Below is Michigan Technological University’s framework for strategic planning for diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging (DEIS). This University-wide framework is intended for use by Michigan Tech colleges and major administrative units in constructing their own unit-based plans. It includes seven planning domains that will help the University achieve its goals of continuing to become more welcoming for all and promoting the highest standards of education, scholarship, and quality of life.
The Vision of Michigan Technological University states:
Michigan Tech is a globally recognized technological university that educates students, advances knowledge, and innovates to improve the quality of life and to promote mutual respect and equity for all people within the state, the nation, and the global community.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging are thus established as among the most central commitments of MTU, and this University-wide framework for DEIS strategic planning is a promissory note toward attaining our vision. By this plan, the MTU community takes stock of our current progress, charts a course for the future, and leverages our efforts and resources toward attaining our DEIS goals.
Why Strategic Planning for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and a Sense of Belonging?
Since its inception and especially over the past few decades, MTU as a whole and many of its units have established initiatives designed to augment the University’s DEIS profile. Nevertheless, crosscurrents exist that affect the means and extent for implementing MTU’s DEIS vision. In this plan we can neither address the wide variety of opinions on why and how we should pursue our DEIS goals nor summarize the research and reflection on the topic. However, some points are worthy of consideration at this stage on the journey toward becoming a more inclusive University for all regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, height, weight, genetic information, marital status, disabled veteran status, veteran status, or disability.
First, promoting DEIS is the right thing to do. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., taught us, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” When we embrace and act on King’s vision, we champion DEIS values and viewpoints. Second, DEIS is also the smart thing to do. The United States is experiencing tectonic demographic shifts, and higher education has traditionally served student groups whose growth potential is now declining in comparison to diverse populations. From this perspective, expanding and improving services to more diverse constituencies aligns with our institutional viability. Third, extensive research has demonstrated that DEIS improves intellectual innovation and productivity, particularly for research teams—the gold standard for STEM research. These factors will help make our workforce more competitive in the global economy. The United States continues to lead the world in STEM and other fields, but other nations are catching up. To retain our leadership, our talent pool must be deep and well-trained, and DEIS will be increasingly important. To prepare our students to become culturally proficient, responsive global citizens and equip a world-class workforce to conduct world-class research, MTU must instill DEIS values into our community. To the degree that MTU understands and embraces these ideals, we will have the determination to continue this work even though it is long and arduous.
Strategic planning around DEIS helps harness our strengths so we all pull together to achieve our goals. DEIS endeavors in academia are often concentrated within a few diversity units possessing neither the institutional clout nor reach to make a substantial difference across higher education. Strategic planning puts us on the same page, reaching for the same overall goals, even though every unit will take its own path toward achieving them.
Effective strategic planning is driven by stakeholders across all constituencies. Our approach is facilitative, not directive. The Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (OVPDI) plays a central role in expediting planning processes and contributing expertise toward optimal DEIS structures and initiatives. However, students, faculty, and staff within various units are the critical content providers since they best understand their unit needs. The challenge is to bring these perspectives together with department heads, administrators, executives, and the Board of Trustees to develop a fully inclusive, University-wide plan. Finally, this plan must be brought into individual colleges and major administrative units to help them coordinate their efforts and contribute to the overall endeavor of guiding the institution toward its DEIS goals. Yet, “finally” anything is perhaps a mischaracterization of any strategic plan because progress is always iterative and achievements and shortfalls inform further planning.
Effective planning results in measurable outcomes. Completing projects without determining final impacts short-circuits the process. Further, planning prioritizes our actions and maximizes our efforts. The process itself should be compact and nimble to ease the administrative burden. Yet, planning demands that we step back and work toward long-term gain even if we have to re-prioritize the present.
The University-wide DEIS strategic plan is largely conceptual with defined planning domains. Units will draw on these domains to complete detailed, individualized unit plans. OVPDI will provide guidance and tools to assist in this process and ask specific units to take on some focused planning around areas and functions central to their purview or expertise.
In consultation with MTU stakeholders, OVPDI has identified seven challenges that are pivotal to promoting an optimal scholarly environment committed to DEIS. These domains do not include every facet of DEIS related to higher education but are themselves strategic, identifying only those areas that are most important to MTU now. We will address these challenges with intentional practices rooted in evidence-based outcomes through commitments from our individual stakeholders, academic and administrative units, and our collective MTU community. Through strategic actions, we intend to pivot these challenges into enduring practices of excellence that support our DEIS ideals.
Through strong collaboration with external partners and led by key internal stakeholders who will be thought leaders in support of unit-based DEIS planning, the MTU community will aspire to achieve:
- Recruitment: Bringing a world-class diverse and inclusive student body, faculty, staff, and administration to MTU;
- Retention: Developing systems of welcome and support that help individuals thrive and achieve their educational, career, and personal goals;
- Curriculum: Establishing a curriculum that advances learning and scholarship through cultural perspectives and life experiences;
- Climate: Cultivating a culture that imbues all members of the MTU community with a sense of belonging;
- Accessibility: Ensuring all facilities and communication platforms are fully accessible and universal design practices are implemented throughout MTU;
- Communication and Branding: Promoting inclusive language and marketing practices; and
- Outreach: Extending MTU’s horizons into the many communities that can benefit from and contribute to our world-class scholarship and educational venues, including local community collaboration, infused with inclusive and multicultural perspectives.
With this first step in DEIS strategic planning, MTU takes another step toward reaching its DEIS aspirations as stated in the University’s vision statement. MTU’s first DEIS efforts began shortly after its founding in 1885 with the inclusion of international students in 1888 and women students in 1889. Together, we now embark on another phase of making MTU more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and welcoming for all.
Appendix A: Implementation Guide presents an overview of the strategic planning process and highlights some key thoughts and practices that may be helpful to units.