What should diversity, equity, and inclusion look like in CU Denver’s immediate and long-term future? The Equity Task Force formed last fall to address that very question. Chaired by Antwan Jefferson, PhD, associate clinical professor in the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD) and John Ronquillo, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs (SPA), the task force has worked diligently over the past six months to dive into CU Denver’s core challenges, including structural barriers to hiring and promoting underrepresented faculty and staff.
In early April, the Task Force will present five goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to Chancellor Marks. The campus community will be invited to a virtual discussion on April 15 to hear about the Task Force’s work and the roadmap they are creating to support DEI at CU Denver and within CU Denver’s 2030 Strategic Plan.
“DEI work isn’t about perfection, it’s about commitment,” Jefferson said. “The hard work of the Task Force and its action teams shows not only that it’s possible but that it matters so much to people at CU Denver that we do this well.”
More like this: Q&A with Equity Task Force Co-Chairs
The Task Force is comprised of a core group of 17 students, faculty, and staff. After its implementation in October 2020, the Task Force sent a call-out to the campus community for volunteers to join five action teams—three focusing on policy, data, and best practices related to DEI, and the other three focusing on people, curriculum, and the environment.
More than 100 students, faculty, and staff from across all schools, colleges, and units responded and hit the ground running. Alicita Rodriguez, a senior writer in University Communications, wanted to volunteer because she’s passionate about improving diversity and equity at CU Denver, especially under the charge of Chancellor Marks.
“I distinctly remember that during her interview, she made a point to differentiate between data and people,” Rodriguez said. “She said that while the DEI numbers might look great on paper, there may not be the best culture—and that diverse students, staff, and faculty need to feel a sense of belonging.”
Tiffany Baker-Strothkamp, transition and support coordinator in the Office of Veteran & Military Student Services, served as the team lead for an action team focused on people. Even though she was busy working, studying for her doctoral degree, and homeschooling her child, she knew she had to contribute to the important work of the Task Force.
“Many times, people get stuck on equity and relate it only to race,” Baker-Strothkamp said. “I wanted to make sure that conversations about veterans, people with disabilities, first-generation students, LGBTQ+, and those with intersectional identities were included to help provide recommendations that go beyond historically typical discussions of only race.”
The action teams presented detailed summaries of their findings to the Task Force in late February, which will be used as a guide for the Task Force’s final recommendations to the chancellor in early April.
Ronquillo said of the dedicated volunteers who put in countless hours of work: “The amount of information they looked at is unbelievable—they pulled off a year of work in just six weeks. They were the engine for the Equity Task Force during that period of time.”
The Task Force’s work is twofold. While they are formulating their own recommendations for DEI at CU Denver, they are also instrumental in CU Denver’s 2030 Strategic Planning Process.
Jefferson and Ronquillo are co-chairing one of eight Strategic Planning Vision Teams, coined Empowered by Our Inclusive Excellence, which will present a strategic report to the chancellor on April 8 along with a roadmap outlining incremental steps needed to leverage CU Denver to an even more inclusive and excellent university by 2030. This will include recommendations on funds required, parties responsible for ensuring accountability, and success characteristics and metrics.
CU Denver community members are strongly encouraged to attend the April 15 virtual discussion for more insight into the Equity Task Force’s outcomes, as the direction of their work changes weekly, the co-chairs emphasized. Registration is required.
“We have done a lot of work,” Jefferson said, “but there is a lot of work to come.”