Over the past several years WPI has been on a mission to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion into every aspect of the university experience, inside and outside the classroom. Through initiatives large and small, the university has developed standards and set expectations for a campus environment that is accepting and welcoming to all. The work is now being recognized on the national level: WPI was recently named a recipient of the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, which honors U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is awarded by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.
“The HEED Award celebrates our continued efforts to be a place where all can belong and thrive,” said Michelle Jones-Johnson, Vice President for Talent & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. “The award recognizes WPI's collective efforts to look critically at our culture, realize that there is still much more work to do, and doubling down on our commitment to creating meaningful and sustainable inclusive excellence.”
“The HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees—and best practices for both—continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”
WPI is one of 90 colleges and universities to receive the 2020 HEED Award. This is the first time WPI has received the honor and fulfills a goal Jones-Johnson set when she joined the university in 2016.
“It was important for me to honor the efforts of those in our community whose work focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion while creating a strategic approach to elevating our institutional commitment in this area,” said Jones-Johnson.
Since 2016, WPI’s efforts have been guided by Project Inclusion, a three-year self-assessment that established definitions and developed recommendations around diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. Led by Jones-Johnson and faculty co-chairs Peter Hansen (Year 1) and Emily Douglas (Year 2), the Project Inclusion Steering Committees created data-driven recommendations as the framework for each division to develop implementation plans to align the university’s work going forward.
Rame Hanna, WPI’s Director for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, who served as the co-chair of Project Inclusion (Year 3) and coordinated the HEED award application process, said “we are humbled by the recognition and grateful for the many partnerships and collaborations with colleagues who strive to center DEI as a foundational lens in their positions on campus. The process has been a yearlong endeavor and central to our commitment to embed, infuse, and actualize critical strategic diversity efforts on campus”
“The HEED Award not only created a platform to recognize institutions with an exemplary commitment to fostering a campus culture of inclusion and belonging, but has inspired a greater sense of agency and social responsibility in our commitment to equity in STEM” said Hanna. “Working with Christelle Hayles, WPI’s Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, to complete this rigorous application has helped provide WPI with a roadmap to measure our institution’s level of achievement, while also uniting us as a collective to create intentional, transformative changes on our campus.”
As a recipient of the HEED Award, WPI will be featured, along with the other recipients, in the November 2020 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity.