The College of LAS is committed to removing inequalities present in higher education. We have been working keenly to improve in the areas of equal access, diversity, and inclusivity.
With 21 percent of our undergraduate students and 12 percent of our faculty coming from underrepresented backgrounds, LAS is well positioned to drive change by listening to and uplifting marginalized voices. As the most diverse college on campus, it is our responsibility to continue working towards the needed change to address systematic inequalities and make the college an inclusive environment for all.
For this reason, the College of LAS has implemented several initiatives to create change.
- The College of LAS has launched a strategic planning process with focus on four primary goals. One of the goals, “Promote Diversity and Inclusion,” addresses institutional barriers and inequity within LAS. The plan will include actionable items written by a committee of faculty and staff for enhancing college diversity and the college climate for U.S. ethnic and racial minorities, women, LGBTQ people, low-income and first-generation students, and international students, faculty, and staff.
- Implementation teams responsible for facilitating COVID-19 communication between LAS units are prioritizing issues of inequality and access. Each team has appointed a diversity advocate to ensure we take into account differentially affected populations, such as LGBTQ communities, women, ethnic and racial U.S. minorities, disabled, international, and low socioeconomic groups. To help address these challenges and reduce inequities, Molina-Guzmán and Mariselle Meléndez, professor and head of the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, will serve a diversity liaisons to the teams as well.
- We understand the imperative to listen to and amplify marginalized voices. We require all of our job announcement to include an LAS statement of diversity and have made diversity a priority of our hiring. Thanks to the work of our academic units, in Fall 2020 we welcomed a record number of African American and U.S. Latina/o faculty, with 43 percent of incoming LAS faculty identifying as African American or U.S. Latina/o or are women in STEM fields.
- LAS is investing more than $725,000 to expand instruction in the U.S. Minority Cultures (USMC) general education requirement. Together the departments of African American Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, Gender & Women Studies, and Latina/o Studies provide 28 percent of campus instruction and 40 percent of LAS instruction in USMC. In order to meet the demands and needs of providing the best instruction on issues of ethnic and racial equity, the college is also investing in building pedagogical resources to help our faculty in partnership with the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL) and other campus units.
- We have expanded the capacity of our Access and Achievement Program to serving rural, first generation, and U.S. ethnic and racial minority students by dedicating resources to hiring two full-time advisors. By staffing these positions, we will be able to fully dedicate time to ensuring students admitted through the Educational Opportunities Program or President’s Award Program have the support they need to succeed at Illinois.
- We will be launching an ethnic studies building feasibility study, and we will welcome six new faculty members in African American studies, Latina/Latino studies, and gender and women studies. Additionally, under the leadership of Jenny Davis, professor of anthropology, we are committed to building the excellence of American Indian studies through strategic investments and faculty hires.
- In partnership with the vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and inclusion and CITL, LAS will pilot a climate study to help us identify issues of bias in our units. The departments of Geology, Political Science, History, Philosophy, and Chemical & Biological Engineering are scheduled to participate. Our goal is to conduct climate studies in all of our academic and administrative units over the next five years.
Additionally, we recognize that an important key to change is listening. As such, we welcome any suggestions and feedback on the steps we are taking within the College of LAS to address diversity and inclusion. We will also host round-table discussions about the topics and will update this page when they are available.