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Updated 10:00 AM February 19, 2007
 

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Diversity Blueprints taking shape

Roughly two months after President Mary Sue Coleman formed Diversity Blueprints—a task force charged with gathering ideas for how U-M can continue to achieve racial, ethnic, and gender diversity post-Proposal 2—a preliminary report has been issued that outlines three major themes from the hundreds of ideas and hours of input received thus far. They are: educational outreach and public engagement; admissions, financial aid and academic support; and campus climate and the University experience.

The Diversity Blueprints Task Force, led by Provost Teresa Sullivan and Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts, presented its preliminary findings to Coleman last week. A final report is scheduled to be released in mid-March.

"This effort was so important to our academic excellence that I put the Diversity Blueprints Task Force on this nearly impossible time frame because of the urgency of this work," Coleman said. "I am extremely pleased with the way the members put this important issue on the fast track, working many hours to come up with very thoughtful solutions to maintaining and enhancing diversity at the University of Michigan."

Sullivan says the suggestions generated by nearly 100 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, who participated in the forum series or on task force subcommittees, were wide-ranging and creative. In addition, several hundred ideas and comments were submitted by e-mail since the task force was announced in December.

"What unites many of these recommendations is that they recognize that diversity is far more than a demographic goal; it is a set of constant dynamic and reciprocal interactions," the preliminary report states. "It is in the fostering of, and training for, meaningful exchange that diversity becomes intellectually, culturally and socially productive and central to the University's educational mission. In these recommendations, diversity is understood as a source of continual mutual enrichment through supported interactions with community partners, campus constituencies, and classroom and research practices."

At the same time, Sullivan says, the report recognizes that the road ahead will be challenging, as members learned from the experiences of others states.

"As task force members gathered information from California, Washington, Texas and Georgia—states that experienced similar challenges—the importance of outreach activities, public engagement and clear communication in efforts to maintain diversity have proven essential," the provost says. "Although U-M already has a number of outreach programs in place, these partnerships should be strengthened, and a number of innovative ideas for how to accomplish this goal were articulated during this process," Sullivan says.

While Proposal 2 altered the ways in which admissions and financial aid are administered, Monts says there is room for holistic review strategies and measurements based on academic promise, a student's goals and experiences, community service, and financial need—among other criteria—that may help encourage diverse student interest in U-M enrollment.

The third theme, campus climate, recognizes that a diverse faculty and staff is essential to recruiting and educating a diverse student body. Monts says some areas of the University have done well with campus climate improvement, but a more systematic approach is necessary to ensure that good work is being done campuswide.

"Considerable emphasis must be placed on making change pervasive and ensuring that diversity is an everyday priority at Michigan," Monts says.

The president is reviewing the preliminary report, and one public forum session remains. It is scheduled for 4-5 p.m. Feb. 23 at the East Quad auditorium. Once all input has been received, next steps include determining which of the recommendations can be implemented as early as March 15, Monts says. The remaining ideas that emerge as viable will become part of a long-term strategic plan aimed at "building a community that is broadly diverse, inclusive of a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that richly contribute to the learning environment at Michigan."

One thing is clear, the report states: "We will not accomplish this with a single program or innovation. This requires a long-term focus and commitment based in an 'extended community effort' that is coordinated with colleagues across the campus, state and country, from both private and public sectors."

"We do this knowing that we continue as a primary and influential leader in the national landscape: our response will signal not only the sincerity and success of our intent but the scope of possibilities for how other institutions of higher education will address similar issues."

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