Creating an infrastructure to support the thriving of BIPOC employees

Written By: Ame Lambert, Ph.D. Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion and Lindsay Romasanta, Ed.D., Assistant Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion


Portland State University is Oregon’s only urban research and teaching university, situated in the heart of downtown Portland. Guided by the motto of “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” we recognize that the institution's heart, soul, and spirit starts and ends with the people that make PSU- its faculty, staff, and students.


In fall 2021, PSU welcomed its first majority BIPOC first-year class. Thanks to a cluster hire in the school of Gender, Race and Nations, the institution also welcomed its first majority BIPOC first-year faculty. These milestones are significant and point clearly to a future very different from our present, prompting deep critical reflection about the institution's level of readiness to respond to the complex and multifaceted needs of the new majority. Equity scholar and researcher Dr. Estela Bensimon (2010) writes, “In order to bring about change in an institution, individuals must see, on their own, and

as clearly as possible, the magnitude of inequities (awareness). They then must analyze and integrate the meaning of these inequities (interpretation), so that they are moved to act upon them (action).”


PSU is seeking to respond to this change.


Awareness is honed in with the disaggregation, intersection, and analysis of data. As such, PSU’s Global Diversity and Inclusion division partnered with our Office of Institutional Research and Planning to launch the university’s first equity scorecard. Part of this work confirmed that while PSU’s student body has become increasingly diverse, our faculty and staff have remained mostly white.


Interpretation of this data analysis tells us that retention is an opportunity area for supporting a representative employee community. Indeed, composition has been named a top priority by the PSU community and is central to the vision of PSU’s future. Over 70% of PSU attendees at PSU’s Time to Act 2020 Racial Equity Summit named representation in demographics, decision making, resource allocation and power sharing as the key aspiration for our racially just and equitable future.


The actions we are taking towards this vision are to make transformative cultural shifts that support the thriving of BIPOC faculty and staff at PSU by creating a robust infrastructure to support their ability to thrive at the institution. We will act by doing the following: 1) Cultivating an onboarding culture of authentic welcome and sense of belonging; 2) Fostering a supportive structure through mentorship and sponsorship; and 3) Ensuring policies, practices, and culture support minoritized employees.


Central to this work is the power of partnership. Internally, the Global, Diversity, and Inclusion division will work closely with human resources and academic affairs to ensure our policies and culture shifts to address the thriving of minoritized faculty and staff. Similarly, our community partnership with non-profit Partners in Diversity is integral to this work, ensuring that BIPOC faculty and staff are connected to a diverse network of colleagues in the local area.


As we embark on these culture shifting actions, we will rely on a continuous iterative process of plan, do, study, and act. We are confident that with critical reflection and a tenacious commitment to the people that make PSU, that we will be successful.