Diversity initiatives

Campus diversity update

Aug. 18, 2017

Dear Appalachian Community:

At Appalachian State University we embrace “Inclusive Excellence.” One could say that excellence is inclusive. Our goal, as is the intent of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, is that, “a high-quality, practical liberal education should be the standard of excellence for all students. The action of making excellence inclusive requires that we uncover inequities in student success, identify effective educational practices, and build such practices organically for sustained institutional change.”

If we are to be inclusive and excellent about it, we must communicate to all of our students, faculty, staff and administrators, from all walks of life, that they are valued, respected and supported. Too often, underrepresented and marginalized populations report they feel excluded and unwelcomed on college campuses. If we are to be an inclusive campus, it is critical that all members of our university community have equal access to the benefits that foster a socially just and equitable culture.

This past year Appalachian State University engaged the “Inclusion Project.” Through a grant from the University of North Carolina General Administration, we explored how various constituent groups define, experience, and evaluate inclusion at Appalachian. A campus-wide survey and focus group interviews were conducted in the Spring of 2017. The project concluded with a three-day Summer Diversity Inclusion Institute. The findings of the research confirmed a few things we were aware of and uncovered some concerns we were not. We are the first to admit, as a university, we have much work ahead of us in the area of diversity and inclusion. However, we have had great success with many projects listed on this website, including the 14 recommendations made by the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity in 2015.

In addition, we will expand our diversity profile to partnerships with historically black colleges and universities (and other underrepresented population institutions of higher education). We will continue to study campus climate to assess how we value, respect and support members of our underrepresented groups, as well as the general campus community. We are committed to dismantling bias and other discriminative actions that deny opportunities, access and the rights of members of our campus community. We will continue to encourage faculty towards inclusive and transformative education to be infused into the core curriculum.

I believe that a socially just campus community not only celebrates diversity, but is indeed intentional in making equitable room at the table for all its members. Dr. Martin Luther King reminds us that, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” If we are to be what we profess; a diverse and inclusive campus. We would also understand that our destiny is “tied together.” Thus, our goal this school year is to provide excellence to all of our constituent groups. We are no better than our worst situations. We succeed or fail together.


Dr. Willie C. Fleming
Chief Diversity Officer

Here are the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity 2015 proposals and progress as of August 2017:

  1. Engage a consultant to provide education to all supervisors on the topic of creating an inclusive campus.

    2015-16 – A short list of possible consultants was created; in the interim, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance completed workshops on unconscious bias to over 1,000 students, faculty and staff members. (It was not confirmed whether the possible consultants were contacted.)

    Spring 2017 – Infusion Inclusion project was implemented with Dr. Gloria Campbell Whatley of UNC Charlotte with Appalachian’s Chief Diversity Officer Willie Fleming, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Sue Edwards, Director of Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning Heather Langdon and Dr. Brandy Bryson of the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies. The project included 1,895 students and 328 faculty, staff and administrators completing an Inclusions Needs Survey, and 93 faculty, staff, administrators and students participating in focus groups. An on-campus Inclusion Institute Summer Diversity Institute June 5-7 provided approximately 50 faculty and staff for the first day of inclusion education and 25 faculty the second and third day with training to assess and infuse a more inclusive course syllabus.

    2016-17 – The Chief Diversity Officer consulted with National Coalition Building Institute to provide education/skills to supervisors, faculty, staff and students on the topic of creating an inclusive excellence through collaboration and coalition building.

  2. Implement a bias incident response process. This recommendation was provided not only by the recent Commission, but also the preceding Taskforce on Diversity.

    2015-16 – A bias incident reporting protocol was developed and monitored by a bias incident response team comprised of faculty and staff members, including representation from the Faculty Senate, Dean of Students Office, Multicultural Student Development, and the Council of Chairs. An online reporting form was also developed and posted at bias.appstate.edu. The Equity Peers (a student group out of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance) was also created to communicate the existence of the bias incident reporting protocol to fellow students.

  3. Create an online search committee compliance module.

    Summer 2016 – The module was finalized for all roll-out to educate search committee chairs on the compliance parameters governing the search process.

  4. Related to the item above, another proposal recommended that search committees be provided face-to-face education about the ways implicit bias can affect search processes.

    2015-16 – All in-person search committee meetings conducted by either the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance (EDC) began including a section focused on concrete steps for diversifying applicant pools and the effects of bias in the search process.

    2017 – EDC will offer search committee training throughout fall semester beginning the week of Aug. 21. In order to ensure compliance with equal employment opportunity requirements, all hiring supervisors, search committee chairs and search committee members should attend a session before beginning the search process for any EHRA (faculty or non-faculty) recruitment. Each information session provides guidance related to affirmative action/equal employment opportunity compliance information, search process steps, and recognizing implicit bias in the search and hire process. Learn more or RVSP at https://edc.appstate.edu/ehra-search-committee-training

  5. Expansion of the exit interview process.

    In Fall 2016, the exit interview process began being offered to departing employees from all divisions, and the exit interview instrument was updated to capture more climate and identity-based questions. The process was taken over by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance (as opposed to shared responsibility between EDC and Human Resources).

