In an effort to more broadly advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, Suffolk University has partnered with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICU Mass) to launch and host an Inclusive Leadership Program.
The new program brings together higher ed professionals from across Massachusetts and Rhode Island with a goal of effecting organizational change. Participants in the monthly workshop series will expand their inclusive leadership acumen and share that learning with their respective campus communities.
The program, which was identified as a priority of AICU Mass’ task force on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI), features an inaugural cohort of 119 higher ed professionals, representing 54 institutions across Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Included in the program are college presidents, faculty members, athletics coaches, general counsels, deans, diversity and inclusion officers, student life leaders, HR professionals, and others.
“This program creates an opportunity for higher education leaders to come together across traditional institutional boundaries to foster more inclusive campuses and communities and to address key challenges with a DEI lens,” said Suffolk University President Marisa Kelly. “It will help support inclusive leadership across what is a large and critically important sector of the New England economy.”
The Inclusive Leadership Program was born out of conversations among chief diversity officers who came together starting in January 2021 to discuss how to make Massachusetts a more inclusive and welcoming place for underrepresented students, faculty, and staff.
The group was also looking for ways that colleges and universities could have a greater collective impact regionally in diversity, equity, and inclusion, said Joyya Smith, Suffolk University’s vice president of diversity, access & inclusion. Smith is spearheading the program with Audrey Grace, Regis College’s chief diversity officer, and Kaitlyn Pires, MPA ’10, vice president for administration and member relations at AICU Mass.
“This program will touch all corners of the campus community and reach a variety of colleges and universities across the Commonwealth and beyond,” said Rob McCarron, JD ’93, president and chief executive of AICU Mass. “I am grateful to President Kelly at Suffolk University for her support of this inaugural cohort and willingness to house this program at Suffolk as a permanent offering. We look forward to positive and productive conversations across our member campuses.”
The program will feature nationally recognized guest speakers and interactive panel discussions. The inaugural cohort, which began meeting monthly in January, will engage in in-depth conversations around inclusive leadership, emotional intelligence, coaching, and skills required to drive organizational change. Participants will complete an analysis of their institution’s inclusivity, which they can bring back to their leadership teams.
In April, presidents of Massachusetts and Rhode Island colleges and universities will gather for a program on collective impact. While many of the first cohort’s sessions are being held online, Suffolk will host others in person, including a June event.
“Unity with all of our efforts and resources is what it will take to really move the needle with diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Smith said. “If we are doing things in silos, without coordination and collective sprit, then we are spinning in circles and we are not making real progress.”
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