Using Data to Understand Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and to Inform Action

By: Dr. Sarah Bruch

On April 4, 2019, the University of Iowa released the 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan. This Action Plan represents the culmination of a multi-year assessment and engagement process and provides a road map to guide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for the next two years.

Using Data to Understand Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion   

Beginning in the fall of 2017, Dr. Sarah Bruch, then an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology,* director of the Social and Education Policy Research Program at the Public Policy Center, and co-chair of the Charter Committee on Diversity at the University of Iowa took a lead role in the collection and analysis of the stakeholder-specific surveys and listening session data, which were used to identify areas of strength and opportunity for achieving greater diversity and creating a more inclusive and equitable campus environment. Along with Diane Finnerty, Assistant Provost for Faculty, and Dr. Lena Hill, who at the time was the interim Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Bruch facilitated the creation of the UI Faculty and Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Campus Climate Survey and integration of “matched” diversity, equity, and inclusion items on the Student Experiences of Research Universities (SERU) survey for undergraduate and graduate students. Leading a team of several UI graduate students, Dr. Bruch provided university-wide analyses of the survey data as well as analyses that disaggregated the data by social identities and characteristics to allow for an examination of differences in UI community member experiences. Dr. Bruch’s team also provided qualitative analysis of the stakeholder-specific listening session feedback, and provided college- and unit-specific analyses of the stakeholder survey data for all colleges and large administrative units across campus.

*Dr. Bruch is now an Associate Professor Jointly Appointed with Biden School and Sociology/Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware  

Using Data to Inform Action

A critically important component of ensuring the implementation of the plan and fostering the necessary transformative change is communicating to all UI stakeholders about the data- and research-informed and inclusive process that went into developing the Action Plan, the motivation and supporting evidence from the comprehensive assessment of campus climate from stakeholder-specific surveys and listening sessions, and most importantly, the concrete action steps that were identified by a campus-wide development group of diversity, equity and inclusion leaders to address the patterned disparities in how UI community members experience the UI campus and build the capacity of the university to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Over the past two years, Dr. Bruch has also taken a lead role in the dissemination and communication of this information, conducting over 100 presentations to numerous groups and units around campus detailing the UI-wide campus climate data, college- and unit-specific climate data, and group-specific (i.e. disability-specific) analyses and role or position-related analyses (i.e. analyses of data related to the role of academic advisors).

In addition to the information on the diversity, equity, and inclusion campus climate data, many of the presentations conducted by Dr. Bruch included segments on understanding and using data to inform individual, unit, and college diversity, equity, and inclusion goal-setting and action steps. Recognizing the importance of supporting these activities, the presentations also included information on the existing resources and training opportunities available, including a new BUILD workshop, “Making the Paradigm Shift – From Diversity to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

Addressing the Mismatch between Experiences and Perceptions

One of the key findings from the comprehensive assessment of campus climate is that there are patterned disparities in how faculty, staff, and students experience the University of Iowa campus. In the case of undergraduate students, many of these disparities are consistent and/or have gotten worse over time. However, what was also clear from the data is that there is a stark mismatch between how competent and proactive the vast majority of UI community members report being in issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the patterned disparities whereby UI community members with more socially-marginalized identities (e.g. underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities, people with self-identified disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer/questioning) were more likely to have negative experiences and less likely to have positive ones. Fostering greater awareness and understanding of this mismatch in perceptions and experiences will be a crucial step to ensuring a more inclusive and equitable campus environment for all.

Imperative to Act

The data obtained from the comprehensive assessment of campus climate, along with the institutional data that show disparities in retention and graduation for students and promotion for faculty and staff, provide additional urgency to address the inclusiveness and equitability of our campus environment. Through making these data publicly available and presented widely across campus, there has been an increasing awareness for UI community members of the importance of creating an inclusive and equitable campus environment. However, an inclusive and equitable campus environment is one that has to be intentionally fostered and maintained. The 2019-2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan provides a guide for this work, and the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion provides several forms of support resources for individuals, units, and colleges to engage in this crucially important work.

Shared Responsibility and Accountability

An inclusive and equitable campus environment where every UI community member feels welcome, respected, and valued is required for all community members to thrive, perform to their full potential, and contribute to the UI community. To achieve this goal will require every UI community member to work as individuals and members of groups, units, and colleges to proactively create and support inclusive and equitable environments. Only by working together and holding each other accountable for action will the UI be successful in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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