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DEI at MSU: providing opportunity and support for all Spartans to reach their full potential

Michigan State University's new strategic plan articulates a shared vision for the university through the end of the decade. MSU Strategic Plan 2030: Empowering Excellence, Advancing Equity, Expanding Impact received the unanimous endorsement of the MSU Board of Trustees.

MSU Strategic Plan 2030 identifies goals within six key themes: student success; staff and faculty success; discovery, creativity, and innovation for excellence and global impact; sustainable health; stewardship and sustainability; and diversity, equity and inclusion.

On this edition of MSU Today, we'll be focusing on the diversity, equity and inclusion theme of the plan with its executive sponsor, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar Bennett.

“I’m really pleased you’ll be talking with our very distinguished CDO Jabbar Bennett today about DEI and its role in the strategic plan,” says Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “Even though we have a separate plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, everybody who was involved in this process felt it was important that it be in included as a pillar in the strategic plan as well. It cuts across so many aspects of our campus and it’s so important to us going forward. I've talked many times about the need to have a place where people feel welcome and where people feel that they're a part of this university and are welcomed at this university. And that's what DEI is about. It's providing opportunity, it's providing support and it's providing ways in which we can continue to help people reach their full potential.”

Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., MSU President
Derrick L. Turner
Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., MSU President

How does MSU Strategic Plan 2030 define diversity, equity and inclusion?

“It's important for all of us to recognize that diversity, equity and inclusion are three different things with their own definitions and application that work together and complement each other,” says Bennett. “And all three are foundational principles and practices that we must embrace as Spartans if we really want to get where it is we say we want to go.

“Diversity represents our very collective and individual identities and differences, and we recognize that diversity is a central component of inclusive excellence in research, teaching, service and outreach and engagement. We are committed to engaging, understanding, promoting and fostering a variety of perspectives and affirm our similarities and value our differences.

“Equity is the ability to, or actions taken, to ensure access to resources that promote success and address past and present educational and professional disparities. Equity goes beyond fair treatment, opportunity and access to information and resources for all. Equity can only be achieved in an environment built on respect and dignity that acknowledges historic and contemporary injustices.

“Inclusion is the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded. Inclusion actively invites all to contribute and participate. We strive to create balance. Every person's voice is valuable and no one person is expected to represent an entire community. Here at MSU, we're committed to an open environment and campus where students, faculty, staff, alumn and community voices are equally respected and contribute to the overall institutional mission.”

And one of the boldest and clearest desired outcomes stated in the strategic plan is the complete elimination of race and ethnicity opportunity gaps across all subgroups of students by 2030. Bennett talks about how MSU will get there.

Jabbar Bennett
Jabbar Bennett

“A goal mentioned in the strategic plan calls for ensuring equity and eliminating disparities on our campus and beyond. MSU has long been invested in student success and that is evident. For the sixth straight year, MSU saw a record high graduation rate of 82 percent for first-time, full-time undergraduate students. Graduation rates for students who identify as American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Black or African American, Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander and Hispanic or Latinx, all increased as well. However, Black and African American undergraduate students continue to have slightly lower graduation rates of around 65 percent. MSU 2030 has a goal of guaranteeing an 86 percent graduation rate for the entering 2024 class that will require persistence enabled by the student success initiative, which aims to support the success of all Spartans.

“Equity, inclusion, diversity and global competency are integrated into every aspect of the undergraduate experience. Utilizing a lens of racial equity in teaching and educational outcomes is central to understanding, naming and working to proactively tackle those issues to further eliminate educational opportunity gaps. Closing opportunity gaps requires a focus on ensuring our faculty and staff are also able to succeed.”

MSU has a whole plan dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Bennett describes how that plan relates to and complements the DEI theme in the strategic plan and how they fit together. And he talks about how MSU will look different by 2030 and what we will have achieved if we’re successful in implementing the plan.

“I'd like to underscore that the plan was developed by members of this community: students, faculty, staff and alumni. It'll take every member of this community to recognize their role and the work that they and we must do to make this work successful. We all have a responsibility, and there are ways that we can contribute to advancing these efforts within our local circles and communities as well as collectively when we work with groups and partner with colleagues in different units.”

On this edition of MSU Today, we've been talking about the diversity, equity and inclusion theme of MSU's Strategic Plan 2030: Empowering Excellence, Advancing Equity, Expanding Impact with the executive sponsor of the theme, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Jabbar Bennett.

Read and learn more about MSU Strategic Plan 2030 at strategicplan.msu.edu.

MSU Today airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 5 a.m. on WKAR News/Talk and Sundays at 8 p.m. on 760 WJR. Find “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.