Campus News

Inclusive Excellence Awareness Month: Where we stand, where we're going

Photo from the 2022 MLK Center Cookout.
Photo from the 2022 MLK Cookout. Arden Barnes | UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 11, 2023) — The University of Kentucky is celebrating Inclusive Excellence Awareness Month during April. Throughout the month, UK will highlight the diverse perspectives and outstanding efforts of so many who help create a more inclusive and equitable campus. 

Since the summer of 2020, hundreds of community members have offered their time and expertise to advance 17 diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. These initiatives, aligned with the university’s guiding principles in the strategic plan, embed in UK’s culture a strengthened commitment to addressing inequities that weaken institutions across the nation. And, thanks to those who have led these efforts and emboldened our community along the way, the initiatives continue to progress with many evolving into their second phases. 

In a recent Behind the Blue' podcast episode, UK’s vice president for institutional diversity, Katrice Albert, highlights the impact of the initiatives and the intellectual power of the entire campus community to think through the opportunities and challenges as the work progresses. In the coming months, "Behind the Blue" will continue to feature leaders of the initiatives as they discuss and expand on the progress updates below. 

The Faculty and Teaching Assistants (TA) Professional Development initiative released a survey through individual colleges as well as the Graduate School. This group is now working with the recently appointed acting vice president/associate provost for diverse faculty success to determine next steps in alignment with both the Office for Institutional Diversity and the Office of the Provost. Similarly, after hosting round tables and soliciting survey responses from a broad sampling of opinions across campus, the Employee Recruitment and Retention initiative put forth recommendations related to establishing an employee position that will advance efforts surrounding the recruitment and retention of diverse staff and faculty. The university is now in the process of searching for a chief human resources officer, with candidate open forums Wednesday, April 12 through Friday, April 14. 

The faculty, staff and community DEI advisory groups will convene as a whole in the coming months to participate in an Advance Day, similar to what the DEI Officers engaged in last April. During the advance, the advisory groups will regroup after a lull in meetings due to the nature of evolving and progressing initiatives. The groups will have the opportunity to provide input on various efforts occurring across the campus community. The student DEI advisory group will be empaneled in Fall 2023 with administrative and operational support provided by the Office of Student Success. 

The DEI officers initiative is now entering its implementation phase to ensure equity, sustainability and institutional support throughout the officer roles. After presenting to the provost’s council the progress from phase one, leaders of this group are working with the Office for Institutional Diversity and the Office of the Provost to implement eight distinct recommendations. 

The student gathering space and DEI campus plan efforts are well underway with financial and institutional support from the university. The student gathering space group conducted numerous round table discussions, solicited survey responses and embarked on numerous campus tours at peer institutions to understand promising practices when establishing culturally diverse and welcoming spaces. This group continues to collaborate with the DEI campus plan initiative, which identified existing areas of concern on campus related to institutional history and campus history, art and sculpture, civic landscapes, accessibility and other barriers to inclusion within buildings and across the campus. It is in its third and final phase in partnership with Sasaki design firm to address these issues. 

The Committee on Responsible Speech was officially empaneled in Fall 2022 with 14 members dedicated to addressing responsible and respectful speech on a college campus. The committee recently hosted a day-long session diving into its work after presenting to the Board of Trustees in February.   

The DEI public art fund initiative completed its initial charge in Fall 2020 and is now engaged in its second phase. The Office for Institutional Diversity has partnered with the College of Fine Arts and the School of Art and Visual Studies to establish a service-learning course offered with graduate student leadership. So far, students in this course have documented and inventoried 1,300 public artworks on campus this semester.

The students have determined three broad “themes” of artwork on campus: 

  • UK/Kentucky-themed art (horses, state bird, wildcats, etc.),
  • Filler art (abstract or decorative pieces in lobbies), and
  • “Pure” art (commissioned, donated, faculty or student artworks on display).

They are also making value judgments on the gaps in our diversity profile, which includes a lack of art created by diverse artists and the need for diversity of art. The class is developing a written report and will give an oral presentation on their findings later this month. 

Supplier diversity continues to make substantial strides in supporting Lexington’s diverse suppliers. They recently hosted the second Construction Diversity Accelerator program, which is a 10-week program "designed to give minority-owned, women-owned and other underrepresented construction-related businesses the skills and tools needed to be competitive in the construction industry.” The supplier diversity initiative goals are defined as follows: increase the amount of goods and services acquired by the university from businesses owned and controlled by diverse persons to 10% of all procurement; ensure the absence of barriers that reduce the participation of diverse vendors; educate vendors on "how to" do business with the university; support diverse vendors seeking to do business with the university in the areas of goods, services, construction and all areas of procurement; encourage participation of qualified diverse vendors by directing them to agencies that can benefit from their product or service; provide resources for diverse vendors; maintain a database of designated diverse vendors for use by buyers, project managers, construction managers, general contractors and other purchasing entities seeking qualified vendors; sponsor seminars and conduct training workshops to assist diverse vendors to become an active, responsible and responsive participant in the university's purchasing opportunities. You can learn more by visiting their website.

The United in True Racial Equity Research Priority Area (UNITE RPA) continues its consequential research and positively impacts the UK and broader Lexington community. On Tuesday, April 18, 2023, UNITE will host the 2023 UNITE Research Showcase centered around elevating and promoting the importance of racial equity research at the University of Kentucky, across the Commonwealth and beyond. This event, which will be held in the Gatton Student Center, is open to UK faculty, staff and students — in addition to UK affiliates and academic partners. Attendees will gather to hear keynote addresses from national leaders in their fields, breakout sessions presented by local researchers and a poster session designed to highlight the impactful work of our faculty and students. 

Finally, the Inclusive Postdoctoral Enrichment Program (IPEP) is transforming tomorrow by expanding research, scholarship and creativity. IPEP, as part of the Office of the Vice President for Research, is designed to enhance the research guidance and support provided by their faculty mentor(s). IPEP includes the following components: career and professional networking through the Office for Institutional Diversity, Office for Postdoctoral Affairs and Office of Faculty Advancement; regular enrichment opportunities that focus on understanding the available research infrastructure and grant-writing basics; breakout sessions from meetings tailored to the specific interests of participants in this program; access to a personal navigator to discuss individual career development plans and identify relevant training opportunities; and networking opportunities with national research leaders from under-represented groups who are invited speakers.

You can learn more details about all of the initiatives in the coming months by following along with the "Behind the Blue" podcast

And, as part of Inclusive Excellence Awareness Month, UK will highlight the voices around campus who make this place special. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.