April 1, 2021, marks an exciting milestone. Over the past two months, many committees within our college have worked purposefully and tirelessly to define our current state and put forth our proposed College of Science Inclusive Excellence Plan. As a result of significant stakeholder input, this proposed plan also envisions our aspired end state along with ways we will measure our progress once we put our ideas and initiatives into action.
I believe it is important to clarify the process we took to get here, to not our first draft but rather a ‘zero draft’ as we are now to a point where we are seeking the collective and ongoing input on this plan from our broader Mason science community.
This plan was developed in parallel with development of the George Mason University Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Task Force Inclusive Excellence Plan. The insights are dedicated work of the ARIE Task Force and College of Science subcommittees, who have paved the way for a closer look at our internal practices, policies, and procedures, thereby allowing for us to be collaborative and strategic in how we approach enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout the College of Science.
Both the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and George Mason University have identified Diversity, Inclusion and Equity as their core principles. Our College’s Inclusive Excellence Plan is guided by these core principles and offers a framework and approach for embedding DEI into the college’s systems and structures.
Inclusive Excellence can be looked at in two ways. In one regard, it can be viewed as practicing and striving for excellence in institutional inclusion efforts. This view suggests a high quality, comprehensive approach for achieving an inclusive and welcoming community. It means attending to both the demographic diversity of the institution and also to the need to foster climates and cultures that provide every member of the community with the opportunity to thrive and succeed. Essentially, the focus is on being excellent at inclusion.
Another way to view Inclusive Excellence is to focus on making excellence inclusive. This means ensuring that academic and social success on campus, and throughout one’s Mason experience, is not reserved for a few. Rather, it requires the integration of diversity, inclusion, and educational quality, and making sure that they are recognized as interdependent. In this regard, the focus is on being inclusive about excellence.
I am personally inspired by the work that has already been done by members of our community, as well as the roadmap set forth in this plan to advance the College of Science’s commitment to inclusive excellence. Anyone (students, faculty, staff, alumni, and partners) associated with the College of Science should feel our commitment to inclusion at the core of their experiences as we strive to deliver on the following PROMISE:
P – Prepared to contribute meaningfully to the changing world in which we live and work
R – Respectful of all people, rights, freedoms, and individual differences
O – Open to a life of independent learning
M – Motivated to be responsible citizens who support the common good
I – Inquisitive, innovative, creative, and passionate about exploring the world
S- Skilled and thriving scientists, professionals, educators, and researchers
E – Engaged in our communities as leaders and role models.
Candidly, it is time for change. We are a nation within a racial inequity crisis. Academia is experiencing significant competition for the best students, faculty, and staff, and to truly deliver on our promise, we must put in place measured processes and goals for which we should be transparently held accountable.
This is the start. We have identified activities to pursue and are open for input from our stakeholders-- partners, donors, parents, even prospective students and hires. We want to actively share what we are doing and releasing our proposed College of Science Inclusive Excellence Plan will be a big step to do just that.
This effort actually starts with each of us; we must first look inward to grow. And it starts with both the little and big things. For example, over time, I have developed a habit of using the phrase, “you guys” to address groups of people. As a result of my ARIE awareness, I am instead referring to "my colleagues" or the "team" at large. This is an example of my own personal ARIE journey towards Inclusive Excellence.
Complex issues of diversity, equity and inclusion require commitment to continuous learning, personal vulnerability and introspection, openness to others, and dedication to thinking about our work purposefully, to seek remedies to societal inequities. The work of promoting social justice is not easy, but it is an imperative.
To be successful our effort will require the entire College to engage and embrace the goals and actions set forth in this plan. Creating this document represents our starting point. Now the real work, learning and change must begin.
I promise to work alongside you as we each personally grow and collectively evolve into an increasingly inclusive, innovative, and inspiring community.