Progress report on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives

Vice President for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams provides this update on work taking place in the Elon community

Dear members of the Elon community,

As we conclude this year’s Black History Month programming, I write to share a progress report on the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives we announced last summer. People across Elon University have responded enthusiastically to the call-to-action, and our new Division of Inclusive Excellence is actively organizing and coordinating resources, programs and members of the community to make progress on many fronts.

This month, we welcomed two new talented and experienced colleagues who join our efforts to create the “college for the world” envisioned by our founders, fostering respect for human differences. Dr. Laké Buggs, director of inclusive excellence for graduate and professional education, and Ms. Carla Fullwood, director of inclusive excellence education and development, joined Dr. Matthew Antonio Bosch, dean of student inclusive excellence, and me as the leadership team for the Division of Inclusive Excellence.

Many other Elon colleagues are providing leadership for inclusive excellence. Professors Amy Johnson and Lee Bush are leading the DEI Curriculum Group that is focused on ensuring all students enroll in courses that support intercultural development. There are also efforts to support the professional development of faculty and staff. Professors Caroline Ketchum and Mark Enfield are co-chairing a group that is planning enhancements for DEI in faculty teaching, scholarship and service, while staff in the Office of Leadership and Professional Development and Human Resources have created a supervisor series and other workshops centered on inclusive excellence.

Associate Vice President for Human Resources Kelli Shuman launched a new “Preventing Harassment and Discrimination” training program last November for all employees. As of February 19, almost half Elon’s faculty and staff have begun or completed the training modules, and we are working toward 100 percent completion by the end of May.

These educational efforts will raise awareness about discrimination issues and create a better learning environment for everyone. At the same time, we are creating new protocols to hold individuals accountable when they violate our community values. Law School Associate Dean Wendy Scott and Director of Student Conduct Jenni Spangenberg are co-chairing the Bias Response System Work Group to make our response to identity-based bias more transparent and effective. The revised bias response system will be approved and implemented by June.

We are also preparing to establish a human resources officer who has expertise in equity recruitment, hiring and training resources that yield a more diverse and supported workforce.

Diversity recruitment for students is also moving forward in the Office of Admissions, where an expanded diversity recruitment leadership team and new strategies have yielded impressive increases in applications for the entering class of Fall 2021. Compared with last fall’s figures, the pool of applicants for next fall includes 23 percent more students of color, 34 percent more members of the LGBTQ community and 80 percent more first-generation students.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our University Advancement staff continues to tell the Elon story in a compelling manner that inspires philanthropy in support of more students from a variety of backgrounds. Vice President for University Advancement Jim Piatt has partnered with the Elon Black Alumni Network to create a plan that triples the group’s endowed scholarship and increases internship support by at least $1 million by 2025. We are so grateful for this generous alumni commitment to future generations.

In addition to the 15 action items we announced last summer, there are many other initiatives under way in Academic Affairs, Athletics and Student Life. One that I’d like to highlight is the Black Solidarity Day Conference, scheduled for this coming Friday, Feb. 26. Co-sponsored by the Black Student Union and the CREDE, the inaugural conference in 2015 was led by then-students, Daneilia Dwyer ’15, Desiree Porter ’15 and D’Netria Spear ’15 as part of the BSU’s senior legacy project. This event is now celebrated as an annual space for affirming and exploring the black experience at the nexus of other social identities. The theme is “Embracing a Black Future,” and I invite you to register here and attend this year’s virtual event, which is chaired by Eukela Little ’22 and advised by John Robinson-Miller, assistant director of the CREDE.

The Black Solidarity Day Conference is a culminating event for Black History Month and also reminds us of the importance of learning about black people’s contributions to and experience in our society year-round. I hope I will see you online at this virtual conference.

I thank you for your continued support and involvement in this critical work that has no end. Together, however, we are achieving greater progress on how we celebrate diversity, increase belongingness and prepare equity-minded leaders across all identities.


Randy Williams
Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence