A message from President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Michael Benitez Jr., Ph.D.
April 29, 2021
Dear MSU Denver Community Members,
Late last spring, in response to the murder of George Floyd and the tumultuous events that unfolded in the months that followed, MSU Denver leadership expressed several public commitments – including those from the President’s Office, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Board of Trustees – to engage in the anti-racism work necessary to create systemic change. Our message was simple: As Roadrunners, we would not simply make statements condemning systematic racism and injustice; we were committed to action and ensuring that meaningful change took place.
We recognize that our engagement in this work is not finished. Progress has been made, but more must be done. We pledge to continue pushing forward, to do our part and to lead efforts where possible to dismantle the greater systems of discrimination that negatively impact our community. With these responsibilities in mind, we believe it is prudent to take inventory of the many diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that have taken place at MSU Denver over the past year, to acknowledge those who have joined and led these efforts, and to identify the work that remains.
- Higher Education Diversity Summit: The conference featured keynotes and faculty-development workshops focused on sparking meaningful conversations about anti-racism in higher education and diversity, social justice and inclusive excellence in Colorado.
- President’s Speaker Series featuring Marc Lamont Hill, Ph.D.: Dr. Hill drew on the legacy of former Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis to promote community-building amid the chaos of the 2020 election.
- Tenure Track Supper Club: This program provides tenure-track faculty members of color with a space for support and the intellectual and structural tools necessary to increase their capacity to earn tenure.
- Association of College and University Educators Inclusive Teaching Cohort: This yearlong course provided faculty members with guidance on fostering student engagement, recognizing and addressing student concerns and creating inclusive classrooms.
- Anti-Racism Training for Student Teaching Assistants, Learning Assistants, Supplemental Instruction Leaders and Faculty: Led by Undergraduate Studies in collaboration with faculty and staff members from the Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy, these workshops provided TAs, LAs, SIs and faculty members with trainings and resources geared toward designing and delivering an anti-racist learning experience.
- Music, Race and Social Justice Series: The Department of Music and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion presented the Virtual Visiting Artist Series on Music, Race and Social Justice, a yearlong series highlighting the work of BIPOC musicians, performers and scholars focusing on how their music intersects with racial-justice issues.
- Board of Trustees Sustainable Racial Justice Committee Listening Sessions: These sessions provided an opportunity for trustees to hear from students and faculty members on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion at MSU Denver.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council: Developed and convened by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the DEIC is charged with examining diversity, inclusion and equity issues at MSU Denver with respect to policy and practice from multiple perspectives and across different functionalities.
- Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Certificate: Currently in its preliminary stages for consideration, this ongoing effort is aimed at building a certificate program focused on providing learning, development and training related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
- MSU Denver Athletics Department: MSU Denver Athletics held monthly DEI workshops with coaches and staff, who have also led their own discussions with their teams focused on social justice and inclusion.
- Division of Student Affairs: Student Affairs engaged the Western Educational Equity Center to facilitate an anti-racism professional-development and action-planning process; created a full-time position to coordinate the Brother-to-Brother program through the Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion, along with four part-time graduate-assistant positions geared toward supporting students of color; launched an equitable-hiring initiative; drafted unit-specific anti-racism action plans; supported the creation of the Auraria Police Department Community Advisory Board; employed a zero-based budget process to ensure equity in program budgets across branch enrollment, career, engagement and wellness and equity programs; formed a new partnership through the C2 Hub with Activate Workforce Solutions and Colorado Concern that will provide fellowship opportunities to students of color in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; and is working to revise the Student Code of Conduct through an anti-racist lens with the Dean of Students Office.
- MSU Denver Foundation: Our Foundation has transitioned to a new investment-management firm that is women- and minority-owned and focuses on DEI-informed investment strategies.
This list highlights just some of the many actions taken across the University. We are proud of the strides we have made and will continue to press forward in this important work. In that spirit, we will track our efforts on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion webpage so we can continually provide updates to the University community and encourage engagement and collaboration. Ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion at MSU Denver on our way to lasting systemic change remains our focus, and together we will reach these goals.
President Janine Davidson, Ph.D.
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Michael Benitez Jr., Ph.D.