Campus News

Where We Stand: DEI Project 5

Photo of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer Advance Day.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Advance Day on April 22, 2022. Arden Barnes | UK Photo.

Throughout the upcoming months, UK will highlight each of the projects under its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), including the work they are currently doing across campus and what they hope to achieve in the future. To follow along, search ‘Where we Stand’ on UKNow.  

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 30, 2022) — Starting in the fall of 2020, the University of Kentucky began a new chapter in its journey to become a more diverse and equitable campus. 

Against the backdrop of increased racial turmoil and a global pandemic, UK President Eli Capilouto announced a comprehensive, collaborative 17-project Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Plan. Designed to empower agents of change, embolden existing DEI efforts and introduce additional initiatives to engage more of the community in this work, this plan has ignited a holistic overhaul to the university's approach to advancing diversity at UK.

Since 2020, project leads and the members of each of the 17 project teams within the DEI Implementation Plan have worked diligently to set the groundwork for what is to become a roadmap to inclusive excellence. 

Motivated by a continual commitment to reflection and renewal, Project 5: Expand and Restructure Roles of College and Unit DEI Officers, has made significant progress. 

The goal of this project is to identify core sets of knowledge and resources that each diversity officer must possess and then explore how diversity officers can empower each other and the community through the sustainable change we all seek. 

“Consistent with the university’s mission to enhance the diversity and inclusivity of our university community, Project 5 members recognize and value that various colleges, units and departments have unique perspectives,” Janice Kuperstein, professor and associate dean in the College of Health Sciences and Project 5 co-lead, said. 

At the university, diversity officers: 

  • coordinate trainings for faculty and staff;
  • provide programming for students to build cultural competencies and reduce bias;
  • promote recruitment strategies to increase diversity among students and employees;
  • align policies and practices with commitments to equity and justice;
  • secure grants for DEI projects; and
  • respond to concerns from all constituencies in their respective cohorts.

“Diversity officers do crucial work for their colleges,” Tara Tuttle, assistant dean for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in the Lewis Honors College, assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies and Project 5 co-lead, said. “These officers need consistent support, ample resources and inclusion among leadership to accomplish these efforts.”

The Project 5 team has submitted recommendations to the executive sponsors of the faculty and staff workstream based on results from interviews and surveys of the university’s many DEI officers and alternates, which identified key responsibilities, shared goals, needed resources and common barriers to advancing DEI efforts.

Project 5 members include Tara Tuttle, Janice Kuperstein, Mia Farrell, Vanessa Jackson, Jen Martin and Clem Stambaugh. Prior to her departure from the university, Cristina Alcalde, former associate dean of Inclusion and Internationalization in the College of Arts and Sciences, served as co-lead.

On April 22, 2022, the Office for Institutional Diversity hosted a DEI Officer Advance Day. Every college and unit DEI officer gathered to discuss their role, responsibilities, structure and opportunities for growth. The daylong "Advance" was facilitated by Kevin McDonald, University of Virginia's vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. Advance sessions included: Going Together, Stronger Together; Best-In-Class Standardization; Effectively Build, Engage, Organize, and Transform; Co-Creating a Shared Toolkit, Roadmap, Blueprint. For more information about the DEI Officers, visit this link.   

As a university, we understand that dismantling institutionalized oppression in higher education is not a project to complete, it is forever ongoing. And while the work of these individuals and our collective community is just beginning, this multigenerational endeavor is one that the university is all-in to tackle. 

Together, we are finding ways to answer the challenge that we have been called to grapple with — bringing the prospect of hope and healing, reckoning and reconciliation, to this generation and to those who will follow. For more information on the university's diversity and inclusion efforts, visit the DEI website. The DEI website is home to information about DEI-related resources available to faculty, staff and students; events and organizations; news and campus messages; and updates on DEI efforts around campus.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.