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What Can Leaders Do to Improve Campus Climate?

In late 2015, the University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe resigned after weeks of student protests. What were the students’ demands? To end structural and systemic racism on campus, and to ensure a learning environment that was safe, inclusive, and valued diversity. The students had called for President Wolfe’s resignation because of a perceived lack of leadership on campus climate issues. Efforts to address discrimination on campus, they felt, were both too little and too late.

This situation might have been avoided with more proactive leadership around issues of campus climate, diversity, and inclusion. Having a diverse student body is only the first step toward equity on campus — to achieve the full benefits of diversity, universities must strive to provide a welcoming and inclusive climate.

It’s not just the right thing to do. In fact, the entire university community stands to benefit. For example, an inclusive climate aids underrepresented student retention across disciplines by increasing students’ sense of belonging, discouraging acts of discrimination and racism, and improving academic engagement. A campus climate that values diversity improves the learning experience for all students – not just those from underrepresented groups – by exposing them to cultural perspectives that expand their understanding of the world and foster the critical thinking skills needed for success in academia and the workforce.

This is all good in theory – but what can leaders actually DO to cultivate an inclusive climate? What specific actions can they take to make progress toward equity? And how will they know when they’ve moved the dial?

These questions and others will be the focus of an upcoming webinar: “Improving Campus Climate for Diversity and Inclusion: What Can Leaders Do?” This webinar, co-hosted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), will be the last in a series intended to spark discussion around topics from our recent report Increasing Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce: Actions for Improving Evidence.

The webinar will be held this Wednesday, May 17, 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Click here to register.

During the webinar, we will explore how leaders at campuses that have made significant progress toward diversity succeeded in doing so – through their actions, words, policies, and practices. We will learn about the AAMC’s ongoing pilot of a Diversity & Inclusion Culture and Climate Toolkit at eight institutions in California. Finally, we will hear from CSU Fullerton, one of the pilot sites for AAMC’s D&I toolkit, about how they used the tool and implemented the results on their campus. The webinar will conclude with an audience Q&A and discussion around how to monitor and improve campus climate.

Speakers include:

  1. Laura Castillo-Page, Ph.D., Senior Director, Diversity Policy and Programs & Organizational Capacity Building, Association of American Medical Colleges

  2. David Forgues, Ph.D., Interim Vice President of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion, California State University, Fullerton

  3. Danielle García, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the President, California State University, Fullerton

  4. Mariam B. Lam, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, University of California, Riverside

We encourage participants to attend as a group and hold their own post-webinar conversations. If you are interested in doing so, please check out our webinar discussion guide.


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