As part of the University of Chicago’s Diversity & Inclusion Initiative, academic units and other departments across campus are creating their own D&I plans. The D&I Planning Toolkit serves as a downloadable resource to help units customize their respective plans. Numerous units and departments have already begun working on and implementing their plans, including the Physical Sciences Division (PSD).
“It was very important for the PSD to be guided by a strategy in order to determine what to do next,” said Neli Fanning, Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) in the PSD, who joined UChicago in January 2019 to create, lead, and coordinate institutionalized equity, diversity, and inclusion programs for all PSD constituents. “We didn’t want to just start creating ad hoc programs without putting a lot of thought and strategy behind what we were doing. The toolkit is a great directive. It’s very easy to use and present to different committees who are ready to take on this work.”
Fanning has already met with each department within the PSD to review the toolkit and discuss next steps. Five units have already formed committees to spearhead the development of their individual D&I plans. In addition to using the guidelines and action steps included in the toolkit, the PSD has customized the process to include adding a mission statement to their plans, along with goals, tactics, and progress indicators for each step. Timelines are also being developed to help plan for both short-term and long-term goals.
Some of the goals created as a result of using the D&I Planning Toolkit have already been realized. The chartered PSD’s ED&I Staff Committee, which has a mission to develop a long-lasting infrastructure and create sustainable change and a lasting culture, decided that one of its goals was to communicate more broadly about its efforts across the division. A key tactic was to utilize the PSD website to share information and updates. For progress indicators, the committee is reviewing website analytics and event attendance numbers to gauge whether their recent efforts have been successful.
Other goals will take longer to implement and their progress will be measured over time. Each department within the PSD shares the same goal of increasing the diversity of faculty and students throughout the division. That goal will be measured by determining how the demographics of applicant pools shift, what the diversity of the candidates who are interviewed looks like, etc.
Fanning strongly urges faculty and staff across UChicago to use the D&I Planning Toolkit in their efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.
“Look at the Toolkit, adjust it as needed to fit the needs of your unit, and create your D&I strategy,” she advised. “At the beginning of the process, before you even get started, take time to establish a specific vision for what D&I looks like for your unit.”
To learn more about D&I in the PSD, visit the ED&I website.