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DEI Through a Leadership Lens

Bay Path, like other higher education institutions, has re-examined its DEI efforts to respond to the shifting social landscape and to make our University a more welcoming and inclusive community. Dr. Sweeney shares her thoughts on where we are—and where we are going.

Interim Vice President of Academic Administration Stacy Sweeney has been leading the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts at the University for the past year. During that time, our country has been engaged in a social reckoning, beginning with the death of George Floyd and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Bay Path, like other higher education institutions, has re-examined its DEI efforts to respond to the shifting social landscape and to make our University a more welcoming and inclusive community. Dr. Sweeney shares her thoughts on where we are—and where we are going.

What would you say are the main three to four DEI goals for the University?
“First, we are looking at ensuring there is diversity in our employee recruiting. We have a very diverse student population, particularly among our traditional and The American Women’s College students. A diverse faculty and staff bring a whole range of experiences to the classroom. When students see themselves reflected in the makeup of their faculty and staff, they often feel seen and understood and perform better as learners. Second, we have to shift to a more equity-minded culture to support our students and ensure we are reviewing policies, procedures, and practices to identify where we may have equity issues and correct them. This translates into educating our community on where we are in DEI, and what are the action steps needed to make progress in our work. Important in this goal is accountability and ownership—we each need to look at ourselves to understand where we are personally in the work of DEI and identify where we can make a difference. Third, we have to embed the concepts of equity and inclusion in the curriculum and weave them into the classroom experience. Finally, based on student input, we are working on implementing an anti-racist training, knowing that we need to identify and eliminate racism in our practices so that power may be shared more equitably across the institution. This training will be a formalized part of the on-boarding or annual review process. We are still working on the details. As with all of our efforts, the DEI work is a journey.”

Last summer, a DEI student sub-committee was created in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. Why did this happen and what has been the result?
“Our students are especially empowered through the Black Lives Matter movement. The University and President Doran felt it was critical to ensure students were at the table being full participants in the DEI conversation. A student subcommittee was formed that reports to the president and DEI Community Council. Its work has been outstanding. Committee members have developed a list of recommendations for fostering and enhancing a DEI culture at Bay Path, and shared their insights with the DEI Community Council, the Bay Path Advisory Council, and Bay Path Board of Trustees. They have helped us develop a roadmap—or as I like to say, they have given us our charge as DEI leaders here at Bay Path— of where we need to be in this work and have done so with a very collaborative mindset, which has been tremendously helpful.”

How are the University’s recruiting efforts supporting a diverse culture?
“Javier Padilla recently joined Bay Path as assistant vice president and director of human resources. He is a terrific addition to our recruitment efforts. Javier has a real depth and background in talent acquisition. For every faculty and staff position opening, he asks the key questions: What are we looking for in a candidate? Where should we be looking? Whom are we using for search firms—all from a DEI lens. As I mentioned before, the University recognizes that having a diverse workforce is one of our top priorities.”

The spring semester featured three workshops with Dr. Tia Brown McNair, the Vice President in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and Executive Director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in Washington, D.C. She is an authority on implementing best practices for student success and inclusivity. What were some of the main takeaways from this experience for faculty and staff?

“After every session with Dr. Brown McNair, we surveyed the community. Over two hundred faculty and staff attended these virtual sessions, so their feedback was critical. Without a doubt, whether it was her explanations on the definitions of DEI, or her discussion on equity mindedness, these were reflective and thought-provoking sessions. The required reading for these sessions was Dr. Brown McNair’s and her colleagues’ book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk, which helped to inform the community on definitions and level-setting for this work. At first the information seemed almost overwhelming, especially to those new to DEI work, but once it was realized that it was okay to be in different places with the work, there came a better understanding of the way forward. Major questions coming out of these sessions included: How is Bay Path doing in its DEI efforts? What specifically do we need to work on? Where are our weak areas? In the end, people were hungry for more. Dr. Brown McNair also worked with our undergraduate and a group of our graduate faculty on embedding DEI into the curriculum. In the future, Dr. Brown McNair will return to Bay Path and continue to build on this work. We will also be looking towards other DEI experts, specifically on developing a more robust DEI roadmap for Bay Path.”

How can alumni learn more about DEI at Bay Path?
“Bay Path’s Office of Multicultural Affairs does a fantastic job with helping everyone—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the public—access some real thought-provoking and emotional opportunities about DEI. There are panels, events, and presentations I encourage everyone to attend. Many are in the evening to not conflict with daytime work schedules. If you are an alumna, I would suggest signing up for the online alumni newsletter, or check the University’s website. There is always something happening. In the future, we will be looking for more ways to bring in alumni into our DEI work. It’s a continual process.”