Letter on Diversity and Inclusion

Students leaving O'Shaughnessy

At Notre Dame, we take pride in the strong bonds of community we share, and we are committed to supporting and helping all members of the Notre Dame family to flourish, as they participate in and contribute to our common life.

September 28, 2015

Dear Faculty, Students and Staff,

At Notre Dame, we take pride in the strong bonds of community we share, and we are committed to supporting and helping all members of the Notre Dame family to flourish, as they participate in and contribute to our common life.  I invite you to read the University’s statement on diversity and inclusion, which can be found here, on the recently-launched website, diversity.nd.edu. Our distinctive Catholic mission and identity compel us to work together to make Notre Dame a place that is ever more diverse and inclusive, and it was to serve this purpose that we created the President’s Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in 2013.

I promised at that time that I would provide periodic updates about the committee’s work and about the University’s diversity and inclusion initiatives more generally.

I wish to commend the members of the committee for their leadership, vision, and effort.  Our work to make Notre Dame a more inclusive and diverse community is far from completed, but I am pleased with the positive steps we are taking. I would like to tell you about a few of the key initiatives that are underway in the paragraphs below. More information about these and other related initiatives can be found at diversity.nd.edu.

For Faculty

During the 2013-14 academic year, Notre Dame partnered with several peer institutions to conduct the Faculty Experience Survey, designed to assess institutional climate, work load, work/life balance, the tenure/promotion process, mentoring, research and scholarship infrastructure, and benefits. The blue ribbon committee appointed by Provost Tom Burish to study the results of the survey and offer recommendations issued its report last year at this time.  As recommended by the committee, Hugh Page, Vice President, Associate Provost, and Dean of the First Year of Studies, hosted focus groups with selected faculty of color— conversations that will continue in the coming year—to further explore themes that emerged from the survey, listen to both the experiences and concerns of faculty of color, and formulate next steps.

In addition, Laura Carlson, Vice President, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, provided oversight on a project in which 48 female faculty members from across all ranks and disciplines were interviewed to better understand the context around the Faculty Experience Survey results.

All recommendations received from the survey, the interviews, and from discussions at program, department, and college levels, within the University Committee for Women Faculty and Students, as well as via town hall fora and from the website are being compiled and prioritized.  In addition, a key set of metrics are being identified that can be used to monitor and assess progress. We plan to invite faculty to once again participate in the Faculty Experience Survey within the next 3-4 years.

Another recommendation offered by the blue ribbon committee called for the university to redouble its efforts to attract and retain highly qualified women and minority faculty. To help guide these efforts and serve as a resource to deans and departments, the Provost Office has created the position of Director of Academic Diversity, and Inclusion, and an active search to fill this position is underway. 

In 2015, senior academic leaders, including Provost Tom Burish, deans, department chairs, center/institute directors, associate provosts, and the Office of Research administrators, participated in diversity and inclusion training.  The Office of the Provost and the Office of Human Resources continue to look for opportunities to extend this program to the broader University community.

For Students

In 2014, the Office of Student Affairs under the leadership of Vice President Erin Hoffmann Harding conducted almost 150 interviews—including 100 with students—which together with data collected from student satisfaction surveys, led to the formulation of twenty-one recommendations on diversity and inclusion.  The recommendations (found in their entirety at the Student Affairs Website) fall into four larger categories: improving the readiness and presence of Student Affairs staff to serve a diverse student body; augmenting the services offered by Multicultural Student Programs and Services with targeted programs across Student Affairs; creating a comprehensive, cohesive system for supporting students with high socioeconomic need; and demonstrating visible commitment to diversity through communication, facilities, and measurement of programs.

To achieve these larger goals, the following initiatives are underway:

  • Thanks to the collaboration of the First Year of Studies and Student Affairs, orientation activities for new students have been re-evaluated and in some instances re-imagined to ensure that all students feel welcomed into the University community. This year, Welcome Weekend also marked the launch of the new Moreau First-Year Experience course—weekly small group meetings designed to help orient students to collegiate life at Notre Dame and explore distinctive elements of a Holy Cross undergraduate education—with a plenary presentation designed to encourage students to reflect on what it means to be part of a diverse and inclusive Notre Dame community.
  • The creation of an Advisory Committee for Student Climate Related to Race and Ethnicity which Erin Hoffmann Harding chairs.
  • The establishment of a new program to support students with high socio-economic need, the Fighting Irish Initiative, complements funding from Financial Aid for tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation and personal expenses by providing a comprehensive enrichment program that will help these students get the most from their Notre Dame experience.  This effort will involve collaboration from the Office of Financial Aid, other programs serving this student population, and the Division of Student Affairs.  The hiring of the initial program director for the enrichment program is in progress, with a more formal launch to follow during this academic year.
  • The posting of the University’s Spirt of Inclusion in every residence hall and student services office.

For Staff

The Office of Human Resources, under the leadership of Vice President Bob McQuade, conducted 100 confidential one-on-one interviews with staff to better understand the experience of employees.  The insights gathered from these conversations, together with data collected as part of ND Voice, are the foundation for several recent diversity and inclusion initiatives within Human Resources.

Eric Love was hired last year in the newly-created position of Director of Staff Diversity and Inclusion, working to enhance recruitment and retention of diverse employees, foster a culture of inclusion, and improve multi-cultural competencies.

Under the auspices of the Office of Staff Diversity and Inclusion within Human Resources, efforts are underway to create a wider array of affinity groups for employees, designed to serve their respective populations with networking and social opportunities as well as enhance the University’s recruitment and retention efforts. For more information about these affinity groups, please visit the Initiatives page on the diversity website.

Beginning in 2015, senior managers in administrative units will have as one of their annual performance goals at least one goal related to diversity and inclusion, with campus climate, training, and recruitment as key areas of focus. Human Resources will assist managers in formulating these goals.

Human Resources has significantly expanded and enhanced the diversity and inclusion training it offers to employees. This year the senior leadership of major administrative units will participate in a day and a half workshop, which will conclude with the formulation of action items for each area. Similar training will be offered employees at all levels over the course of the next two years.

Much good work has been done, more remains to be done.

The spirit of Notre Dame is very much the spirit of community. At our best, we are together a richly woven, colorful fabric, and every person, each with their own background, talents and gifts, is a thread in the larger design. Recognizing that we are bound together in this way, let us recommit ourselves to building a community of respect, love and mutual support and thereby ensure that the tapestry of Notre Dame ever more fully reflects the grandeur of God. Much good work has been done, more remains to be done.  Let us do it together.

In Notre Dame,
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

For more information about these and other diversity and inclusion initiatives, please visit diversity.nd.edu.