USC Leaps Forward in Diversity with Two New Initiatives - Higher Education
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USC Leaps Forward in Diversity with Two New Initiatives

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A new Center for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion and an additional $50 million to promote diversity, inclusion and equity campuswide will augment University of Southern California efforts to broaden and deepen cultural diversity at the 47,500-student school.

USC Provost Michael W. Quick

USC Provost Dr. Michael W. Quick announced the initiatives Thursday in a memo emailed to faculty. He said his office will work with each school in a dollar-to-dollar match as they access the $50 million for tenure-track faculty recruitment and retention. Additionally, the funds will support pipeline programs for the transition of postdoctoral fellows to USC faculty positions.

Meanwhile, Quick said, the new center will serve as the focal point for those endeavors and development of related institutional initiatives.

“We will conduct a national search for the director,” he said. “We will consult with the Provost’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, the Academic Senate, and other leaders on campus to determine the center’s specific mission, but it will likely serve as the primary entity overseeing and coordinating campus diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and initiatives, and provide professional development training and support for faculty, hiring managers, search committees, and new leaders.”

USC has been one of higher education’s leaders in terms of extolling the value of diversity and following the words with concrete actions. The initiatives announced this week will add to a growing list of more than a dozen innovative programs and practices at USC, including an annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awareness Week, diversity and inclusion research awards, a Campus Climate Committee and the nationally renowned USC Race and Equity Center.

“Since I became provost three years ago, I have worked with the Academic Senate, faculty, staff and students to develop new programs, recruit and retain excellent faculty and allocate resources to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus,” Quick told Diverse. “Our 2018 strategic plan makes clear that diversity and inclusion are essential as we evolve into a national model in these areas. As we have been building our efforts, I realized that we could better support our faculty, students and staff by allocating new resource – in collaboration with the schools – and create a center to coordinate all of our activities.”

In terms of spending the new $50-million pot, Quick said, he expects it to allocate $10 million each year over five years with half coming from his office and half from the university’s 21 schools and academic units.

Development of the new center and a search for its director will begin “as soon as possible,” said Quick. “We will begin creating the center by surveying the diversity and inclusion efforts – ‘best practices’ – at other universities, interviewing experts in the field and conducting focus groups on campus.”

Dr. Shaun R. Harper, executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center and one of the university’s 17 Provost Professors, is optimistic about the new initiatives.

Dr. Shaun R. Harper

“Undeniably, $50 million is a significant, praiseworthy commitment of resources,” Harper told Diverse. “We have a real opportunity to use these funds to ensure the composition of our faculty more closely reflects the extraordinary diversity of our student body. Obviously, I know it is going to take much more than money to achieve and sustain this. I am hopeful that the USC faculty will look much different five years from now than it does today. I fully intend to still be a professor here at that time. Meanwhile, I am committed to doing all I can to help the provost, deans of each of our academic schools, and faculty colleagues across our campus make good, strategic use of this $50-million investment.”

Quick recruited Harper away from the University of Pennsylvania last year, and Harper has become one of his most trusted advisers on matters of diversity, inclusion and equity. Although Harper may seem a prime candidate to head the new center, he said he intends to continue the Race and Equity Center’s multipronged work while complementing and collaborating with the new center.

“Because the USC Race and Equity Center provides professional learning experiences and tools for higher education institutions, corporations and a wide array of other organizations across the nation, I do not have interest or bandwidth to lead the Center for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion,” said Harper. “My plate overflows with grant-funded research, our new national campus climate survey and other projects. I am confident that Provost Quick will select a brilliant leader for this important campus resource. Undoubtedly, the research center I lead and this new center will be strong strategic partners. Together, we will help evolve USC into a role model for the nation.”

Harper added that the new efforts illustrate Quick’s commitment to excellence in higher education through diversity.

“Provost Quick invested significantly in the effort to recruit me to USC from the University of Pennsylvania last year,” he recalled. “Our research center thrives because of his generous investment into our relocation and long-term success. Once again, Michael has impressed me with his demonstration of serious commitment to things that matter most to me. Today’s announcement made me proud of my provost, and honored to be a USC professor.”

The new initiatives should signal that diversity is and will remain a high priority at USC, Quick told Diverse.

“Higher education needs to face this issue head on,” he said. “We are collectively better as universities when we are reflective and representative of the world in which we live. When we celebrate the creative spirit of our various communities, we can move forward together to take on the challenges of the 21st century. At USC, we are committed to building an ever-more inclusive, supportive and welcoming campus community.”

LaMont Jones can be reached at ljones@diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrLaMontJones

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