer Center and include events from Extended University Programs, Haenicke Institute for Global Education, Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Office of Vice President for Research. They include professional development workshops, Distinguished and Emerging Scholar talks, a recognition luncheon, Research and Dessert, and convocation and awards, followed by a Fridays with Friends gathering.

For more information about the schedule and convocation events, visit wmich.edu/research.

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