Continued Progress on DEI Commitments
Dear Members of the CMU Community:
With the fall semester well underway, I write today to update you on our community’s ongoing efforts to confront racism and promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across the university.
Following my first update from December 10, we have continued to make meaningful progress executing the 34+ commitments that were announced in July of last year. By fostering a more diverse and inclusive community, these actions further enhance our academic and institutional excellence, and support individual and collective well-being. This work is inspiring, critically important, and directly tied to our mission and our societal impact. I wish to thank the senior leaders, faculty, students, staff, alumni and community partners who have been leading and championing these efforts, including Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant, who joined our community in April as our inaugural Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. I also invite the students, faculty and staff who are new to CMU this year to join us on this DEI journey by sharing your unique experiences, welcoming the perspectives of others, and supporting a culture of inclusion and belonging. (I hope you will also take the time to read my previous communications about this work.)
As many of you may recall, the commitments announced in July span three broad areas of impact: (1) Commitments to the CMU Community; (2) Commitments to the Expansion of Knowledge and Expertise at CMU; and (3) Commitments to Engagement and Economic Empowerment for the Broader Community. Below are representative highlights of our progress.
These updates are a sample of the actions being taken to fulfill these commitments and only scratch the surface of the impactful DEI work that is underway across Carnegie Mellon. Over the past year and a half, all academic and administrative units have launched 5-Year Strategic DEI Plans, and all schools and colleges have invested in related programs and have appointed senior leaders specifically focused on advancing DEI.
I invite you to explore the related microsite for a comprehensive update on the 34+ action items, and to look out for additional communications from other senior leaders across campus.
Progress on Commitments to the CMU Community
- Observing Juneteenth: In support of our commitment to an inclusive culture, the university leadership team has decided to observe Juneteenth as an official university holiday beginning in 2022. On the day of observation, the university will be closed, and no classes will be held. Juneteenth annually commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and by making room for reflection and educational programming on the Black experience in a modern-day context, we will reinforce our commitment to end systems of oppression and racism.
- Tartan Scholars: After expanding the size of the cohort last year, we welcomed 130 new first-year students into the Tartan Scholars program this fall and we are adding new dimensions and activities for Tartan Scholars in their upper class years. This impactful program now serves 300 undergraduate students who are academically high-achieving and come from underserved communities by providing access and resources to support their successful CMU education.
- Developing Social Capital Through Community Connections and Networks: With the goal of promoting DEI and encouraging cultural awareness at CMU, Human Resources has developed a series of employee resource groups. The membership campaign has begun for the three pilot Black, LGBTQ+ and Veteran groups, which will be open to all CMU faculty and staff. If you are interested in getting involved, please visit this Human Resources webpage.
- Ensuring Transparency and Accountability for CMU Police: The CMU Police published its annual report earlier this month, which will supplement its ongoing monthly reports. In addition, similar to the periodic advisory board reviews of our academic units, the CMU Police will undergo its first departmental review during this academic year. I am pleased that 21st Century Policing Solutions, a consulting company formed by former members of President Obama’s 2015 policing task force, will assist with this process. 21CP is a collective of national experts — from veteran police chiefs and pre-eminent scholars to leading civil rights lawyers and police union representatives — all united behind a common goal of furthering a new, shared vision of public safety. Please stay tuned for information about listening sessions with campus and community stakeholders as we prepare for this review.
- Enhancing Peer Education and Leadership Opportunities at the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion: Under the leadership of Executive Director M. Shernell Smith, the center has hired a Director for Student Engagement and Support. This leader will advance peer education programming this semester and will begin the implementation and training processes for participants in late spring 2022. The goal of these programs is to foster intergroup dialogue and build student capacity as agents of social change.
- Expanding Training for Faculty, Staff and Contractors: Human Resources has launched several new professional development opportunities for faculty and staff that are focused on a broad range of topics, including cultural sensitivity, civil discourse, misinformation and bias. Human Resources has also begun outreach to provide CMU vendors and contractors access to these trainings as well.
Progress on Commitment to the Expansion of Knowledge and Expertise at CMU
- Creating Resources Through the Faculty Opportunity Fund: Last year, Provost Jim Garrett launched a new Strategic Faculty Opportunity Fund to support the recruitment, retention and development of outstanding scholars in all fields who will contribute to diversity and equity. For the 2020-21 cycle, five colleges at CMU requested support and $3.7 million has been awarded to date, resulting in six confirmed hires so far.
- Establishing University-Wide Research Centers: CMU recently launched two university-wide centers dedicated to tackling societal issues and intentionally embedding DEI in our research and community engagement. The Center for Shared Prosperity was launched in April 2021 to leverage CMU’s research to help address structural barriers to equity and foster economic empowerment in the Pittsburgh region; and in March 2021, CMU and the University of Pittsburgh jointly established the Collaboratory Against Hate: Research and Action Center to study extremist hate and develop tools that inhibit its creation, growth, and destructive consequences. In addition, during the 2020-2021 academic year, the Block Center for Technology and Society directed $250,000 of its annual seed fund toward projects that engage BIPOC communities in the development and deployment of AI systems that reduce bias and improve societal outcomes.
- Developing Courses in Cultural Competencies: Under the leadership of Provost Garrett, a working group was formed in May to establish two new university-wide competencies: (1) diversity, equity and inclusion; and (2) intercultural and global learning. The process of developing desired learning outcomes and mapping existing educational efforts to these competencies is underway. In parallel, faculty and academic leaders are integrating DEI topics into existing courses, developing new curricular elements and updating core education requirements. A new micro course series, Technology, Humanity and Social Justice, was just approved, and the first course of the series will be available to any undergraduate or graduate student (without prerequisites) in spring 2022.
Progress on Commitments to Engagement and Economic Empowerment for Our Broader Community
- Achieving Greater Transparency in Community Engagement Efforts: In support of our commitment to greater transparency in our community-driven education, research and service efforts, earlier this year, we launched a new Regional Impact site. This site highlights our community engagement and allows members of the Pittsburgh community to access CMU resources and contacts. I invite you to explore the range and scope of our regional impact through the work of our faculty, students and staff.
- Expanding Engagement with Pittsburgh High Schools: Our nationally recognized Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) program has partnered with local Pittsburgh schools and organizations with a renewed emphasis on reaching students from our local region this year; our commitment to this goal will continue as we begin recruiting the 2022 cohort. In addition, with the support of the President’s Office as well as other funders, the Dietrich College and the College of Fine Arts have collaborated to launch LEAP, a Humanities and Arts access program for regional students. The pilot will begin later this fall with 15 students and will grow to serve 75 students within the next three years. The program’s curriculum includes experiential, hands-on workshops, mentoring, college counseling and other support.
- Enhancing Quality of Life for our Community Members and Neighbors: CMU and the City of Pittsburgh are partnering to provide support for the rehabilitation of the Four Mile Run playground in Greenfield and improvements at the Lewis playground in Hazelwood, two beloved playgrounds close to our campus. This partnership is an investment in Pittsburgh as a vibrant and family friendly city, and will bring joy to children and families in Greenfield and Hazelwood for years to come.
As I conclude this update, let me affirm that DEI is intrinsic to our mission as a university. This work is not a periodic effort nor is it dependent on, or subject to, shifts in political or cultural headwinds. When we meaningfully and consistently incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into our work, we attract, develop and retain the talent that makes this university truly world-class, and we ensure our impact on the world reflects our core values. Although we should be heartened by the progress described in this memo, we have more to do. I am grateful for your steadfast partnership in this ongoing journey, and I look forward to continually building on this progress with you.
Henry L. Hillman Chair