Diversity increases at UMD

Photo courtesy of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence.

Photo courtesy of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence.

According to the Twin Cities Office of Institutional Research, 14.3 percent of this year’s UMD freshmen are students of color. This includes American Indian, Asian, Black, Hawaiian, and Hispanic students.

This is a 0.3 percent increase from last year's freshmen student body. The biggest change in any demographic is in the percentage of white students. Last fall semester, 84.6 percent of freshman identified as white. This year it went down to 82.7percent.

Recruiting more diverse students has been a goal since UMD conducted its campus climate survey in the fall of 2015.

This September the Board of Regents appointed Dr. Michael Goh to be the Vice President of Equity and Diversity for the five University of Minnesota campuses.

According to the University of Minnesota website, the Vice President of Equity and Diversity is “responsible for providing visionary leadership across the University of Minnesota System to establish the University as a place known for inclusive excellence in teaching, research, and outreach with local and global communities.”

Dr. Goh has been at the University of Minnesota for over 25 years. As a Ph.D. student at the university, he worked with students in College of Liberal Arts offices and then in mental health counseling. He is also a professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development in the College of Education and Human Development. Through his leadership opportunities he has gained a sense of the problems the University of Minnesota faces.

Dr. Goh, vice president of Equity and Diversity. Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota Office for Equity and Diversity.

Dr. Goh, vice president of Equity and Diversity. Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota Office for Equity and Diversity.

“My scholarship focused on multicultural counseling competencies that help counselors navigate the intercultural spaces between therapist and client,” Goh said. “These studies led me to explore the applications of intercultural competence theories and practices.”

“The work and the leadership required to do this work is ultimately conducted in relationships,” Goh said over email. “I am inspired everyday by the relationships I and my office have established with students, staff, faculty, administrators, and community members, who work alongside us every day to promote inclusive excellence across the university.”

When asked over email what his goals are, Goh pointed out the priorities previously launched by the Office of Equity and Diversity.

1. Supporting the university system in efforts to attract diverse faculty, staff, and students to our campuses.
2. Delivering education, training, and programming that invite our campus communities to enact a welcoming and inclusive climate.
3. Strengthening and growing campus partnerships while engaging and involving external communities.
4. Additionally, we are exploring ways for faculty, students, and staff to nurture intercultural capabilities to bridge culturally complex situations and;
5. Improving the university’s relations with our tribal nations.

Susana Pelayo-Woodward, director of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. Photo courtesy of the UMD Multicultural Center.

Susana Pelayo-Woodward, director of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. Photo courtesy of the UMD Multicultural Center.

Susana Pelayo-Woodward, director of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI), has worked with Dr. Goh prior to this job.

“He is a true collaborator,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “Last year when he was the intern Vice President, he talked about what we may need here [at UMD], and always ensuring that even if all our problems can’t be solved that he still listens and is able to guide us and our work that we do.”

Goh will be leading the Equity and Diversity of all five University of Minnesota campuses. With each campus comes different challenges.

“As a system of the University of Minnesota how do we continue to work together while understanding that each campus has their unique culture and opportunities,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “That’s what I like about [Goh]. He recognizes that each campus has their strengths and challenges.”

After the 2015 Campus Climate Assessment, numerous challenges were presented at UMD, the ODI held more focus groups to see how they would alleviate those challenges.

“Some of the challenges are how do we continue to retain the diversity of students, faculty, and staff,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “The state of Minnesota’s demographics have changed and will continue to change. We are looking at the patterns, and the changes of demographics and how they compare to the number of our students that identity as those represented groups.”

“Right now I don't think we are aligned with the percentages of those demographic changes,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “We have increased our enrollment of underrepresented students but not compared to the numbers of how the state have changed.”

After the survey, the campus climate change team decided to take upon three goals: make UMD more diverse, make UMD more inclusive, and work on anti-bullying and civility.

As for what UMD is doing right now to ensure succeeding those goals, Woodward mentioned the multicultural center.

“I hear a lot of first hand feedback from students that the multicultural center is a reason why they feel they can stay at UMD,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “It’s an opportunity to build community with other students on campus.”

Additionally ODI has been working with professors to help them become better suited to teach diverse students. In monthly cohorts, for 4 hours for each session, professors are taught how they can become more inclusive teachers.

“They are voluntary and we feel it is important that people are doing this because they care, because it’s more about work on themselves,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “We always talk about how we have all this training and expectations of students in curriculum but what is the work that we are doing internally with the faculty and staff.”

The 15th cohort of this program started in September. In November the same 19 participants will meet to continue to work. In the spring, another session with 18 to 19 more people will take place. All these trainings are done by Dr. Paula Pederson and Woodward.

Additionally, after the survey, the ODI asked all sectors of the UMD campus to list what they are doing to make UMD more inclusive. You can see the current goals set by the campus community here.

“If everybody, not just the office of diversity and inclusion, is doing their work and looking internally on what needs to improve, I truly believe that this will continue to move us forward into making this campus more welcoming,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “A place where equity and diversity is part of who we are.”