Update on the Diversity and Inclusiveness Initiative

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

We would like to share an update on the Diversity and Inclusiveness Initiative – a collaborative process in which faculty, students, and staff developed recommendations to strengthen Georgetown’s commitment to diversity on campus. All three working groups submitted their final recommendations earlier this year, which can be viewed at http://ideaa.georgetown.edu/diversityinclusiveness/. We are grateful for their thoughtful recommendations and the impressive progress in implementing many of these recommendations. With this letter, we would like to outline a set of steps that will build on these recommendations and help our campus promote “community in diversity,” a core Ignatian value of Georgetown University.

I. Admissions and Recruitment Working Group

We appreciate the recommendations of this working group, co-chaired by Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon, Senior Vice President for Strategic Development Daniel Porterfield, Ph.D., and Ryan Wilson (C’12). Since last winter, much progress has been made, perhaps contributing to the significant increase in African American students who accepted our offer of admission into the class of 2014. For example, the Provost’s Office provided funds to host more accepted students at our annual Hoya Saxa Weekend in April. Admissions formed a new advisory body of students, faculty and staff, and this year it has incorporated a new question related to diversity into the undergraduate application. Led by Dean Patricia McWade, the Office of Student Financial Services has hired a bilingual staff member who speaks Spanish and created a peer advising group to help answer students’ questions about financial aid. Senior Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Jaime Briseno will lead the implementation of the other recommendations, which include enhancements to our online emphasis on diversity and our student visits. Fundraising for financial aid continues to grow. This past year we launched the 1789 Scholarship Imperative with town hall meetings in seven cities across the nation with members of the Georgetown community. We raised more money and engaged more participants in support of financial aid than in any year in our history. The 1789 Scholarship Imperative will serve as a foundation for our fundraising efforts for the next five years.

II. Student Life Working Group

We support the recommendations of this working group, co-chaired by Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Todd Olson and Joshua Guzman (F’10), and thank all of the members for their commitment to both student life and the value of inclusiveness. We appreciate the progress that they have already made in implementing several key recommendations. After a successful pilot, “A Different Dialogue” – a program of professionally-facilitated student discussions on issues such as race, economic background and sexual orientation – has grown in size this fall and has become an ongoing part of the student experience. Another notable step is the Diversity Fellows program in which student leaders work with the Diversity Action Council and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action to promote new initiatives fostering multicultural understanding on campus. In addition, Dr. Olson is continuing his series of collaborative luncheons, which bring together student leaders from a diverse array of student organizations. Finally, the new Georgetown website – to be launched later this fall – will include vibrant material showcasing the diversity of our campus community, including highlights of faculty and students that celebrate cultural identity, foster cross-cultural awareness and friendship, and contribute to the intellectual life of the campus. It will also draw attention to specific University resources and student organizations that support and promote Georgetown’s diversity. Dr. Olson and the Diversity Action Council will continue to lead efforts to implement this working group’s recommendations.

III. Academic Working Group

We value the efforts of this working group, co-chaired by Associate Professor of Government Sam Mujal-Leon and Associate Professor of Spanish Veronica Salles-Reese, to explore ways to provide more academic opportunities for students to study, research and discuss issues of diversity, cultural identity, and multicultural communities. As the working group emphasized in its report, the work of a university requires and thrives on sustained faculty leadership and engagement on curricular matters. Therefore, we will move forward with this working group’s recommendations with enthusiasm for its ideas and respect for our culture of shared governance. Provost O’Donnell will lead the process of further faculty dialogue with an eye toward implementation.

Faculty Recruitment and Hires: The working group recommended that we increase the number of minority faculty throughout Main Campus, expand the number of faculty working on African American studies, and develop new resources for Hispanic/Latino and Asian American studies. We agree with this recommendation. This year, we have authorized a search for a new faculty position for a historian in African American studies. The Provost and his senior staff will continue to work with departments to promote diversity more systematically in faculty recruitment and hiring across the board.

University Colloquium on Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in the Era of Globalization: The working group recommended that the University convene a major colloquium to bring together academics and intellectuals across disciplines to discuss promising approaches and new directions in the study of race, ethnicity, culture and identity. We agree that this colloquium could inform both departmental priorities and the syllabi and scholarship of faculty. The two of us will work together to form and host the colloquium.

African American, Asian American, and Hispanic/Latino Studies: The working group recommended that we explore creating new programs in these areas, which will require collaboration with faculty to explore potential frameworks for growth in these areas. As part of this work, the two of us and faculty will partner with senior colleagues in our Office of Advancement to explore development of an initiative in African American Studies as part of our current capital campaign. This concept leverages Georgetown’s location in Washington, D.C. and has potential to attract outside investment.

Establishment of a Diversity Requirement: Faculty from a number of departments collaborated with the working group to explore the feasibility of creating a diversity requirement as part of the General Education requirements for all undergraduates. At the end of last semester, the working group received input on the idea from the Main Campus Executive Faculty.

Under this proposal students would be required to take before graduation two courses that would analyze questions of diversity or cross-cultural experience within the United States and around the world. We regard this recommendation as a positive and constructive goal and commit to working with faculty and school leadership to find a form in which to approve it. We recognize this is an ambitious goal, and we have confidence that faculty and administrators working together with student leaders can be effective in addressing the key questions and issues.

Pedagogy: The working group recommended that the University increase its emphasis on inclusive teaching and learning, including more active communication about and promotion of existing programs and resources, most of which are associated with the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS). We continue to support this effort.

This impressive body of recommendations required the collaboration of many members of our University community. We are deeply grateful for their efforts in framing this important work. We would especially like to thank Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny for her leadership in co-chairing this initiative with Dr. O’Donnell.

It is important to acknowledge that this work is neither the beginning nor the end of our efforts to foster respect for diversity and inclusiveness, build trust within our community, and enhance student learning. We also appreciate that individual students, faculty, and staff make their own contributions each day to the ideals of this initiative. As we work together to implement these recommendations, you have our very best wishes.


John J. DeGioia                     James J. O’Donnell
President                                Provost