Published: Nov. 3, 2017

With the arrival of the 25th Diversity and Inclusion Summit next week, CU Boulder Today sat down with Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement Bob Boswell to talk about the importance of the summit and how it fits into the university’s overall strategy on diversity and inclusive excellence.

Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement Bob Boswell

Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement Bob Boswell

This is the 25th Diversity and Inclusion Summit. How has it changed over the years?

I think the summit started out with a strong mission of raising consciousness and awareness about the importance of diversity. Today it has evolved into an event that not only raises consciousness but that provides a storehouse of strategies and takeaways that can continue to build community and make progress long after the summit ends. And that progress is vital right now.

We’re at a real crossroads as a nation, and it’s being felt on every college campus in America, including ours. We haven’t seen political division like this since the Vietnam era, and whether it’s Charlottesville, Las Vegas or what happened in New York City last week, I think we have to make a stand against fear, against hate and for a more inclusive vision for our nation and for our community.

The key is that people need strategies for building that kind of nation and community and for understanding each other. This year’s summit is an amazing array of sessions on how to do just that, both as an individual and as a community member.

What in your mind is the biggest barrier to achieving greater diversity and inclusion at CU Boulder?

I think it’s the perception of some that nothing is happening and that we’re exactly where we were, say, 20 years ago. First off, talk to somebody who was here 20 years ago. We’re a more diverse campus by far, with more resources devoted to diversity and to serving diverse communities than we’ve ever had and a commitment from the highest levels—from the chancellor through the cabinet and across the university in every college and school.

Now, nobody has any illusions that we don’t have a great distance to travel and more work to do. But at CU Boulder, we’re focused on something very challenging—taking the vital incremental steps needed to build an inclusive and diverse campus culture from the ground up.

For example, among the many things we’re doing is trying to change the way faculty work with students through our inclusive pedagogy community of practice that the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement (ODECE) is launching this year. We’ve got 65 people already signed up, and as the program grows, we’ll make significant changes that will be experienced by students every day in the classroom. We’re working on a communications strategy to really get the word out on what progress we’re making and communicating what people can do to add to that progress.

Is there a particular seminar or program in the Diversity and Inclusion Summit that you’re looking forward to?

What I like about this summit is how it combines the personal with the transformational. We’ve got workshops that are focused on achieving the personal mindset to do the work of inclusion and community building. We’ve got sessions on disabilities related to outdoor recreation and how to be more inclusive for adaptive athletes and recreationists. There is a talk from Airbnb Director of Diversity and Belonging David King III. We’ve drawn from the wide experience and expertise of our faculty and staff, and we’ve invited some exciting national leaders in diversity and inclusive excellence and members of our local Boulder community, such as City Manager Jane Brautigam, to participate.

So this is, I think, the most layered and rich summit we’ve ever put on, which I think is great. We’re at a place where we can really see how this event has become part of campus traditions and reflect on the value the summit brings to the campus. The balance of individual skillset building and community action and understanding that is embodied in the range of workshops is really inspiring. It’s a recognition that transforming your community is really a balance of individual understanding and commitment and community action.  

Are there defined goals for this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit?

We’d like to see more people attend and make a personal commitment to carrying on the work of diversity and inclusive excellence at CU Boulder. We’d like to see the skills that can be cultivated be used over and over again in our community to build understanding and momentum toward greater diversity and inclusive excellence.

We’d like to see people who have never attended before come and be inspired to become more active in the work of diversity on campus and in our community and make use of some of the digital resources we’ve gathered to help people take the next step in their commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence.