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USU’s Board has charged the coalition staff to design and implement a multi-year emphasis on advancing racial justice & equity. Last year, national protests and awareness-building around injustice caused universities to more deeply consider ways in which long-held institutional barriers and practices put an undue burden on marginalized populations on campus and in the city, including low-income people and people of color.

To plan for this effort, USU staff completed interviews with member presidents and chancellors and received input from coalition participants during the USU Summer Meeting. The findings are below.



What We know 


  1. Urban universities are building upon the groundwork already laid. Focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a new emphasis at many member institutions, although recent events have increased the speed and urgency at which universities are responding. The success of ongoing programs, projects, and policies has helped advance new efforts currently being proposed.

  2. There is a strong desire to connect with and learn from others in the Coalition. Opportunities for senior-level staff, to communicate and collaborate across member institutions are a desired tactic for disseminating effective practices and systematically reviewing and revising institutional policies.

  3. Several topics emerged as priorities. The list below summarizes the common interest in topics to explore and/or address over the next few years.

    • Ensuring the faculty workforce reflects our student populations

    • Leveraging University-City connections to address workforce needs

    • Promoting health equity

    • Eliminating harmful institutional policies

    • Sharing best practices

    • Increasing student belonging and success



USU member engagement will take place in three forms: Presidential forums, action groups, and cross-institutional projects. These engagements will have specific deliverables and metrics for success. A number of these recommendations emerge from or directly align with former and current USU projects and initiatives, allowing us to deepen and scale USU’s contribution to national conversations on university transformation.

  • Presidential Forums –Monthly discussions where leaders can discuss high-level, national strategies concerning racial justice & equity in higher education.

  • Action Groups – A reimagination of USU's “Strands,” these three groups (Thriving Universities, Thriving Students, and Thriving Communities) will focus on priority areas from the priority areas identified by USU Board. The purpose of these groups is to idea share across institutions, and to work toward a specific task, deliverable, or proposed project. Action groups will also provide insight into the pursuit of cross-institutional projects.

  • Cross-Institutional Projects – Current and future externally-funded projects focusing on a particular intervention, lens, or approach, which involves a smaller.


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Streams of Work

Based on presidential conversations, feedback from the USU summer meeting, and other touchpoints with USU participants, USU staff presented several recommendations to consider as streams of work over the next few years. USU board prioritized actions around: faculty pipeline, systematic policy review, student success, and health equity, workforce, and future of work.

Thriving Universities- Becoming a university whose equitable structures, policies, and practices promote an inclusive culture.

Thriving Students – Addressing students’ needs, assets, and opportunities for equitable outcomes

Thriving Communities - Fostering community-informed partnerships to promote equitable health, well-being, and economic outcomes across the university-city ecosystem.