Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative

Image of large classroom full of students

The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2023 outlines Mount Holyoke’s collective commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and calls upon the MHC community to develop a distinctive plan that will deliver on that priority.

It is important that our entire community be engaged at all levels and that we move expeditiously towards action that will cultivate the environment in which we aspire to do our work together. Our new endeavor is not about replicating the good work we have already done but about further actionable and accountable implementation. It is time to commit new resources to develop an infrastructure that represents and supports our campus culture. Faculty, staff and students must now come together to learn from each other; strengthen mutual respect; support diversity, equity and inclusion; and share leadership and accountability for the results.

To this end, Acting President Sonya Stephens charged a steering committee of faculty, staff and students to spearhead a new initiative focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

The DEI Steering Committee's Charter:

  1. The DEI Steering Committee will be a thought-partner to foster open and transparent communication with College senior leadership, working to promote and make progress on strategic priorities related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  2. The DEI Steering Committee will promote connections and alignment of needs, priorities and goals of students, staff and faculty across campus, stressing the importance of, and the College’s collective commitment to, this work.
  3. We will be accountable to each other, and to the community, to carry out the charge our stakeholders have given us to realize the vision of the DEI Initiative and make good on our promises.
  4. We will engage in the national conversation of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education and share our expertise of ours as a model of inclusive excellence for our peers and other institutions of higher education disseminating knowledge gained from our collaborative work on campus.

Phase I- Exploration and Discovery- Complete

In November 2016, we started the first phase of the DEI initiative with the help of partners at the Collaborations Group, experts in the diversity field. We began a conversation across a number of energetic groups and colleagues to explore possibilities for new avenues of progress. We drew some early conclusions that while there is a high level of interest and activity, most often the work is pursued with limited resources and too little sharing of knowledge or information. As a result, the significant effort these individual activities represent has not led to the kind of systemic and sustainable results to which we aspire and which we expect of ourselves. The exploration stage also recognized that not all members of our community have had the same opportunities or the same exposure to educational and professional development on questions of race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, and religious and cultural difference — though many are eager for these opportunities and conversations.

Phase II- Learning Conference- Complete

In March 2017, the Mount Holyoke community came together for a multi-faceted, two-day learning conference. BOOM, or Building on Our Momentum, brought forward the energy and expertise of our faculty, staff and students, who planned and facilitated the 72 conference sessions. This was a historic moment for Mount Holyoke, as we cancelled classes and other activities and closed campus offices, to enable the entire community to participate in the conference. It was not a day off, but rather a day on. The goal was to convene all of us — students, faculty and staff — to engage one another, share our collective wisdom, and create a collective vision for diversity, equity and inclusion at Mount Holyoke. BOOM was not the culmination of this work, but rather the catalyst for the next phases of the initiative.


Building On Our Momentum

Boom Learning Conference logo

BOOM: Building On Our Momentum was a moment where we came together as one community to think deeply and collectively about how we engage with one another. We held a multi-faceted, two-day event that brought students, faculty and staff together to experience and engage around the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Phase III- Feedback and Recommendations- Complete

The third phase began by convening a smaller working group, combining members of the DEI Steering Committee and the Bringing Theory to Practice grant group.

We collected feedback from faculty, staff, and students about the conference experience, and about the work to be done and their hopes and ideas for the future of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Mount Holyoke. In distilling feedback we received from the BOOM Conference, as well as building on what we have learned from existing and past diversity initiatives, we reviewed and revised Mount Holyoke’s current DEI Mission Statement, and submitted an initial list of concrete recommendations for enduring change to the College’s leadership:

Recommendation #1: Institutionalize BOOM

The DEI Steering Committee asked the senior leadership team to approve a Day of Community to be set aside in each academic year. While the theme and format for this day might change from year to year depending on the priorities of the institution, it would be a day of in-service for all faculty, staff, and students and revolve around the DEI issues writ large. This recommendation was approved by the president and received unanimous support from the officers. The first of these days appears in the 2018-19 academic year calendar, on Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

Recommendation #2: Hire a Chief Diversity Officer

The DEI Steering Committee submitted a request for a new position to be created for a chief diversity officer. This position was approved in September 2017, and the search launched in October, culminating in the hire of Kijua Sanders-McMurtry. The Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer will oversee and coordinate the College’s existing efforts in diversity, equity, access, and inclusion and introduce new initiatives. Her task will be to embed diversity and inclusion into Mount Holyoke’s curriculum, infrastructure, policies, and programs in a bold and strategic way. With the strong support of the College’s senior leadership, Sanders-McMurtry will serve as a catalyst to leverage the College’s diversity and resources to promote a culture of inclusion and foster a climate of inclusive excellence for the entire campus community.

Recommendation #3: Create a Diversity Dashboard

To understand the current state of DEI in our community and put plans in place to achieve significant progress, we need to have solid benchmark data. In support of the College’s commitment to develop a diversity dashboard to share with our community, the DEI Steering Committee together with the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness developed and released a new survey that will help us to gather common data and develop the benchmarks we need in order to set goals. Responses will give us all, including the DEI Steering Committee and the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, a holistic picture of our campus culture. Demographic data and student responses will be updated annually, and the faculty and staff portion of this survey will be repeated every three years (a recognized best practice in climate surveys).

The first part of the results from this work—demographic data for faculty, staff, and students—has been published in the Mount Holyoke Factbook on the Office of Institutional Research’s website, and further dashboards utilizing additional information from the new survey will be made available soon.

Phase IV- Action Planning- In Progress

We recognize that for this initiative to be different than work that has come before, we must create a public plan that outlines further actionable and accountable implementation. It is time to commit new resources to develop an infrastructure that represents and supports our campus culture. The DEI Action Plan will help us organize the structural work of advancing our collective commitment to community engagement as DEI programming continues. The plans from each division will be integrated into the implementation plan for the Plan for 2021, and progress for the DEI plans, as with the implementation plan, will be evaluated quarterly and overseen by the College Planning Committee (CPC) and the Board of Trustees.

Phase V- Conclusion

The work and membership of the DEI Steering Committee will shift as the initiative comes to an end. After the DEI action plans are incorporated into the regular strategic planning process later this spring, we will work to support the work of the new chief diversity officer over the summer and in Fall 2018. Prior to December 2018, the role and charter of the DEI Steering Committee will be reviewed against the original presidential mandate and other existing governance structures on campus to determine the best and most appropriate path forward.

DEI Initiative Steering Committee

Aime DeGrenier, Library, Information and Technology Services (LITS)
Latrina Denson, Student Life
Amber Douglas, Student Success and Advising
Heidi Friedman, Human Resources
Kirina Gair-Macmichael '18, Student Representative
Marcella Runell Hall, Student Life
Emet Marwell '18, Student Representative
Dorothy Mosby, Dean of Faculty, Co-Chair DEI initiative
Kathleen Pertzborn, President’s Office, Co-Chair DEI initiative
Derrick Redd, Athletics
Jonencia Wood, Alumnae Association

The diversity of our campus is a mark of distinction and a source of pride. Mount Holyoke’s success in this area is due to the contributions of many, including committees and commissions, as well as the sustained effort and focused energy of faculty, staff and students who have led this work.