SEM Conference - Embedding Equity in SEM

November 28, 2022
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • SEM Conference
Group of seated SEM22 attendees enjoying a session.

By Heather Zimar, AACRAO Associate Director, Publications & Journals

Minnesota State University leaders Brent Glass and Priyank Shah discussed in a session at the 32nd AACRAO SEM Conference how they incorporated more equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) into their SEM work on campus. 

After the murder of George Floyd and realizing that the police officers involved were graduates of Minnesota State, Shah said: “We can’t dodge the conversation of the murder; we are part of the problem. We are part of the power structures that exist. These events are very relevant to our backyard.”

Shah added that in discussing EDI, it is important for institutions to understand that sustainability and viability are on the line: “Race and other identities are becoming core parts of students’ identities. There is a growing expectation of being seen and to be embraced as their whole selves.” Students have choices, he added.  

Expanding conversations of EDI and SEM at institutions presents key challenges, resistances, and misunderstandings, the speakers noted. These include:

  • A lack of shared understanding of equity
  • Lack of buy-in and support from leadership, faculty, and staff
  • Lack of EDI training; limited resources and time/bandwidth to do this work
  • Student deficit mindsets
  • Discomfort talking about race
  • Lack of strategic planning and aligned efforts
  • Mistrust of data
  • Cynicism about making change
  • Fear of being judged. 

“We want to put some of the big challenges on the table,” Shah said. “This is not going to be an easy conversation, if it was an easy conversation, it is probably not the right conversation.” 

Shah and Glass outlined how they have approached EDI work using Equity by Design (EbD), which in its broadest conceptualization, “is an approach for revealing and examining differences in the outcomes and experiences for our stakeholders, in effort to determine how disparities can be eliminated.” Essentially, the speakers noted, EbD is a critical lens and asks, “How can we do better?”

The broad methodology of Equity by Design includes: 

  • Equity-oriented methodology and a strategic lens

  • Critical and intentional inquiry

  • Adaptability and flexibility

Equity by Design's core principles include:

  • Data disaggregation to reveal disparity patterns

  • Shift away from student deficit approaches

  • Recognize an institution's role: shape, exacerbate or narrow equity gaps

  • Critical self-inquiry

  • Change 5 Ps: practices, processes, policies, pedagogy, and programming

  • Collaborative process

  • Avoid the impulse to jump to solutions

  • Interactive expansion and continuous improvement

To ground their work, Minnesota created “Equity 2023,” which includes: enhancing access, academic success, student engagement, financial resources, workforce and talent diversity. The university looks at EDI at every step of the student journey.

Some final key lessons and considerations for EDI and SEM work offered by the presenters include:

  • Critical to have leadership buy-in, support, and visible advocacy for the work

  • Be cautious of urgency and going to action too quick

  • This work is a journey, for institutions and people

  • Engage stakeholders and build coalitions

  • Leverage and disaggregate data to reveal disparity patterns

“When it comes to structure and resources…the grassroots matters, but the question is, is it sustainable,” Gross said. 

“It does not happen overnight,” Shah added.