The first edition of the Racial Justice, Equity, Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusive Excellence (READI) newsletter was sent to the Loyola community through an Oct. 13 email from the DEI Office. It announced the READI Innovation Fund, which aims to promote diversity, partnering with past diversity initiatives at the school.
The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a new office added to Loyola’s institution. The office was established Nov. 1 2021 with the hiring of Vice President of Institutional DEI Dominique Jordan Turner, the Phoenix previously reported. This is the first time an office has been set aside to focus on diversity at Loyola.
One of the initiatives in the strategic plan is the Innovation Fund, according to Turner. This is a grant for faculty and staff which promotes and helps put the strategic plan of the DEI office into action as directed by the READI newsletter.
The READI newsletter outlines five pillars that the innovation fund would help put in action. Those five pillars would be Institutional Structures and Systems Change, Culture and Climate, Learning and Development, Recruitment and Retention, ending with Scholarship and Teaching.
Turner said she won’t know the amount of attention the innovation fund will get in terms of applicants until the deadline on Nov. 1. However, she’s excited to hear about all the ideas faculty and staff may have.
“What we hope is that people get creative,” Turner said. “What we hope is that, first of all, that everyone will step back and do an assessment of their area to say, how are we doing with diversity, equity and inclusion? Where are we strong? Where are we weak? ”
Turner said she and her team have been working on the strategic plan discussed in the newsletter since last year. Turner said this is the first time funds have been allocated by the university for the promotion of diversity.
“There’s a lot of great work happening on the ground, but what we heard is that they didn’t feel like there was institutional support,” Turner said. “And that’s what my office is here to do, is to support them.”
Professor G. Agustin Markarian, teaches Intro to American Politics and Race, Ethnicity and Politics, said that he would love to see the innovation fund used for projects that evokes diversity in writing and research.
“Something that I would love to see come out of a type of a program like this would be funding for co-authored papers and co-authored research between undergraduate students and faculty,” Markarian said. “Undergraduate students of color and faculty of color that focus on issues of racial justice.”
The READI newsletter highlighted statistics from this year’s incoming class stating that 50.2% of incoming freshmen identify as students of color.
Trent Jackson, a senior at Loyola, is a part of Loyola’s 5% black student population on campus. He said he has noticed an increase in the diversity of the student population since he was a freshman and thinks it has become easier for students of color to feel like they have a home on campus.
“With the increase of diversity, it makes it better overall,” Jackson said “It makes it a better experience especially when you can be around more people you can relate to. In my own experience it’s been a struggle being at a primarily white institution feeling isolated. “
Rachel Amegatcher, a senior at Loyola, who’s also part of the 5% Black student population, said she received the READI newsletter but hasn’t checked it since.
“I’m pretty sure I received the email, but I have not looked into it,” said Amegatcher. “I have heard of the Office of DEI, not to a large extent.”
Jackson also said he “wasn’t aware of it” and is “not too heavily involved” with keeping up with the DEI Office.
Turner said that the DEI Office is doing everything they can to reach out to the student body.
“One of the greatest challenges that we have is like, how do we reach students ?,” Turner said. “What is the best way to reach students?”
Turner mentioned the newsletter had a better attention rate than expected. She noted that 47% of those who received the email opened it.
Turner states how READI work is vital for the university and how carrying it out should be like second nature.
“READI work is everybody’s work, that’s the goal,” Turner said. “It’s not something that’s a committee, it’s not something separate or apart from your job. It is the job. “
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