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Cleveland State University
A Message from the President

Message from the President
January 2013

CSU's New Diversity Initiative

In one of my first speeches as President here at Cleveland State, I stated that CSU is a diverse and rich learning laboratory, an urban university that is primed for "engaged learning" – one that includes students, faculty and staff of various races, ethnic backgrounds, religions and nationalities. Diversity and multiculturalism are among our most distinguishing qualities at CSU. Indeed, diversity for us is not an aspiration – it is simply who we are. Our challenge is not so much to pursue diversity, but to leverage this great asset to the maximum benefit for the campus community and the broader city and region.

Just walk around the Student Center or attend a Faculty Senate meeting or peek in on a Senior Management Team meeting and you will see evidence of our wonderfully diverse campus. While I have made diversity central to my leadership as President, I could not have done so without the hard work of people at CSU and in the community who have fought over the years to ensure that diversity and inclusion are at the center of the University's mission.

We have made great strides but we still have work to do. There are still racial and ethnic disparities in student performance, and we still have our challenges in attracting a diverse faculty and staff that are reflective of our student body and our community.

Much of our progress over the years was championed by Dr. Njeri Nuru-Holm, who retired last summer as Vice President for Institutional Diversity. Since then, I have charged Dr. Byron White to make oversight of diversity and inclusion part of his portfolio as Vice President for University Engagement. In acknowledgement of this important responsibility, I have added Chief Diversity Officer to his title to clarify that he is accountable for serving as the lead advocate within the Senior Management Team for advancing strategic diversity across the institution.

Under the leadership of Vice President White and his staff, our diversity and inclusion efforts will move forward following three areas of focus. First, aggressively advancing the goals of the University's Diversity Action Plan by creating a more synergistic relationship between the President's Council on Diversity and the eight College Diversity Councils. This will allow us to establish broad accountability for achieving substantive, measurable progress. Second, helping students from diverse backgrounds more effectively connect to resources, faculty and mentoring on campus as a way to improve retention and completion. And third, assisting in the coordination of multicultural programming on campus, including the development of a multicultural student center in conjunction with Student Life and other campus programs.

I am confident that we have the leadership, passion and commitment across the CSU community to achieve continued success. Of course, the strength of any university lies with its people – creative, energetic, hard-working faculty, staff, administrators and student leaders invested in our common mission. With that in mind, CSU recently hired Yulanda McCarty-Harris as the University's affirmative action officer, a position that had been vacant far too long. Ms. McCarty-Harris, who brings both a legal background and broad experience in organizational diversity, will assure that our institutional practices promote fairness and equity. This focus on problem-solving will be reflected in a new title for the office: Director of Institutional Equity. It will continue to report to General Counsel Sonali Wilson.

There is much for CSU to be proud of regarding diversity. Our academic endeavors in the STEM disciplines, health professions, education, law, business, urban affairs and the liberal arts are a testament to our commitment to developing students academically and socially to navigate an increasingly diverse society by engaging them in the multicultural vibrancy of Greater Cleveland. Our organizational structure reflects this rich diversity and our vision for the future reinforces its relevance. Still, we must remain vigilant if we are to maximize the full benefit of this extraordinary gift. I am fully committed to making sure that diversity and inclusion are integral to everything that we do as an institution.

Ronald M. Berkman
Cleveland State University

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