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Institutional Viability and Vitality

Challenge 6: Diversifying University Leadership and Management

Leadership for diversity encompasses both demographic diversity and a demonstrated capacity within our leadership for fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment. Certainly the demographic profile of leadership is a prominent and visible component. The assertion of the original Framework remains true: "Penn State's commitment to diversity must be visible in its most public face, that of the senior managers and leaders of the University."30 We must also seek leaders with experience, understanding, ability, and drive to foster diversity at all levels and within all aspects of the organization, leaders who value educational excellence and position diversity within the institution's core values.

The Report on the Status of Women at Penn State: 2007-08, recently published by the Commission for Women, highlights some gain in the number and percentage of women at administrative levels. Progress in regard to race/ethnicity remains elusive. Much work is needed for advancement of all diverse groups within administrative levels. Search processes have been strengthened, and the vice provost for Affirmative Action now charges all faculty and administrative search committees with, and provides assistance on, diversifying the pool of highly qualified candidates for leadership positions. Some progress has been made, but clearly this goal remains a priority area for improvement at the University, unit, and departmental levels.

Beyond attention to executive and administrative positions within the University, we must also consider the profile of governing and advisory bodies such as the Board of Trustees, University Faculty Senate, President's Council, Alumni Council, Staff Advisory Committee, commissions for equity, and other organizations at the University level along with similar bodies at the campus and unit levels, as well as leadership at student levels. The Board of Trustees has demonstrated sustained support for diversity and the Framework, receiving biennial reports of progress and hosting representatives of the commissions for equity for discussion on an annual basis. Also, the trustees have reflected diversity in their own ranks, with two African American chairs elected within the past fifteen years, including the University's second woman chair. The University Faculty Senate has shown its support through the formation of a standing committee on Educational Equity and Campus Environment, which brings equity issues to the attention of the Senate and serves as an advisory body to the vice provost for Educational Equity. Such support from leadership bodies helps to emphasize the link between diversity and institutional excellence.

Department-level leadership for diversity is also critical. Even where strong leadership for diversity exists at the top administrative levels of a unit, it can be particularly challenging to reach the departmental level. Diversity strategic planning often takes place at the unit level, yet many curriculum, hiring, and programmatic initiatives take place at the departmental level. As analysis of our Best Practices indicates, successful diversity implementation goes several layers deep within the unit.31 More can be done to effectively drive unit-level discussions and directions down through the departmental levels.

The Faculty/Staff Survey again provides some insight on the question, "My department/unit provides visible leadership to foster diversity." In the 2008 survey, 64 percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that their department/unit provides visible leadership to foster diversity, as compared to 63 percent in 2004. Appendix E provides additional details on this question.

Targeted Areas for Improvement:

  • Active and visible support from executive leadership remains critical to continued progress at both the University and unit levels.
  • Strengthen the articulation between unit-level and department-level diversity planning, implementation, and reporting and enhance department-level participation.
  • Ensure that search committees for leadership positions require expertise in fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment as a particularly desirable characteristic for leaders and that all appropriate efforts are made to ensure a diverse candidate pool.
  • Promote diverse composition of leadership teams at all levels of the University, especially among administrative, advisory, strategic planning, governing, and management bodies.
  • Provide pathways for individuals from diverse groups to demonstrate and increase their leadership abilities and opportunities.

Challenge 7: Coordinating Organizational Change to Support Our Diversity Goals

Actualization of this Challenge in many ways facilitates progress in all other Challenges and is key to the sustainability of our Framework progress. We have noted increasing attention to this Challenge as units gain recognition that an inclusive environment benefits all members of the University community and embrace diversity as central to the higher education mission. Yet opportunity exists for further improvement. By fully realizing diversity as a core ideology of the organization, we ensure that our commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and equity is part of our central values and enduring principles and are able to transcend periodic changes in environment and personnel. Doing so also implies updating other organizational ideologies, which can be supported by our belief in the benefits of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment across the institution.32

Each Framework review period gives us a clear picture of where the University stands in its implementation of our diversity goals. Active support and participation of executive leadership is crucial to success, and this support is increasingly reflected at the unit level, with unit executives now making diversity an active priority. Many units now include the multicultural officer and/or diversity committee member on their executive council. In some cases, the multicultural officer is at the level of associate dean, assistant dean, or assistant to the dean. Also, involvement from the multicultural officers and diversity committees in diversity strategic planning and reporting appears to be on the rise.

