University unveils new Blueprint for diversity

Oscar Chicas

University leaders gathered at the second annual Diversity Blueprint Conference to witness the presentation of the University’s Blueprint for Diversity and to discuss issues regarding diversity at Villanova on Jan. 31.

Last year’s Jan. 2005 conference initiated the process for developing a Blueprint for Diversity. Discussions at the 2005 conference helped to generate goal templates from seventeen University departments, reflecting their goals of ensuring a welcoming environment for all and increasing diversity at Villanova.

After a year of work, James Trainer of the OPTIR announced on behalf of the Diversity Planning Committee that the goals had been compiled, sorted and examined to reveal that if fully funded, the newly assembled Blueprint for Diversity would cost approximately $7 million.

“This figure accounts for all proposals,” Trainer said. “From those that would cost no new funds, to those costing millions of dollars in new funding.”

Headed by the assistant vice president for multicultural affairs, Dr. Terry Nance, other members of the committee included OPTIR executive director John Kelly, Dane Hewlett of OPTIR, associate dean for admissions George Walter and associate dean of the College of Arts and Xciences and honors program director Dr. Edwin Goff.

Nearly one hundred goals were analyzed by topic into ten cross-cutting themes, further clustered into five general areas of activity: environment, community members, education and training, supportive services, and reassessment/renewal.

The Diversity Planning Committee was established by Presidential charge on March 22, 2004, continuing the mission of the earlier University Inclusiveness and Diversity Committee. Together, they worked to assemble the final Blueprint for presentation.

“The Diversity Blueprint is a crucial part of mainstreaming diversity; I’m placing it at the center of our community where I believe it can be assured of happening,” said University President Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A., upon being presented the Blueprint. “I assure you, it will happen, and in a few years when you look back, you’ll say it did.”

Beyond the presentation ceremony, the conference included numerous and significant speakers and announcements.

Rev. Jay Glenn-Murray, S.J., set the tone for the conference with an opening address encouraging participants to see their diversity as an integral part of their work at a Catholic university.

The keynote speaker for the conference was Dr. Tom Poole, associate vice provost for educational equity at Pennsylvania State University. Poole discussed Penn State’s recent progress in strategic planning for diversity, saying, “Not that I have any thoughts that this is the perfect or right way of institutionalizing diversity, but that you might learn from our mistakes.”

Poole outlined seven goals, organized into four dimensions, which his office outlined in their 2004-2009 Strategic Plan for Diversity.

Programming is essential, he said. “We need programs in place to outlive individuals and become part of the structure of the place.”

In that spirit, Nance later announced, “For the 2007 budget year, there has been money allotted for diversity programming. Any one of the participating seventeen departments may then request for funds from the Blueprint initiative.”

Walters announced substantial progress in admissions with regard to diversity. “In fall 2004 the incoming freshman class was 17 percent students falling into the category of traditionally underrepresented. This past fall 2005 that number was up to 19 percent.”

He added, “Additionally, the small cost of switching to the common application has attracted 30 percent more applications from students in that category. That’s over 2,000 more applications, with the largest growth in applications from African-American students.”

Vice president for academic affairs John R. Johannes announced progress within the faculty with regard to diversity. “From 1996-2001, 33 percent of new hires were female. In the past five years, 50 percent of new hires have been female.”

Johannes added that in 2001, 48 members of the faculty fell into the category of traditionally underrepresented, compared with 61 for this past fall 2005 – an improvement of 27 percent. Johannes also noted a memo currently being composed, with the aid of Nance, to be sent to academic departments, outlining their responsibility to enrich pools of applicants from whom faculty are chosen, with candidates from diverse backgrounds.

“There is an important distinction to be made here,” said Nance. “We aren’t talking about quotas, which are illegal, but simply enriching, with candidates of more diverse backgrounds, the pool of applicants from which we select the faculty who meet the needs of our students.”

“Considering all the usual factors of turnover – retirement, academic advancement, etc. – about 90 positions will open up in the next five years,” Johannes said.

The ten Blueprint goals were laid out for attendees, organized into the five said areas of action and each designated with objectives, general strategic implementations and measurable outcomes. Goals will be published online and in brochure form for the general public.

“You have a great starting point here at Villanova University,” said Poole as he closed his keynote address. “I myself as a Protestant am in awe of the diversity of the Catholic Church…the way it accepts so many different groups into its one body, and you here at Villanova have that universality as a great model for diversity.”