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March 19, 2015

Town Hall Solicits New Ideas on Diversity

By Mike Yeomans / 412-268-8537 /

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The multifaceted topic of diversity produced a lively discussion and debate among an audience of more than 100 people, who filled the Posner Center to capacity to share their insights and ideas at a strategic plan town hall meeting on the subject March 16.

Vice President for Research and incoming Provost Farnam Jahanian said it will take "institutional commitment at all levels" to build a stronger culture of inclusion at CMU. Meaningful change, he said, will take time, and will require a regular dialogue among every faculty and staff member.

He added that the development and implementation of "policies and programs that are real and that incentivize good behavior and de-incentivize bad behavior" need to be an end result of the strategic planning process.

A video recording of the meeting is available at the strategic planning website,

The next strategic plan town hall meeting will be held from 4:30 – 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 25 at the Posner Center. The leaders of the three focus areas will update their progress and hold breakout sessions on proposed goals.

The town hall on diversity began with Everett Tademy, assistant vice president for diversity and equal opportunity, presenting several charts depicting CMU lagging behind peer institutions in diversity of students, faculty and staff.

The meeting then approached diversity from three perspectives: recruitment, success and leadership, and culture and climate.

Karen Clay, associate professor of economics and public policy at the Heinz College, said the Recruitment Committee is exploring best practices from other universities, while also identifying positive practices within CMU that can be applied more broadly.

Some ideas include requiring two diverse candidates for every open staff and faculty position, as done at Harvard; requiring every dean to write a yearly diversity report; and enacting cluster hiring, the process of hiring multiple faculty members into interdisciplinary research areas.

From an undergraduate student perspective, Associate Director of Admissions Jason Nevinger said, “it comes down to building that one-to-one relationship” with students in April when accepted students visit campus.

In the success and leadership category, Mellon College of Science Dean Fred Gilman said the university should be aggressive in setting goals to match or exceed its peers in the next five to 10 years on several diversity measures.

Diana Marculescu, professor of electrical and computer engineering, said she is leading a new Center for Faculty Success in the College of Engineering that is being modeled after a program for junior faculty at the University of Michigan. She said one of the focus areas of the center will be developing and retaining underrepresented minorities and women faculty.

Marculescu said the Success and Leadership Committee also is exploring training programs that will help members identify and correct unconscious biases in the hiring and mentoring process.

Addressing culture and climate was Bryan Lewis, an executive associate in the Office of the Provost. He said his committee has heard the call for CMU to better communicate its commitment to diversity, internally and externally, including through a more robust diversity website.

An African-American engineering doctoral student noted that when he was recruited by other universities, they made their commitment to inclusion much more explicit than CMU.

Comments continue to be welcomed by the strategic planning committee. Email your comments or questions to

A final strategic plan town hall meeting focused on international strategy will be held from 12:30 – 2 p.m., April 14 at the Posner Center.