  6. Creation of a formal mentoring program for students from underrepresented groups.

    2015-16 – The L.E.A.D program (Linking Education and Diversity) was revamped and expanded its mentoring program to include three layers. First-year LEAD mentees (predominantly students of color) were connected with upperclassmen LEAD mentors (also predominantly students of color). These upperclassmen LEAD mentors were then asked to complete a survey about their post-college aspirations and using these responses were connected with a professional mentor either that could help advise them on their chosen career or graduate school endeavors. This program has been spearheaded by the Office of Multicultural Student Development.

    Fall 2017 – This program will repeat, and next year an assessment component will be added.

  7. Increase awareness of university policies and student conduct processes related to individual and group harassment and discrimination.

    2015-16 – The Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance presented on this topic to a number of student groups, including the Multicultural Presidents Roundtable.

    These efforts have continued and remain ongoing.

  8. Assess the feasibility of a complete implementation of the holistic review process in admissions. This proposal would expand the breadth of the holistic review process that admissions currently engages in when reviewing applications for incoming students.

    2015-16 – The holistic review process in admissions was expanded further from its pilot season in 2015.

    This process continues but is not yet at the stage of having all applications reviewed holistically.

  9. Translate admissions materials into Spanish and provide informational sessions and campus tours in Spanish catering to families for which Spanish is the primary language in the home. Survey prospective students to assess whether there is a need to provide such services in additional languages.

    2015-16 – On request, both admissions presentations and campus tours began being offered in Spanish. In a collaborative effort, the Office of Admissions developed a virtual campus tour offered in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese to allow students who may be unable/unwilling to travel to Boone the opportunity to “visit” campus.

    2016-17 – Translation into Spanish was expanded to publications.

  10. Formalize relationships with secondary schools and community-based organizations in areas with a greater density of underrepresented populations.

    2015-16 – Using the Gadugi Initiative (led by faculty member Dr. Allen Bryant) as a foundational program, conversations began occurring to determine what schools and community-based organizations can be connected to the work of our faculty members.

    This effort is on-going, with AsUlead making connections with North Carolina public and private schools to increase underrepresented student enrollment.

    2016-17 – The Marriage Family Therapy Pilot Clinic through the Reich College of Education is set to open fall 2017. Participants in the college’s Systemic Multicultural Counseling Certificate Program will be practicing therapists in the pilot clinic, serving overflow clients from Appalachian’s Counseling Center and specializing in work with marginalized populations on campus.

  11. Implement a strategy that provides access to hair services for students of color.

    2015-16 – Conversations began with stylists of color who provide haircare services for textured hair in Boone.

    2016-17 – As of August 2017, Kevin-Kutz Barber Shop is offering hair services locally. Discussions have been taking place with other providers, as well.

  12. Conduct a campus climate survey every three years and annual focus groups to assess the inclusive nature of the campus.

    Spring 2017 – An Inclusion Needs Assessment Survey for all faculty, teaching staff, administrators, staff and students was administered to gauge the extent to which successful inclusive practices are already a part of the Appalachian Experience and to determine the need for additional practices designed to promote environments that are more inclusive.

  13. Identify and reward initiatives pertaining to outstanding work in the field of diversity by individual students, faculty and staff, student groups and departments/units on campus.

    2016-17 – The Office of Multicultural Student Development recognized and awarded students, faculty and staff at the end of the 2017 school year for their accomplishments in promoting diversity and inclusive excellence during the school year.

    This initiative is being expanded. A Faculty Staff Infusion Inclusion Award Certificate was presented at the Inclusion Infusion Summer Diversity Institute, a second Faces of Courage Award program is being planned for fall 2018, and additional rewards for diversity initiative by students, faculty and staff being identified by the University Planning and Priorities Council.

  14. Revamp and restore the faculty fellows program in order to better recruit faculty members with a demonstrated commitment to diversity in their respective areas of study.

    2015-16 – Academic Affairs began assessing options related to more intentional recruitment efforts for faculty members from underrepresented populations.

    2016-17 – Chief Diversity Officer conducted interviews with former Fellows Program recipients, underrepresented faculty and staff, and affinity group leaders. The purpose of the interviews engaged underrepresented faculty and staff, in dialogue to learn their concerns, questions and suggestions as we consider more culturally inclusive and excellent ways of serving underrepresented faculty and staff at Appalachian. The information learned from these interviews will assist in the university’s efforts to create a more sustainable environment for diversity, inclusion and excellence.