Four Takeaways from March 10 Community Conversations: Equity-Serving Institution

March 15, 2022

If one thing was made clear during the March 10 Community Conversation, it’s that becoming an equity-serving institution is a top priority and collective effort at CU Denver. In the virtual, interactive check-in, campus leaders provided an update on four key areas essential to goal one of the  2030 Strategic Plan (becoming the nation’s first equity-serving institution): CU Denver’s Hispanic-Serving Institution designation in October 2021, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution progress, Fall 2021 Campus Workplace and Culture Survey, and Institution Equity Advocacy Council.

“Thank you to every single one of you for every day showing up for the necessary work that we’ve assigned ourselves as stewards of our students’ education and of each other’s support system as colleagues,” Antonio Farias, vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and inclusion, said to the more than 170 faculty and staff in attendance. “I challenge us to find ourselves in the work ahead.”

After hearing a general update, attendees joined one of four breakout rooms to further engage in their areas of interest. Below are highlights from the session. For more information, campus community members are encouraged to watch the recording. 

Equity-Serving Institution Opportunities Underway

CU Denver is in the process of piloting a professional development curriculum that promotes an equity mindset capable of delivering the outcomes of its 2030 strategy. To help guide this curriculum, cabinet and deans completed a training last semester from the Racial Equity Institute (REI), a civil rights organization based out of North Carolina that “centers around racial equity, and then builds out the intersectionality foundation,” Farias said. In addition, updates were provided on the Search Advocate Program, the Restorative Justice Project, and the expanded services for Displaced Aurarians.

CU Denver’s AANAPISI and HSI Designations Mark Firsts in State

Attendees heard from Sam Kim, EdD, assistant vice chancellor for student community and lead for CU Denver’s AANAPISI (Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution) Operational Team, and Leona Lopez, PhD, director of Veteran & Military Student Services and lead for the HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institution) Operational Team. The teams are charged with making recommendations designed to address systemic barriers that have hindered campus’ ability to be an inclusive and welcoming place for all, with a focus on their respective populations. 

Team leads shared exciting news: CU Denver is the first institution in the Rocky Mountain western region to apply for the AANAPISI designation. And CU Denver is the first urban research university in Colorado to have received the HSI designation.

Climate Survey Data to Be Shared in April

Ian Whitman, senior data analyst, provided an update on the Fall 2021 Campus Workplace and Culture Survey. He and other members of the CU Denver CWCS Steering Committee are working diligently to develop tools for easy navigation of the survey data, which will be published online following the April 7 Board of Regents meeting. Data will be used to gauge community members’ sense of belonging at CU Denver and to develop meaningful action plans for school, college, and unit teams.

“We’re already seeing some points of interest, and we are really interested in having conversations with you all about what would be the most meaningful information for your units,” Whitman said.

Institutional Equity Advocacy Council Carries Out Equity Task Force Work

To ensure the Equity Task Force’s recommendations are carried out, the Institutional Equity Advocacy Council (IEAC) has formed. Co-chaired by Antwan Jefferson, PhD, associate clinical professor in the School of Education and Human Development, and John Ronquillo, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs, the council will focus on CU Denver’s infrastructure by developing and improving frameworks, policies, and practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We’ve been focusing so far this year on defining some key terms and objectives. What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to be safe? What does harm mean when we say it, and what does it mean to reduce or prevent harm?” said Jefferson, who was recently appointed as SEHD’s new associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion