Toward a more inclusive University

Kevin Bailey
Monday, February 17, 2020

A lasting legacy. This story is part of a series demonstrating the achievement, impact and growth of UNC Charlotte under the leadership of Chancellor Philip L. Dubois.

Growth in programming through Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund-supported grants has broadened campus and community exposure to the dimensions of diversity. Chancellor Dubois established the fund early in his tenure, and under his leadership, the University has prioritized cultivating a diverse and inclusive campus as an educational and business necessity.

“We should provide our students opportunities to interact with individuals from different backgrounds and to intellectually engage them in a range of ideas and perspectives,” said Dubois. “UNC Charlotte is preparing its graduates to become leaders and thriving citizens in a pluralistic and multicultural society.”

The range of grants awarded by the Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund have supported programming related to gender equity and gender expression, age, class, culture, differing physical and learning abilities, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and veteran status.

From the annual OUTSpoken Speaker Series, which focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues; to a visit by the Dancing Wheels Company: Diversity in Motion, which featured the first professional integrated dance company for people with and without disabilities; to a lecture by Zara Asad who addressed “The Muslim American Identity”; to conferences devoted to the health care needs of military veterans; thousands of students have attended the 325-plus lectures, presentations, films, performances and workshops made possible by Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund grants.

“Diversity enriches the educational experience for all students, and in an ever-increasing interconnected global environment, it is crucial for students to learn from those whose experiences are different from their own,” said Kevin Bailey, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “Chancellor Dubois has been very supportive of initiatives that affirm diversity and inclusion including the Cone University Center’s Lavender Lounge, open to LGBTQIA+ students and their allies, and Peace Haven, a designated meditation and reflection space, which started as a student-driven initiative led by Interfaith Niners. He also acted upon recommendations from students to change single-use bathrooms to gender-neutral ones across campus.”

Preparing students to succeed

The Organizational Science Summer Institute (OSSI) began with a Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund grant. This one-week program primes undergraduate students from underrepresented populations to attend graduate school through intensive learning, GRE preparation, research activities and networking opportunities.

Sophomore Ashley Rankin attended in summer 2019, and she said it helped solidify her career prospects.

“Even though the goals and interests of the participants were different, we all had the same overarching interest in organizational studies and the desire to prepare for future careers. OSSI put graduate study into perspective and gave me an idea on what I would have to do to be prepared,” said Rankin.

2019 OSSI group

Grant supports dismantling racism

Social work professor Susan McCarter used Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Funds to provide Racial Equity Workshops on campus and in the greater community as well as to develop the Racial Equity Skill Building Caucus. These trainings enable participants to increase their knowledge of how to build racial equity by reflecting on their beliefs and learning/practicing new skills.

“Diversity, access, inclusion, anti-racism, intersectionality and equity are complex concepts. It takes time to raise awareness of these terms and even longer to build trust so authentic truths can be shared,” said McCarter. “These growing racial equity practices are sustainable on campus and throughout the Charlotte community, and the Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund grants allowed us to plant the seeds.”

Workshop participants have called them eye opening and much needed. Mary Webb from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools commented, “What I thought I knew and believed about racism was challenged by the information presented. It challenges me to review my own thinking and approach in systematic thinking to improve the futures of our children of color. Racism means something completely different to me now.”

susan mccarter image with quote

A historical perspective

Since 2007, the Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund has awarded more than 325 grants totaling more than $1.36 million to infuse the development of campus programming that fosters awareness and appreciation for multiple dimensions of diversity.

During his installation address in February 2006, Chancellor Dubois announced reconstituting the Council on University Community (CUC), composed of members of his Cabinet, to accelerate efforts to diversify campus. The CUC developed the institution’s first comprehensive diversity plan (the UNC Charlotte Plan for Campus Diversity, Access and Inclusion). The CUC leads diversity efforts within each division to create and sustain an inclusive environment and foster a sense of community among faculty, students and staff.

A diversity plan progress report was completed during the 2012-13 academic year, and in fall 2015, the chancellor charged the CUC to update the plan.

“We have made significant progress in creating and sustaining an inclusive campus environment that values the presence of people from diverse backgrounds, experiences and ideas," said Chancellor Dubois, "but we have more work to do.”

Chance Lewis quote

To speed the work of the Council of University Community, the Council on University Community Working Group (CCWG) was formed in 2017 to raise the visibility, coordination and impact of the considerable efforts to advance UNC Charlotte’s diversity plan. The CCWG focuses on overseeing and coordinating diversity programming within Academic Affairs and will coordinate with other divisions across the University to advise the provost on how resources, policies and practices can be used to advance institutional goals related to diversity.

Chance Lewis, the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Urban Education, chairs the CCWG as the institution’s inaugural Faculty Fellow for Diversity, Access and Inclusion.

“Positive change happens when stakeholders from throughout the University have a seat at the table of decision-making,” said Lewis. “As a result, I view my role as a facilitator that allows our Council on University Community Working Group to make recommendations to our University’s senior leadership.”

He noted the CCWG has influenced the campus culture in a number of positive ways including but not limited to:

  • Establishing the criteria for evaluating Diversity Challenge Fund proposals to ensure they are directly tied to the seven objectives of the Campus Diversity Plan
  • Providing specific recommendations to senior leadership on campus-wide improvement of diversity and inclusion initiatives and policies
  • Leading the initiative for all campus units to now have dedicated web pages focused on diversity and inclusion efforts
  • Guiding establishment of various Diversity and Inclusion Committees in units throughout the University

 Learn more about diversity at UNC Charlotte including resources for students and faculty/staff.