We should not underestimate the importance diversity has in not only achieving our tangible goals related to enrollment and research, but also our more general objective of enhancing the stature of this university. I am extraordinarily pleased that in the past five years the percentage of freshmen that are students of color has increased from 11 to 16 percent.
Over the course of the last year, we implemented a restructuring of our diversity efforts. We refocused the Office of Equity and Compliance and were fortunate toward the end of the last academic year to attract Susan Foster from her law practice to join us as director. Her arrival coincided with increased attention nationally on the role of universities in implementing Title IX and she has been literally consumed with these issues. She is positioning us well to meet our responsibilities. As we build her office, she will have more of an opportunity to broaden her activities.
The restructuring also contemplated that academic affairs, student affairs, and human resources would identify a diversity officer in each unit to be responsible for activities and programs designed to improve our diversity efforts. We need to have our faculty and staff reflect, if not America, at least the diversity of our student body. During last year, Joy Castro from ethnic studies was asked by academic affairs to think through our diversity efforts and to make recommendations. She has provided a report with a broad, thoughtful set of recommendations that should be considered. Some we have already implemented. One of those recommendations seems a precursor to the others – an outside, independent diversity audit of our programs. I intend to implement that audit. And academic affairs will be moving forward to recruit a full-time assistant vice chancellor for diversity.
In cooperation with University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds, and the active involvement of our now vice chancellor Mark Askren, we are looking seriously at how the information technology staffs at UNL and Varner Hall can work more closely together. Three positions have been consolidated, saving resources to invest in higher priority activities and more may be forthcoming.
Through Mark’s leadership, earlier this year UNL joined the Unizin consortium as a founding member along with approximately a dozen other leading universities including many of our Big Ten colleagues. This community of institutions is working together to significantly improve teaching technologies that benefit both our faculty and our students. Specifically we will gain access to improved learning management systems, open digital repositories and next generation learning analytics tools which will help us produce collaborative learning outcomes well beyond what we could do on our own. In a joint initiative between academic affairs and ITS and with cooperation of the Faculty Senate Information Technologies and Services Committee, we are piloting use of the Canvas Learning Management System as part of our Unizin engagement.