A message from Jay

Dear faculty and staff colleagues,

Although I’ve been interim provost and chief diversity officer for just three months, I’m getting a clearer picture every day of the impactful programs and initiatives coming from the units, departments, schools and colleges of our university. Whether it’s through teaching and mentoring that will impact our students and stakeholders for a lifetime, or research that is changing lives around the world, you are doing exciting and meaningful work that is truly making a difference. I hope you will take a moment to reflect on and be proud of what you do — and know it’s very much appreciated.

An important part of my interim role is that of chief diversity officer. In that role, I have been spending time better understanding how the Provost’s Office can best support a climate of inclusiveness and respect on our campus. As all of you know, there is much national unrest around issues of race and ethnicity. And our campus has been the target of racist and anti-Semitic incidents. Given the current environment, I think it’s important to repeat what President Daniels and I said in our letter to launch the semester: Respect, support, acceptance, and inclusion are and will remain core values of Purdue University. We want all members of our Purdue community to feel welcome on our campus. We want every member of the Purdue family to enjoy success. And we expect everyone to treat others at all times with respect, acceptance, and dignity. 

These are more than words at Purdue and there is much great work being done to support a more diverse and inclusive campus. While I cannot claim credit for this activity, I would like to highlight some of the work.

Due in large part to the efforts of so many of you, we are an increasingly diverse campus today. The number of underrepresented minorities in our undergraduate population increased 9.6 percent to 2,968 in 2017 and our underrepresented graduate and professional school population increased 5.1 percent to 881 over 2016 (Purdue Data Digest). Mike Brzezinski, dean of international programs, tells us first-year international students for fall of 2017 hail from 71 countries (vs. 65 last year) and more than 30 percent of these international freshmen are women, which is one of the highest percentages, if not the highest ever, for Purdue.  Overall, a total of 16 percent of our undergraduates are international students and 9.6 percent are underrepresented minorities.

Our underrepresented tenure-track faculty total 148, up from 107 in 2007 (38 percent increase) and the number of women tenure-track faculty now total 579, up from 477 in 2007 (21 percent increase).  While we have seen progress in both areas, we will continue to actively explore new approaches to recruit women and underrepresented faculty to Purdue.

Of course, diversity is only part of the story. Unless we are also creating an environment of inclusion, our work to build a more diverse campus will ring hollow. “Diversity versus Inclusion” was explored at the Conversations about Inclusion event hosted by the Butler Center for Leadership Excellence and Director Mangala Subramaniam. Panelists included Ayşe Çiftçi, associate professor of counseling psychology, Joan Fulton, professor of agricultural economics and provost fellow for diversity and inclusion, and Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Research on Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Sinclair-Chapman says an inclusive environment means, “You are able to bring your whole self to work”.

This idea is further supported in a recent Science article, Without inclusion, diversity initiatives may not be enough, where the authors focus on diversity and inclusion among scientists: “Until URM students and researchers can bring their whole selves to their science, no amount of diversity will yield inclusion.” They go on to point out, “Whereas diversity refers to differences within a group, inclusion speaks to how those members are treated and how they feel.”  The case for diversity and inclusion may be complex but it is strong and is reflected in the work of Purdue’s own Center for Research on Diversity and Inclusion, and Acceptance and Inclusion Consortium

We have many other units working hard every day to build a more inclusive campus.  The Asian American and Asian Resource and Cultural Center, Black Cultural Center, Latino Cultural Center, LGBTQ Center, and Native American Educational and Cultural Center are a major part of the university fabric and play a significant role on our campus. They help members of diverse communities realize their highest professional aspirations and provide educational and cultural programming to connect with the broader Purdue community.  I have gotten to know our cultural center directors better over these past three months and their passion for their work and the communities they serve is infectious. I could add much more here about the work of ADVANCE, the Butler Center, the Diversity Resource Office, our multicultural and minority program directors, the Diversity Transformation Award projects, and I am grateful for the leadership of the members of our Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team — Joan Fulton, Carolyn Johnson, director of the Diversity Resource Office, and Renee Thomas, Director of the Black Cultural Center — as they help us integrate faculty and staff efforts in this important work.

Much more is being done to help our students understand diversity and inclusion when they arrive on campus.  A unique Boiler Gold Rush program devoted to international students (BGRi) focuses on academic expectations, terminology and resources. International students attend a session called “Culture Shock” where they learn strategies to help them navigate the Purdue experience.  The new Boiler Inclusion Project, an important part of Boiler Gold Rush, was featured recently in Purdue Today. Importantly, there is also an excellent session at BGR on what free speech and freedom of expression means at Purdue. The International Friendship Program, under the management of the Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research (CILMAR) connects new international Boilermakers with local community hosts — many of them Purdue faculty and staff — for friendship and support as they transition to living in the Greater Lafayette area. 

There are many, many more examples — and we need to continue to share the good work of so many at every opportunity. My goals while in this interim role are to help coordinate these efforts across campus so that we can get the greatest possible impact for the work, and to better communicate the results of these programs to the campus community. Pulling all this together, the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, formed under Provost Deba Dutta, developed a roadmap of specific actions to help us recruit, retain, and build a more positive climate for undergraduate students, graduate students, post docs, staff, and faculty. This roadmap is ambitious, it encompasses our entire campus and frankly lays down an agenda that we must deliver on. 

It is easy to talk about the ideas of diversity and inclusion. It is more difficult to deliver on a set of initiatives that help us build a better Purdue.  The many benefits of a diverse workforce are well documented — and employers who come to our campus want to recruit from a diverse pool of students.  These same employers also want students who are prepared to work in a multicultural world.  The Office of the Provost will continue to support initiatives to help us promote success for all at Purdue and I encourage you to engage in those initiatives. However, an organization’s culture is ultimately determined by the way each of us treats every individual we come in contact with every day.

In that spirit, my request is that all of us treat every member of the Purdue family with the dignity and respect they deserve. In the end, no matter our race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, genetic information, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, status as a veteran, or any of the myriad of ways we can think about our differences, we are all Boilermakers.

All the best,
Jay

October 6, 2017

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