Under the leadership of Kevin Keith Martins, Ed.D., Bryant’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (IDEI) has been hard at work during its inaugural year developing campus-wide initiatives to provide equity for all in the Bryant community.
The office oversees the Council for Inclusive Excellence, consisting of 36 Bryant community members and three subcommittees (Programming; Learning and Development; and Assessment), as well as the Student Advisory Board for Inclusive Excellence, whose 20 members ensure student voices help shape actionable goals, accountability and funding.
“When we talk about sense of belonging, we're really talking about the Bryant community. Do they feel included? Do they feel they have a voice and power in the decision-making process?”
Martins, Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, is a University cabinet member reporting to Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D. Joining Martins in the office are Assistant Director Melanie Cluley and Coordinator Carolina Bogaert. The office also employs two students and an intern.
Progress to date
Created to energize cultural change at Bryant, the IDEI's work is multi-faceted and considered integral to the University’s success in achieving its mission. “It is very important to ensure that our campus supports diversity, inclusion and equity, and that our community is representative of the broader community, state, nation and world we are part of,” Gittell wrote in a July 31 email to the Bryant community. “It is essential that we are committed to and working hard to create a learning environment where all members thrive and are respected and valued.”
“The creation of the office is the first step in assessing the needs of campus and creating a strategic plan for inclusive initiatives.”
“The creation of the office is the first step in assessing the needs of campus and creating a strategic plan for inclusive initiatives,” Martins said. “Any major initiative requires commensurate resources. It signals a commitment beyond a diversity statement or temporary committees. We expect to grow the office as we continue to assess campus needs and develop a concrete strategic plan.”
With so much to accomplish, where must the work begin? By creating a sense of belonging, Martins concluded.
Cultivating a sense of belonging
“When we talk about sense of belonging, we're really talking about the Bryant community,” he said. “Do they feel included? Do they feel they have a voice and power in the decision-making process? Making sure that people can identify with all of those aspects of the community is important.”
Consistent with these aims, the office organized a variety of programs and efforts. Among the first: a University-wide Day of Understanding. The October event gave participants an opportunity to listen to or participate in conversations about identities, experiences and beliefs. “People saw [the event] as really impactful. People felt seen and heard that don't often feel that way,” said Martins.
“Community, equity and justice are at the core of all we do.”
Another program created new University affinity networks. Often called employee resource groups in the business world, these groups bring people together to connect around common identities and experiences, or for professional development.
The Council for Inclusive Excellence has begun additional work, including plans for a food insecurity pilot study this spring to assess the issue on campus. It's also developing an employee training program to teach people about IDEI. And the council will award mini-grants for innovative ideas supporting IDEI objectives and efforts. Anyone on campus is eligible to apply.
Goals and guiding principles
“Community, equity and justice are at the core of all we do,” Martins said, and guide the work of the office. “We ask, 'How can we build equity into a system that provides support for people to be successful, so students can become innovative leaders with character around the world, and our faculty and staff facilitate that process?'”
“I have a positive outlook. I believe that this work is done one relationship at a time, one victory at a time.”
The answer is research-backed strategies for cultural change that include actionable goals and accountability. The goals are: creating a more inclusive culture; providing training and educational opportunities; retaining and recruiting underrepresented faculty, staff, and students; and strategically adding capacity.
“Everything that we do has to fall within one of those goals,” said Martins. If it doesn't, “it's not getting us towards our overall goal – the University’s mission.”
Facilitator and change maker
Martins considers the office as a central space for facilitating programming across the University's administrative divisions.
“We help others operate in their most equitable way, while building community.”
“Almost everything we do is focused on bringing these different groups together, and having a common set of programs and initiatives that help faculty, staff, and students,” he said. “We help others operate in their most equitable way, while building community, and ensure people feel like they're productive community members.”
Martins says his role is one of a problem solver—someone who helps facilitate change. But no one person is responsible for the success of these programs, he emphasizes. “It has been a complete team effort with great support from leadership, divisional partners and students. We are building upon a legacy of progress that many faculty, staff, students and alumni fought to advance. I am fortunate to do this work with so many awesome people.”
“I have a positive outlook,” he said. “I believe that this work is done one relationship at a time, one victory at a time.”