UMB Hailed As National Leader In Diversity

September 14, 2015    |  

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) has been recognized as a national leader in diversity, earning the prestigious 2015 INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award.

Diversity is a core value of UMB and — through groups such as the Diversity Advisory Council and the Office of Community Engagement — the University is strengthening its diversity, equity, and outreach programs. These efforts to build a community of inclusion and engagement took on special significance after Baltimore’s devastating riots this spring.

“You should be very proud of the work you are doing to promote diversity and inclusion among your students, faculty, staff, and community,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

The focal group in this effort is the Diversity Advisory Council (DAC), formed by UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, in 2010. The DAC is charged with strengthening and promoting diversity and inclusion as foundational University principles. The group is currently supporting efforts to ensure that all faculty and staff have equitable opportunities to advance their careers at UMB, that the University’s people have the cultural competence needed to effectively serve Baltimore’s diverse populations, and that UMB’s engagement efforts are valued by the communities they’re intended to help.

Advancing two of these goals are the Office of Community Engagement and the Center for Community-Based Engagement and Learning. The groups coordinate and enhance opportunities for community-engaged scholarship and service that improve the health and welfare of Baltimore’s residents.

UMB’s HEED nomination mentioned the work of these groups in the context of riots provoked by the death of Freddie Gray. The University “developed a one-stop shop for finding useful information and opportunities to support our community neighbors during and after the period of unrest,” said the nomination. “At the heart of our mission are our community engagement efforts, which are second to none.”

The HEED nomination also highlighted what UMB’s schools are doing related to diversity — both individually and together through interprofessional initiatives. These activities led UMB to a HEED Award in 2013.

For instance, each of UMB’s seven schools works hard to recruit and admit a diverse student body. As part of their outreach efforts, schools often invite prospective students from under-represented groups to receptions in Baltimore and elsewhere, connecting these prospective students with enrolled students and/or alumni who share similar backgrounds. When holding open houses on campus, schools make sure that the student and faculty panels welcoming prospective students are diverse and that these events highlight culturally diverse aspects of Baltimore and UMB.

The focus on diversity doesn’t stop at recruitment: Once students are enrolled, they’re immersed in experiences that expose them to different perspectives, cultures, and communities.

Retaining diverse students, faculty, and staff at UMB is another key priority, and that’s accomplished, in part, by making diverse groups feel welcome. Various campus organizations represent international students, women, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community, among others. Additional groups advance affirmative action and equity, diversity research, and ethnic and gender studies.

The HEED nomination spotlighted accommodations provided to UMB’s people, including lactation centers for new mothers, unfettered wheelchair accessibility in all buildings, sign language translators, and textbooks in Braille. It also recognized UMB’s commitment to maximizing procurement opportunities for minority-owned businesses and employment opportunities for veterans and for people with disabilities.

The HEED nomination acknowledged UMB’s efforts to encourage dialogue and scholarship on the complex interaction of race, sexual orientation, class, and gender in society. University events — such as those celebrating Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Gay Lesbian Pride Month, National Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Arab American Heritage Month — are designed to foster an appreciation of the experiences of those who work and learn at the University and those whom UMB serves.

All of these efforts are guided by the University’s strategic plan, which identifies diversity as a key theme and holds UMB’s leaders accountable for three diversity and inclusion goals:

—   promote a commitment to diversity and a culture of inclusion;

—   enhance the environment to ensure diversity is valued and inclusion becomes a guiding principle in every aspect of the University’s activities; and

—   cultivate the idea that cultural competency is the right thing to do and promote it as a competitive advantage to be attained and valued by faculty, staff, and students.

This and much more was mentioned in the 29-page HEED entry that a six-person UMB team headed by Sheila K. G. Blackshear, MS, CAAP, diversity/EEO/AA manager, compiled over 50 days.

Roger J. Ward, EdD, JD, MPA, the University’s chief accountability officer, vice president of operations and planning, and interim chief human resources officer, said he couldn’t be prouder.

“As a University, UMB has made great strides in the area of diversity and inclusion in recent years,” he said. “The implementation of the strategic plan, our response to the unrest in the city, and our continuing efforts to improve through open race forums and a campus climate and culture survey, among other initiatives, are all to be commended. The 2015 HEED Award is recognition that we are on the right path, though our work is far from complete. I thank those who prepared the entry and those students, faculty, and staff at UMB whose commitment to diversity and inclusion made the award possible.”