CWU wins national diversity award

Nick Tucker, News Editor

CWU has been awarded the 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. This is the fifth time in six years that CWU has won national awards for its efforts towards inclusivity and diversity, making it the only university in Washington state to receive such recognition.

“What this award says is, ‘this college is sensitive to making sure opportunities at the university is sufficiently open to all,’” CWU President James L. Gaudino said in a CWU press release. “At [CWU], inclusivity is one of our values. It doesn’t matter where you’re from — when you come to [CWU] you’re going to have an opportunity to succeed.”

The HEED Award winner is decided by the INSIGHT Into Diversity staff, which measures an institution’s level of achievement and the intensity of its commitment to diversity.

“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. “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.”

CWU has made several decisions over the years as it strove towards diversity. Delores “Kandee” Cleary,  Ph.D., CWU Vice President of Inclusivity and Diversity, is one of the leading decision-makers in these efforts. She and other faculty members make use of many strategies to broaden the range of people who attend CWU.

“Part of that is embedding recruiters into the communities in which they’re going to recruit from which allows them to develop relationships,” Cleary said. 

Cleary also has initiatives with the goal of recruitment. To create a sense of belonging for students at CWU, plans are underway to recruit faculty and staff with diverse backgrounds. Research in both academia and business the world has shown that more diverse groups are better at innovation and problem solving.

“[Students] are more likely to stay and graduate if they see people like them,” Cleary said. “Mentoring becomes more effective, advising becomes more effective and for students, learning becomes more effective.”

Parents and prospective students are aware of this too. Shawna Johnson said CWU’s reputation for being a diverse campus was one of the big reasons why her son, 18-year-old freshman Cedric Dennard II, chose to enroll here.

“We live in a world where we want to be exposed to a lot of different things,” Johnson said. “The way you do that the most is by being in a diverse environment. You never know what you’re going to get until you get there, but it starts you off on the right foot when you have a school community who prides themselves on being better and diverse.”

CWU’s inclusivity and diversity efforts have been focused on race and ethnicity for a long time. According to Cleary, this will expand going forward, but the focus on race is a result of student feedback on the culture of CWU.

“Students have insisted, for the last five years anyway, that they can go through [CWU] and never have a faculty person of color in any class,” Cleary said. “That’s our first focus. In some departments we have focused more on gender, in engineering, for example, women are a minority.”