Approaches to inclusion initiatives such as “one-size-fits-all” approaches are the complete antithesis of inclusion, according to the University of Indianapolis Vice President and Chief Inclusion and Equity Officer Amber Smith. The Inclusive Excellence Strategic Leadership Coalition wants to ensure actions are tailored to the needs of the colleges and divisions at UIndy, as well as help define area-specific inclusion initiatives, Smith said.
The coalition consists of eight teams with people from across the university looking to push forward inclusion agendas from within different colleges and missions, according to Smith. There are six focus areas, processes and policies that correspond to each team and two additional teams for LGBTQ+ and Black lives at UIndy, respectively. The coalition will add more teams based on different campus populations, according to Smith.
“The access and equity group, they might say… we need to probably think in terms of what we can do in the summer to help students who are typically more marginalized be more successful that first semester,” Smith said. “… if we can spend a week or two with them [students], we can help create a more equitable platform.”
Assistant Professor of Social Work Francine Carter said she attended weekly virtual meetings relating to the coalition this past summer. In those meetings, she said she was transparent.
“I had no problem during those calls… just outing myself with things that I’ve said that are dumb, things that I said that were full of bias and prejudice that I didn’t even realize,” Carter said. “So then she [Smith] and I developed this great relationship and she asked me then to be on the committee, and to also help her with some special projects.”
Carter said she is a member of the curriculum, LGBTQIA+ and inclusive restroom teams respectively. Carter and another member are working on a presentation for faculty and staff, she said. The presentation will have everyone on the call talk about racism from their perspectives, she said.
While she has not yet been able to attend her teams’ meetings, Carter said she is excited to see what her role will be. She said it looks like her team has done a phenomenal job in addressing their 30-60-90 plan, the model each team takes to determine what they will accomplish in 30, 60 and 90 days.
“What we know with groups especially is that we’ll come together and we’ll talk and talk and talk, but nothing gets done,” Carter said. “So this is really a very action-oriented program, process and committee. So it’s really exciting to be able to see that everyone’s come together and the input and the action steps are already taking place.”
Smith said that coalitions of this kind should create changes that move forward change, not delay change or get bogged down in bureaucracy.
“… The coalition is a team that is focused on inclusion in action, and that identifies specific initiatives that [can] create a more inclusive UIndy,” Smith said.