On March 4, as we announced our participation in the Public Affairs Diversity Alliance and offers of admission are extended to the incoming Evans School class for autumn 2019, I wanted to pause to reflect on my own personal journey to increase diversity in public policy graduate education, and how we have made equity and inclusion a priority at Evans.
I will start by acknowledging that I am not an expert on race, social justice, or equity theory and policy. I approach the topic with great humility and respect for the constant and rapid evolution of our understanding.
We know that diverse representation is not enough. We must focus on building a diverse and inclusive academic community to maximize the potential for new ideas and to truly move our school forward. Diversity in race, political perspectives, cultural mores, value systems and personal beliefs inspires new thinking, yet it falls short without inclusion, which integrates diverse perspectives and transforms our community. Inclusion teaches us to learn about each other as people. It encourages us to leverage our differences and connect our similarities such that we can become more innovative, productive and creative, together.
In the classroom, we as faculty aim to treat our students equitably, to provide them with full access to the learning resources they need to get the most out of the class, and to make sure that our students feel welcome, supported, and valued. We strive to include diverse perspectives in our coursework, challenge our personal biases in discussion, and cultivate a sense of belonging in and out of the classroom. Of course, we are not “there” yet – but reflecting on the past 15 years that I have been Dean, I can say confidently that we are getting better each year.
I am proud of the advances we have made, both among our faculty and our student body. I am proud that we are looked to nationally as a model for best practices in how to approach diversity, race and equity, and inclusion in our field. And, I am proud of the students who are at the core of this effort. They are often the ones encouraging us to push ourselves, and I am proud of their impatience and commitment to seeing us realize progress during their time at Evans.
In the words of University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, “our students give us hope every day that real change is possible. They push us to reflect the world we wish to build.”
We still have much work to do in becoming the best version of ourselves, as a school and as individual educators. However, I see everyday evidence in the impact of our alumni that we are delivering on our mission – to provide students with an education that prepares them to assume leadership roles in the public and non-profit sector, and to help them shape social and economic policies that are effective and fair.
We are making progress, and we are dedicated to forging the path ahead.