Inclusive excellence has been a guiding principle of the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI) since our inception in 2015. CMCI brings students, staff and faculty together around a constellation of teaching, research and co- and extra-curricular programming that recognizes, anticipates and responds to what Founding Dean Lori Bergen names “times of revolutionary change” in the ways people communicate today.
As the first new college at CU Boulder in 53 years, we are creating our college—our curriculum, departments and programs, policies and procedures, and our CMCI community—as we define and integrate our principles and practices at the intersections of excellence and inclusivity.
In CMCI, we define inclusive excellence as the commitment to excellence guided by intentional and evolving practices of inclusivity, equity-mindedness and cultural change. Measures of excellence are simultaneously measures of inclusion—promoted by faculty, staff and students across teaching, research and creative work, and service. We maintain that the cultivation of an inclusive college community requires the active engagement and full integration of all our diversity, which we name as the fact of our differences—race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, ability, nationality, religion, age, veteran status, geography, intellect and perspective.
We challenge ourselves to think broadly around inclusion and to prioritize our efforts around historic patterns of university underrepresentation, particularly racial/ethnic and socioeconomic. We push ourselves constantly to transform our values and practices such that the “we” of CMCI is a truly diverse, equitable, inclusive and excellent “we.” Doing so requires the intentional work of infusing our aspirations to excellence with the very real issues of equity, access, inclusion, diversity, culture, climate and community across all facets of the college.
We pursue inclusive excellence in a holistic and fluid manner. Our holistic approach means that we see the work of diversity, equity and inclusion as foundational to all of our efforts. Though some individuals will take on greater leadership and formal accountability roles, as a unit we do this work in constant collaboration and conversation; each of us is asked and expected to participate. With fluidity, we mark our understanding of this work as necessarily processual and reflexive. It is work that we are always doing and that we must constantly reflect upon, asking, for instance, how our existing practices and future initiatives are based in equity-mindedness and/or in normative systems of hierarchy and exclusion. Our commitments to a holistic frame for diversity, equity and inclusion mean that we attend to the entirety of our college.
We organize this work into three primary poles:
We believe that a unit invested in inclusive excellence must build a diverse and inclusive climate. A critical part of this effort is to increase the diversity of our college. To that end, we are developing new recruitment and retention strategies and revising existing ones, particularly around student and faculty populations. Some of our work here has crystallized around Connections, our summer academy for rising high school juniors and seniors. Initially intended to launch in the summer of 2020, Connections will bring high school students recruited from select Denver-metro schools, such as Martin Luther King Early College and Empower Community high school, for a five-day residential campus experience.
We are building a strategic plan for graduate recruitment that will involve building new relationships with relevant academic units at historically Black colleges and universities as well as at schools designated in some way as minority-serving. We complement this work with intentional strategies aimed at cultivating a climate in which all of us belong and can thrive. As we move toward a more diverse CMCI, we recognize that efforts at increased diversity will likely fail if they are not established alongside culture change. Thus, our efforts at building diversity are but one piece of our larger mission.
Our efforts in teaching and learning are varied. They include building support systems for CMCI instructors that enable us to pursue our teaching mission, in both formal and informal settings, with a frame of inclusion. We foster scholarly research and creative projects, along with intellectual conversation among faculty and students, that explore DEI dynamics.
Four college initiatives provide some sense of our work here:
Alongside the DEI work that we do in support of teaching and learning, we also see progress toward inclusive excellence as tied to the structures and systems that comprise CMCI. Our assumption here is that founding structures and systems of CMCI, as an institution of higher education, are premised in hierarchies of privilege that are mostly invisible. We task ourselves with the careful work of making visible those latent hierarchies so as to undo them. Our goals are to build equitable and accessible structures and systems.
As part of this effort, we have begun to change practices and to rewrite policies. For instance, in AY 19/20, we conducted an inventory of faculty service with an eye toward differential service loads. We named the often invisible and emotionally intense service that typically falls on racial and ethnic minorities and white women and we made a college commitment to name and count this DEI service. In addition, we revised protocols for faculty hiring, including adding college language naming our commitments to inclusive excellence and formalizing faculty search committee trainings in DEI issues as they intersect with faculty hires. We have begun to develop DEI related orientations for incoming graduate students, and we installed a graduate student advisory board to help inform and guide the college on missteps and opportunities around DEI in our graduate student community.
As we hope is clear across this narrative, we see the work of inclusive excellence as expansive. It encapsulates all members of our community and all facets of our college. We remain consistent in that premise as we also name the centrality of anti-racism efforts broadly and anti-Black racism work specifically. Aware that moves toward DEI can easily enable individuals and institutions to eclipse race and racism, we call upon ourselves to keep anti-Black racism and anti-racism work at the center of our mission. To that end, we devote our energies in the 21/22 AY to anti-racist conversations, programs and curricular development.