Mary E. Graham, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Sport Management, has been named Falk College associate dean of faculty affairs effective Jan. 2, 2024. This newly created leadership position reports to Falk College Dean Jeremy Jordan and is dedicated…
University’s ‘Exemplary Efforts’ Showcased During Inaugural D.E.I.A. Symposium
During a time when diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) efforts are under attack on college campuses across the country, the University’s depth and breadth of DEIA efforts were showcased at Tuesday’s inaugural event, The D.E.I.A. Symposium.
Titled “Spark Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility,” the symposium included research, initiatives and creative work from presenters across the University. The daylong series of interactive workshops, presentations and posters represented the goals and themes contained in the University’s DEIA Strategic Plan.
Hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Schine Student Center, approximately 500 participants learned more about the University’s vision for navigating through a critical time in higher education following the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on race-conscious admissions programs. These decisions prevent colleges and universities from considering race as one of many factors in the admission of qualified applicants.
“We’ve received a lot of positive response about today, the first time we’ve done a DEIA symposium at the University. We received a lot more registrants than we initially planned for, which is indicative of the desire from our community to do more work like this. And the presenters and poster presentations were incredible. We have such exemplary work being done here to advance our DEIA efforts and it’s amazing to showcase that,” said Mary Grace Almandrez, vice president for diversity and inclusion.
Among the day’s highlights was a keynote panel discussion titled “Undeterred: Syracuse University’s Unique Connection to Affirmative Action and Our Next Steps.”
The candid conversation drew a full house to Goldstein Auditorium and featured panelists Chancellor Kent Syverud; Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Gretchen Ritter; and Senior Vice President and Chief Student Experience Officer Allen Groves. Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives Marcelle Haddix moderated the discussion.
When asked how Syracuse University would respond to the Supreme Court rulings, Chancellor Syverud said it would rely on its strong, historical track record of serving diverse populations to navigate the changing environment.
“We’re going to have to lead in a savvy way. We’re going to have to be proactive and thoughtful and still be determined to be the diverse and inclusive place we’ve been at our best, and that’s going to require some harder work,” Chancellor Syverud told the audience.
Provost Ritter said Syracuse has responded to the court’s rulings by altering its application process, encouraging future applicants to share more about the role that their background, race and culture have played in their lives when applying.
“We’re inviting applicants to tell us more about their story, their personal experiences, the challenges they’ve overcome and the discrimination they may have had to contend with. They can also talk about how this has shaped their commitments to society, to public impact and to public good,” said Provost Ritter. “As a university that prides itself on recruiting excellent students with a commitment to public good, those are the students who we want to have tell us their story, those are the students we want to recruit to Syracuse University.”
Provost Ritter added that the University is focusing more of its recruiting efforts on attracting lower-income students and first-generation college students, expanding its work with community-based organizations to remain diligent in its commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts.
Knowing that many current and prospective students from historically underrepresented populations feel excluded and marginalized following the rulings, Groves emphasized that these students will always feel seen, valued and supported by the University. He also encouraged faculty and staff members who work with students to engage in conversations with these populations, demonstrating empathy and a willingness to listen to and acknowledge the concerns they’re feeling.
“Engage our students about this and about the importance of being empathetic and learning empathy. One of the ways we help our students with belonging and connection and feeling welcoming to all is if each of us can help teach the importance of reaching across and having empathy,” Groves said. “Being willing to say ‘I know my lived experience isn’t yours, but help me understand that and help me be better.’ It sounds simple, but it’s actually hard for young people to have those conversations, and we need to facilitate those conversations.”
As they were leaving the symposium, many community members felt invigorated and energized to take the lessons learned and apply them to their school, college, department or residence hall. Almandrez said plans for a second symposium are already being discussed to build upon the momentum generated by the inaugural offering.
“The energy I felt today gives me hope that this isn’t the end of our conversations, this is just the beginning. We hope this sparks change throughout the campus,” Almandrez said.