University earns award for excellence in diversity

For the second year in a row, INSIGHT into Diversity magazine awarded the University of Illinois with its Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award.

This recognition has been given out for the past three years by the publication and this was the second year the University applied for it.

“We are very proud of what we have accomplished so far in terms of putting diversity issues front and center on our radar screen, making it a part of every conversation and our DNA,” said Chancellor Phyllis Wise. “This is one of those areas where we can never say we’ve done enough. Even though we applied for this award, it’s not because we thought we were done, but because we thought this would be our beginning.”

Since receiving the award, Wise feels a greater responsibility to continue to work on the University’s diversity efforts, because she acknowledges that the campus is a leader in diversity awareness. Wise believes that other institutions will look at the University as an example to try to achieve their own goals.

Menah Pratt-Clarke, associate chancellor and associate provost for Diversity, said it was important to apply for the award for the second year in a row to demonstrate the school’s commitment to diversity on a national level.

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    “I hope that one of the benefits is that it will help us continue to recruit a diverse faculty, student and staff population.” Pratt-Clarke said.

    “The University really promotes people from different places and they try to make people who come from different places aware of other cultures that exists in the University,” said Rajasi Rastogi, sophomore in FAA. “So, there are many events happening around all the time. There are people interacting all the time about different cultures and talking to each other and there are many charity events.”

    INSIGHT into Diversity magazine will also put together its first official benchmark report later this year, which will outline what the award recipients are doing well and stand as an example for other schools.

    “In terms of increasing the awareness and what they offer in terms of diversity and inclusion on their campus, the benchmarking report will certainly communicate the commonalities between (schools) and what schools are doing well in order to receive our sort of recognition,” said Holly Mendelson, publisher of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine.

    The application for the award consists of 51 criteria. Mendelson said the publication does not rank or compare schools because every school has different responses. The overall sum of the application determines the outcome of the school that will gain award recognition.

    “There really isn’t anything else out there like this,” Mendelson said. “We want to recognize the schools that really are doing something about diversity and inclusion.”

    One of the criteria on the application ask schools to list “diversity policies, programs, and outreach.”

    According to Pratt-Clarke, there are seven diversity committees on campus.

    “We have different committees working on diversity of gender diversity, LGBTQ diversity, racial diversity, and also we have two committees that the chancellor and the provost have commissioned, EDGE and DRIVE, that are paying attention particularly to student diversity and faculty and staff diversity,” Wise said. “It permeates the whole atmosphere of everything that we do.”

    The University responds to recommendations that these committees request each year by implementing their requests and providing funds. Wise said they plan to continue to do so this year.

    “Our vision is to be the preeminent public research university with a land grant mission and global impact. I think we all recognize that diversity is the under pinning of our being able to really make this vision statement more than a vision statement but an actual goal and an action statement,” said Wise.

    Jane can be reached at [email protected].