The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

4 Tips to Build Leadership Support for DEI Efforts on Campus


“Diversity and inclusion work is lonely work a lot of times.”
Romy Riddick, director of diversity and inclusion, Princeton University (from the Promising Practices for Building Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workshop at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference 2013)

An army of one – this is how many individuals who are charged with diversity, equity and inclusion work on campus feel much of the time. Many institutions focus their time and resources on increasing diversity in the student body. But what about DEI efforts targeting staff and faculty? Oftentimes this important work is left to one or two individuals within the HR department, with little to no involvement from senior administration. And while HR no doubt is well-positioned to shape DEI culture on campus, the efforts will fall flat without the buy-in and support of institutional leadership.

In the diversity, equity and inclusion workshop at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference 2013, Riddick provided some pointers for creating buy-in from the top for staff and faculty DEI efforts on campus. Following is an abbreviated roadmap:

  1. Start by taking a climate survey to assess the current state of diversity and inclusion on your campus. You won’t know where to go unless you know where you are.
  2. Present the results from the climate survey to senior leadership (as workshop co-presenter Cheryl Cofield stated, “In God we trust; for all else, bring data!”).
  3. Once you’ve presented the data to top leadership, begin a methodical outreach to other campus leaders (deans, department heads, etc.).
  4. Then, once DEI efforts begin to take hold, publicly acknowledge leaders who drive results. This will serve two purposes: to keep the ball rolling and to encourage others to join the journey.

Are you leading DEI efforts on your campus? Do you have other tips for getting leadership on board? Tell us in the comments below.