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Road Map steering committee assesses progress on SP3 goals

Committee chairs provide updates to Strategic Priority 3: Unite to foster a diverse and inclusive campus culture

Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

The Road Map Steering Committee met on March 26, 2024, to discuss the progress made in several areas of Strategic Priority 3: Unite to Foster a Diverse and Inclusive Campus Culture. Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Karen Jones and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Alistair Lees, SP3 co-chairs, led a presentation.

Strategic Priority 3 remains committed to its four core principles:

· A diverse campus community of students, faculty and staff

· Promoting diversity in the content of courses, programs and experiences

· Promoting a climate supportive of all students, faculty and staff

· Students have an appreciation of diverse groups, cultures and experiences

SP3’s first goal is to increase the diversity of Binghamton University’s undergraduate student population. For the fall 2023 semester, the underrepresented minority (URM) undergraduate student rate stood at 19.8%, an increase of 3.1% since the start of the Road Map in 2011. Graduate students from an underrepresented minority make up 10.3% of the graduate student population. This is a 3.7% improvement from the fall 2011 URM figure for graduate students, but it has slightly decreased from a high of 12.4% in the fall of 2020.

“It’s important to note that our graduate student enrollment is decentralized, so what we need to do is focus on how we can help the academic units do different recruitment strategies as it relates to our URM students,” said Jones.

Jones also mentioned putting additional effort into recruiting URM undergraduates for Binghamton’s graduate programs to reverse that decrease in the future.

The University has several initiatives in place to support the recruitment and retention of students from diverse backgrounds. Those projects include:

· Watson College’s Scholars Program and the Foundations of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certificate Program

· The School of Management’s Transformational Leadership Program

· The Pathways to Inclusive Leadership Program

· George Floyd Scholarship for Social Change

· The Renate Reeves-Ellington Inclusion Scholarship

· Graduate Student Employee Student Fee Assistance

· The Clifford D. Clark Diversity Fellowship for Graduate Students

Similarly, the SP3 team is working to increase the diversity of the University’s faculty and staff population. The percentage of URM faculty has declined slightly from 8.1% to 7.3% from 2018 to 2023. UUP-represented staff saw an increase in URM employees during this period, rising to 5.5% from 4.7%.

Recruitment and retention initiatives for underrepresented faculty and staff include:

· Search orientation workshops

· Employee affinity group mixers

· De. Nuala McGann Drescher Award Program

· Human Resources referral bonus program

· Presidential Diversity Post-Doc Fellowships

· Presidential Diversity Research Grants

· PRODiG and PhD Project

· Inclusive Pedagogy Series

· National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity

· Mentoring programs in colleges and schools for new faculty

Vice Provost Lees shared brief updates on the scholarly work of 13 of Binghamton University’s PRODiG faculty, who were hired through a SUNY-wide initiative that promotes recruiting opportunity, diversity, inclusion and growth. Binghamton’s current PRODiG faculty are:

· Monica Adams, assistant professor, social work

· Kanisha Bond, assistant professor, political science

· Ana Laura Elias, assistant professor, applied physics and astronomy

· Zeynep Ertem, assistant professor, systems science and industrial engineering

· Guifang Fu, associate professor, mathematics and statistics

· Jennifer Hirschi, associate professor, chemistry

· Sung-Joo Lim, assistant professor, psychology

· Sulagna Mookerjee, assistant professor, economics

· Melissa Morales, assistant professor, pharmaceutical sciences

· Gerardo Pignatiello, assistant professor, romance languages and literatures

· Adam Session, assistant professor, biological sciences

· Florence Varodayan, assistant professor, psychology

· Melvin Whitehead, assistant professor, higher education and student affairs

The second major goal of SP3 is to increase diversity in course content, programs and experiences. The total number of diversity courses offered in fall 2022 was 97, short of the target goal of 100. The fall 2022 semester had 4,612 students enrolled in diversity courses, which exceeded the target goal of 4,000.

Promoting an equitable campus climate, SP3’s third goal, is being measured through surveys, including a View Finder Climate Survey, a Sexual Violence and Prevention Survey, the INSPIRES Campus Climate Index and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The NSSE results showed that Binghamton fared favorably compared to peer institutions and that responses to questions on feeling comfortable, valued and like part of the community at the institution all improved from 2020 to 2023.

“Some of the things that we’re doing, as they relate to our activities and our co-curricular programming, are supporting our students to help them feel a sense of welcome and a sense of belonging here,” Jones said.

The INSPIRES Campus Climate Index measures campuses on several factors of how a university establishes a welcoming climate for students of different religious, secular and spiritual identities. Binghamton received a three-out-of-five score, which did rank higher than the two-out-of-five composite score of all public institutions. The SP3 committee pointed to the University’s many interfaith and multifaith organizations as strengths and is working to improve awareness about reasonable accommodations for those who need time for religious observance and practices.

The fourth goal of strategic priority, valuing a diverse and inclusive community, has made strides in recent years through several projects and initiatives. An LGBTQ+ Living Community has partnered with Residence Life and serves 23 first-year students as the first identity-based community on campus. Binghamton is one of three SUNY campuses with an LGBTQ+ learning community.

“This is the first identity-based living community on campus,” said Nick Martin, associate director of the Q Center. “What we know from research is that finding, forming and keeping community is a huge part of what keeps our underrepresented community on campus and persisting to graduation. This is a huge help.”

Binghamton has scored 4.5 out of 5 on the Campus Pride Index, a national organization that provides a comprehensive look at institutional commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and belonging. It is a major resource for LGBTQ+ students and their families when applying to and selecting colleges. Binghamton has the highest score of all participating SUNY institutions and has accomplished its Road Map goal of scoring a 4.5 by 2026.

Other community-building events of note include the New Educational and Research Alliance (newERA) with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Men of Color Summit, the Active Ally program and deliberative dialogues and racial healing workshops.

Despite successes in many areas of SP3, Vice President Jones did address questions about how the strategic priority team can better address the disparity in diversity among faculty and staff. Jones asked members of the steering committee to focus first on supporting the underrepresented people who are here and to remember that the University’s mission fits strongly with the goals and objectives of Strategic Priority 3.

“I would like to encourage all of us to think about the notion of congruence,” Jones said. “We should remember that our hiring practices and our organizational culture must mirror Binghamton’s commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence. We must do a better job of increasing our applicant pool of diverse, underrepresented people, hiring underrepresented faculty and staff and especially recruiting and retaining underrepresented students.”

The full PowerPoint version of the presentation is available online.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Strategic Priority 2: Learning Community gave a brief update on its research initiative for students who had not previously participated in research. The program received 535 applications for 70 positions, which were sponsored by 52 faculty members from all six of the University’s schools and colleges. Of the students who were accepted, 68% demonstrated financial need, 43% were first-generation college students, and 17% had transferred from another institution. The SP2 committee is considering options for accessing external funding to grow this program further to meet student and faculty demand.

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