The University of Georgia’s commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence has earned national recognition for the ninth consecutive year.
INSIGHT Into Diversity’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award is the only national honor recognizing colleges and universities that demonstrate significant efforts and success in the area of diversity and inclusion. UGA has earned this national honor every year since 2014.
“The University of Georgia greatly appreciates this national recognition of our wide-ranging investments in diversity and inclusive excellence,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “While there is more work ahead, it is exciting to see the gains we are making, and I look forward to the additional progress that will be made in this critical area in the coming year.”
Anchored by a Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Plan adopted in 2021, UGA’s efforts to foster diversity and inclusion include successful programs that have been in place for years as well as new initiatives.
‘A broader mindset’
The Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Plan identifies 11 goals with key performance indicators that will be used to measure the university’s progress over the next five years. The plan’s three overriding priorities are (1) building an inclusive living and learning environment, (2) recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and (3) expanding partnerships and outreach to strengthen diverse communities.
“The work of diversity and inclusion is happening across campus, and that’s what makes UGA unique,” said Michelle Cook, senior vice provost and co-chair of the committee that developed the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Plan. “These are core values of the institution, not just add-ons, and they are embedded in every school, college and unit.”
Cook notes UGA’s work surrounding issues of diversity and inclusion is not happening in isolation — it’s closely tied to efforts to improve student success and to better serve communities across Georgia.
“Diversity and inclusion is really about having a broader mindset,” Cook said. “For example, this approach can help us more critically think about and address the needs of rural students or first-generation students. Likewise, when our faculty work in communities across the state, we can do a better job because we’ve educated ourselves on the different dynamics in those communities.”
UGA already has implemented several action steps that support goals of the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Plan. As an example, the plan’s call for an increase in need-based student scholarships has sparked additional growth in the Georgia Commitment Scholarship program. Since its creation in 2017, the program has grown to nearly 650 endowed, need-based scholarships. In 2021, the UGA Foundation pledged an additional $1 million to match future gifts to the program.
Other highlights include the expansion of the Road Dawgs program, designed to increase the recruitment of students from rural and racially diverse schools across Georgia, and the establishment of the Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander Inclusive Community Award, which increases recognition of faculty efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
A long-standing commitment
UGA’s Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Plan builds upon several successful programs established in recent years, as well some that have been in place for more than a decade.
Among them, the ALL Georgia program provides students from rural parts of the state with a network of resources and common experiences. The U.S. Department of Education-funded TRIO programs serve students from families with low incomes, first-generation college students and students with disabilities. The Georgia African American Male Experience offers students academic skill enrichment, support services, mentoring and leadership development.
UGA also has several programs in place to promote diversity in the STEM disciplines, such as the student-focused Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and the DeLTA project, which are funded by the National Science Foundation. Through UGA’s membership in the Aspire Alliance iChange Network, leaders across the institution are developing an action plan to promote diversity among STEM faculty.
Additional efforts to increase faculty diversity include an optional training workshop for search committee members to attract more diverse pools of applicants.
Participation in the university’s voluntary Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion program, launched nearly a decade ago, has grown dramatically in recent years. Based on a recommendation of the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity and Community, a new, privately supported diversity education coordinator position has expanded the capacity of the institution to provide diversity education, consultation and support.
UGA’s commitment to serving diverse communities includes the Georgia Possible program, which provides Athens-Clarke County students with hands-on, personalized training and resources to help prepare them for life after high school. The New Student Day of Service is another effort to strengthen partnerships by providing an opportunity for students new to UGA’s campus to serve the Athens-Clarke County community together.
“Thanks to the commitment of faculty, staff, students and alumni, the University of Georgia is making great strides in fostering a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming community,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I’m excited about working with members of our community and partners across Georgia to build upon our momentum.”