Furman’s Strategic Diversity Plan (SDP) was made available to the campus community in early 2021. Development of the SDP began under the supervision of the former Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Michael Jennings, in Summer 2020 but faced setbacks in the planning process due to COVID-19. Currently in the initial implementation stage, the Strategic Diversity Plan pursues goals of diversity, inclusion, and equity as necessary components of the Furman Advantage and the educational experience to promote connections that endure and communities that flourish.
To fully implement this mission, the inclusive excellence framework outlines four core goals to advance efforts of promoting diversity and fostering equity. Goals one and two focus on improving the recruitment and advancement of students, faculty, and staff from underrepresented communities. Goal three is centered around supporting inclusive excellence within curriculum and extra-curricular experiences, and goal four involves engaging with alumni and other communities outside the boundaries of Furman’s campus to further the goal of inclusive excellence. Each of these goals features two or three specific objectives, which served as guidelines for the development of actionable campus strategies.
Beginning in July 2021, different department divisions at Furman have presented their strategies for advancing these goals through a series of SDP Zoom presentations. These presentations allow for the greater Furman community to hear from division leaders about how they plan to advance the SDP in the upcoming academic year.
Finance and Administration
The initial installment of the SDP presentation series was hosted by Furman’s Finance and Administration division. At the time of the presentation, Jul. 20, 2021, Furman had allocated around $6 million to diversity and impact funds in the framework of venture capital. The Minority Business Enterprise Plan has recently been implemented to provide minority businesses with the opportunity to participate in Furman’s overall procurement process and to establish relationships with minority businesses. In regard to facilities, out of Furman’s heavily used contractors and service providers, only about 4 percent of them qualify as a minority business. To work towards the goals of the SDP in the future, facilities will reach out and identify qualified subcontractors that meet this qualification. Within Furman’s Police Department, police officer advanced training has been implemented to include training on the Clery Act, cultural awareness, implicit bias, and de-escalation.
In the second presentation within the SDP series, Furman’s Enrollment Management division shared that non-white Furman admits tend to believe affordability and financial aid were among the most principal factors, and therefore barriers, for schools applied to, preventing them from applying to and attending certain schools. The scholarship initiative has been a significant way to combat this trend, specifically through the Joseph Vaughn scholarship fund, which has recently increased to five full scholarships for Black or African American students from South Carolina. The division is working to diversify the prospective students pool through a variety of events focused on diversity and inclusion for students to connect with, as well as connecting prospective students to current students through Mosaic, an Admissions program that specifically recruits students from underrepresented backgrounds.
In the third presentation, the University Communications division asserted their desire to remain authentic in how the University represents diversity in marketing and communications, while also remaining aspirational as they work to improve recruitment of diversity. The division is also in the process of making the Furman website more accessible, for instance, by implementing captions within all the website’s videos. They have also used the website homepage to highlight Pride Month and Black History Month. Lastly, this division is also in the process of revising the editorial style guide by implementing new titles and subsections on the website to reflect the work of the Task Force on Slavery and Justice relating to campus landmarks.
Development and Alumni and Parent Engagement
Within the Development and Alumni and Parent Engagement division, as represented in the fourth installment of the SDP series, the Black Alumni Council was established this year in efforts to deepen engagement and strengthen relationships of Furman’s Black alumni population. In terms of programming and community outreach, the Office of Community Relations has recently begun hosting school campus visits to encourage Title I elementary and middle school students living in underserved communities across the state to consider college. The division is also working on a strategic plan for collecting and analyzing constituent engagement data, along with a comprehensive collection of diversity data and aims to authentically grow an inclusive prospective donor pool representing the full Furman community.
The last presentation in the SDP series was hosted by Academic Affairs, focusing on three distinct levels: individual, group, and system. To address the individual level, the division aims to identify University "blind spots," areas in which individual's experiences may inhibit understanding of challenges some students face in the classroom and manage those personal limitations. On a group level, Academic Affairs emphasized the practice of "rounding" for equity, in which community members intentionally interacting with others in the community, to gauge individual, institutional, and group wellbeing. On a systems level, this division wants to apply an equity lens to University policies and practices that may fall short of our inclusive goals in the SDP, and then consider changes to these rules that make our system more inclusive. In efforts to recruit faculty and staff from underrepresented communities, the division aims to augment targeted searches to prioritize diverse pools for campus interviews. Some changes by Academic Affairs have already begun, such as the implementation of two new majors, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies, supports goal three of inclusive excellence within formal curriculum.