8 ways for registrars to foster diversity and inclusion

February 24, 2020
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Competencies
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • AM2020 Social Justice
diverse group of five people with arms around each others' shoulders

“Colleges and universities are arguably the most important institutions in which to work toward full inclusion,” according to Kumea Shorter‐Gooden, co-author of Diversity at Work: The Practice of Inclusion. “If we can transform higher education such that it is fully inclusive of people of diverse cultures, value systems, and identities, and if we can successfully influence the cultural competence of college graduates, we will have workforce leaders who have at least the rudimentary disposition, knowledge, and skills to lead in the transformation of other societal institutions.”

Imparting these values to students starts with higher education professionals——including faculty, staff, and administrators—developing competency in diversity and inclusivity (D&I), and with the institution systematizing policies that support D&I. 

Diversity and inclusion is not a one-office job. It’s not the exclusive purview of a particular person, program, or department. It’s a leadership priority, which should be embraced across campus, and embedded into systems.

So, what’s the role of the Registrar in diversity and inclusion?

“Equity in education requires putting systems in place—and the Registrar understands systems—to ensure that every student has an opportunity for success,” said AACRAO Board member Cassandra Moore, Director of Enrollment Development and Admissions, Anne Arundel Community College.

“Equity is the process and equality is the outcome,” added Soraira Urquiza, Registrar, The American Film Institute, and chair of the Latinx Caucus. Because the registrar is involved in creating, adhering to, and enforcing campus policies, she said, “we need to be that change.” 

(Urquiza and Moore dove deeply into this topic in the “Access, Equity, and Inclusion” episode of AACRAO’s recent For the Record podcast. Stream it here.)

“This is work that everyone in higher education needs to do,” said podcast host Doug McKenna.

Ways to make a difference

“The registrar must be included in these conversations, as the ‘hub’ of the institution,” said Valerie Harper, Registrar, Duquesne University Law School. “We see the students from matriculation to graduation; they are always in contact with our office.” 

“As the hub,” added Roslyn Perry, Associate Registrar, The Ohio State University (OSU), “we see and hear things other offices don’t, and we typically have a lot of respect [from other offices] on campus. If we see implicit bias, issues with syllabi, barriers in registration, and so on, we can go out and be the voice for change.”

1. Advocate. Both within campus and at the state/legislative level, Registrars can be the voice for removing barriers to student success, Urquiza and Moore said.

2. Discover and acknowledge unconscious bias. These biases for or against particular groups are based on social stereotypes around race, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, weight, and more, and often go against our conscious values. According to Harper, a committee has been established at her institution to look into issues of implicit bias; something similar could be done at more institutions.

This Implicit Bias test can help uncover attitudes or beliefs that you may be unable or unwilling to acknowledge. Find strategies for addressing unconscious bias here and here. And learn more about the toll of microaggression

3. Mitigate the emotional labor of managing inclusivity. Tackling issues of diversity and inclusion is everyone’s role—but the work often falls on the shoulders of already marginalized people, known as the “second shift.”

“I’ve noticed those who self-select to be involved in D&I advancement are often people of visible color,” said Michelle Weller, Associate Registrar, New York Law School. “There can sometimes be fatigue associated with always having to take on that role. Hopefully others can find ways to get involved and step into advocacy roles.” 

4. Provide D&I training and professional development. For example, within the Office of Student Academic Success at OSU, they have established a D&I Council, with the ongoing task of identifying needed training, including during staff onboarding, and developing targeted content to address those needs.

5. Infuse D&I into job descriptions. “You never know who will walk through the door or what their story is or what they need,” said Jill Rodgers-Lash. “It’s important to support students as best we can, while making referrals to other offices if that’s where students will be best served. We and our colleagues should be prepared because we are part of the student’s support network.”

6. Build dialogue with colleagues. For example, the D&I committee at the University of the Pacific is looking at beginning a book club around relevant topics. 

“We’re looking forward to having really great conversations,” said Rodgers-Lash, Associate University Registrar. “We do a good amount of programming, which is great, but there’s not always enough time for discussion and debriefing afterward. It’s important for people to actually talk to each other about their experience of the presentation.” The book club, she hopes, will promote that richer discussion.

7. Talk to students. The Drexel University Kline School of Law conducts a yearly climate survey to identify areas where there are gaps in understanding, said Danielle Boardley, Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Student Belonging. This helps identify student and faculty needs and is the guide to bridge those gaps. Previously, student groups brought speakers and programming to campus, leading the way on the dialogue.

8. Create partnerships. Strengthen D&I initiatives through partnerships with organizations already doing the work, such as an LGBTQAI center or Student Life department on your own campus, or civil liberties or interfaith groups in your city or state, recommends Weller. 

These professionals will discuss D&I and social justice issues in inspiring and practical sessions at AACRAO 2020 in New Orleans, including:

  • “How to be an antiracist,” Opening Plenary session with Ibram X. Kendi

  • “Whose job is it anyway? The Role of the Registrar in Diversity & Inclusion”

  • “A Million Tiny Paper Cuts: Understanding and Responding to Microaggressions”

  • “Chosen Names, Pronouns and Gender: Student Identity and Success”

  • “Student Access and Equity: Current and Emerging Issues”

  • And many more.

Register before February 28 for the early bird rate.


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