Thoughts on diversity and inclusion
Many of you have heard me say that UTSA’s multicultural foundations and diversity were two things that attracted me to our institution.
Over the course of my life, I have lived and worked in communities where demographic circumstances and general attitudes toward diversity are far different from what I’ve seen in my short time in San Antonio.
I have found this city to be proud of its cultural diversity. Activism and social justice efforts are visible (the significant participation in San Antonio’s Martin Luther King, Jr. March is just one example), and we see fewer instances of divisiveness than other majority minority cities of similar size.
Here at UTSA, we are incredibly fortunate to have a student body that reflects what the rest of the United States will look like in 20 years. We see tremendous benefits from our cultural diversity, and I see it infusing academic and student life on a daily basis.
There are noteworthy initiatives across campus to foster and celebrate our diversity, such as the wonderful work being done by our Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion and events such as Celebrate UTSA which occurred just last week.
And yet, just because we have a culturally diverse student body doesn’t mean we can be complacent when it comes to nurturing inclusiveness on our campus. We can’t simply say “we’re diverse” and assume inclusivity and equity will follow. We must be intentional about constantly assessing and improving our environment for students coming from all backgrounds, particularly those that are underrepresented.
As just one example, it is critical that we increase the diversity of our faculty, staff and leadership. Our students need to be surrounded by role models, mentors and advocates who come from similar backgrounds and can offer guidance that comes from shared experiences.
We must also take a careful look at student demographics within academic programs—particularly our graduate programs—where minorities are typically underrepresented. As an urban-serving institution, it is morally imperative that we create a strong pipeline for underrepresented students to excel in STEM fields, where the workforce is sorely lacking in diversity.
I am certain there are other areas that need attention, which is why I’ve asked the Provost’s Diversity and Advisory Council to develop a diversity climate survey for all faculty and staff, to be launched November 27. The Council identified the survey instrument last summer to use with Academic Affairs staff. When I was made aware of that effort, I suggested that the topic is so important to UTSA that all faculty and staff should have the opportunity to respond to it.
Not only must we understand how we can improve our campus climate, we must also be very concrete about our commitment to diversity as an institution.
I believe that a great public, Hispanic-serving research university like UTSA is uniquely qualified to catalyze dreams and prosperity for all. This is why I included the word “multicultural” in Theme 1 of my strategic vision: UTSA will be a Great Multicultural Discovery Enterprise. To me, the strength of this theme lies in the pairing of our diversity with our research prowess.
UTSA’s diversity is the leading factor in our ability to produce our country’s leaders of tomorrow. We cannot take it for granted. We must state loud and clear to the world that diversity and inclusion matter to us as an institution.
Likewise, it matters deeply to me as an individual, and I will do everything within my power as UTSA’s president to advance inclusivity and diversity at this university.
As the first step forward, I have asked the Provost’s Diversity and Advisory Council to suggest language for an institutional statement regarding UTSA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, to display alongside our institutional mission, vision and core values. I am encouraging the Council to approach this statement with broad view of what it means to be an institution that values inclusivity.
My hope is that we, as a learning community, come to understand that access and equity are ongoing commitments, rather than finite outcomes.
Thank you for reading this, and for everything you do to cultivate an environment at UTSA where all feel welcome, included and inspired.