Successful institutionalization goes several layers deep within the organization, and over the long term, momentum can never be dependent on specific individuals. We have found more active involvement in embracing the goals of the Framework at all levels of the University; however, additional progress is needed. Unit-level discussions must be more effectively taken up at the department level so that better articulation exists between units and their departments for a more purposeful, planned approach. Involvement of faculty, particularly senior faculty, is critical. Substantial progress requires sustained momentum, and the efforts of some units are still somewhat inconsistent throughout the cycle, which short-circuits effective planning and implementation. The midpoint progress review assists in sustaining momentum, along with the series of Best Practices in Diversity Strategic Planning workshops, which have been well received. Nevertheless, as is true in general strategic planning, it is tempting, once the plan or report is completed, to put it on the shelf and not refer to it again until the next planning or reporting phase of the cycle. Effective implementation such as devoting periodic staff meetings to reviewing progress toward strategic planning goals and asking what upcoming decisions could be impacted by seeking guidance from the unit diversity strategic plan, can help to overcome this problem.

A number of specific initiatives and structural alignments have been implemented within the 2004-09 planning period. In support of our internationalization efforts, the position of the vice provost for Global Programs was created to oversee Education Abroad and International Student Services. This position should help to encourage the pursuit of global perspectives in education and the workplace. Penn State's Affirmative Action Office has also been strengthened with the promotion of the director to the level of vice provost. University Policies AD 29, Statement on Intolerance, and AD 42, Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment, were expanded to include gender identity. The Faculty/Staff Survey has added a section of questions regarding diversity, which yields University-wide data and comparable unit-level data supplied to the unit executive, disaggregated by multiple demographic categories.

Perhaps most importantly, articulation between diversity planning and general strategic planning places diversity at the core of the institutional mission. The University's diversity planning and general planning processes have always been intertwined. The first University-wide general plan, Academic Excellence: Planning for the Twenty-First Century, and A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 1998-2003 were born out of the same planning process and launched in close proximity. Certainly, synergies are growing. We have found many diversity initiatives embedded within unit overall strategic planning, something that was rare even ten years ago.

Enhancements to the diversity strategic planning, implementation, and reporting process have helped to institutionalize the relationship between diversity and unit missions. Units are putting greater emphasis on regular assessment and analysis of diversity initiatives, the results of which provide focus and direction for future planning and priorities. Structural alignments and allocation of appropriate resources, as well as systems of accountability and reward, facilitate progress and convey a sense of priority for unit diversity goals.

The relationship between diversity and strategic planning is reinforced by the continuing general planning goal to "create a more inclusive, civil, and diverse University learning community." The reporting guidelines for the 2008-2009 through 2012-2013 unit plans specifically called for "an indication of how elements of the Framework to Foster Diversity are incorporated into the unit's strategic plan." Almost all units responded with detailed information and themes of diversity throughout their plans. The University Strategic Planning Council, whose charge is to create the University's 2010-15 general strategic plan, deemed diversity one of the core elements that cuts across all of the specific topics considered. Most important, the Framework and general plan again share the same five-year cycle, presenting even greater opportunities for confluence.

Within the context of greater understanding of the centrality of diversity to institutional viability and vitality, units are making more meaningful linkages with communities and better use of University resources to support diversity, such as those offered through the Affirmative Action Office, Office of Human Resources, Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity, Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs, Undergraduate Admissions, Office of Student Aid, Student Affairs, college multicultural offices, unit diversity committees, and other services. The capacity of and collaborations among these support structures must be maintained and expanded to meet ever-growing demands.

Targeted Areas for Improvement:

  • Foster synergies among diversity, mission, and institutional viability and vitality and ensure that these relationships are highlighted in unit mission statements, planning documents, and development priorities.
  • Institute necessary organizational realignments, systems of accountability, resource mobilization and allocation strategies, long-term planning strategies, and inclusive metrics necessary to optimize the realization of the University's diversity goals.
  • Enhance the role of the multicultural officer and/or diversity committee at the executive level in all planning and decision-making venues.
  • Promote the involvement of faculty, particularly senior faculty, in championing diversity realignments.
  • Augment meaningful linkages and partnerships with underrepresented/underserved communities.
  • Establish solid connections between executive-level and department-level planning and implementation.
  • Develop processes, including regular reports to executives, that will help sustain momentum throughout the planning cycle.
  • Consistently disaggregate data across diverse demographics in all aspects of unit decision making so as to reveal areas of disparity that can be addressed. Identify and address intergroup disparities between underrepresented/underserved populations and the University and/or unit general population.
  • Increase the collaboration, capacity, and utilization of resources and infrastructure that support the realization of diversity goals.
  • Amplify the synergies between general planning and diversity planning. Develop processes that place the unit's diversity strategic plan along with the general strategic plan at the core of all major decisions.


Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity
314 Old Main,
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 865-5906, Fax: (814) 865-3997