A report on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at Union College
Our Strategic Plan makes clear our intention to have every student, and every person on campus, be a part of this vibrant community of learning. This report highlights some of the milestones that we have reached together over the past several years. As we celebrate our progress, we acknowledge that our work to create and maintain an inclusive and welcoming community is never done. And that it requires every one of us.
Major DEIB Initiatives Since 2018
Structures and Priorities
Race, Power and Privilege
In the summer of 2020, President Harris announced the Presidential Initiative on Race, Power and Privilege as a way to encourage engagement across campus over difficult issues. A group of 40 students, faculty, staff and alumni identified five key areas: (1) cultural competency, (2) curricular change, (3) faculty and staff diversity, (4) campus safety and (5) increased support for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students. Among the recommendations of the group: develop a diversity statement, review our history and symbols, provide additional mentoring programs for BIPOC and first-generation students and develop a general education course exploring issues of race, power and privilege.
Diversity Leadership Team
In the fall of 2020, President Harris announced the formation of a diversity leadership team. “Collectively, they will pursue the responsibilities of a chief diversity officer with greater depth and breadth of knowledge, experience and relationships than any single individual could hope to achieve,” he said. Dru Alvez, the director of Intercultural Affairs, serves as chief diversity officer for student and institutional success. Francesca Callahan, the College's director of talent acquisition in Human Resources, serves as chief diversity officer for employee and institutional success.
In late 2021, the Presidential Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Diversity Leadership Team identified three key priorities, and formed committees to explore each: 1. Foster a culture of professional development to enhance cultural competency; 2. Increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations 3. Enhance the overall experience and sense of belonging for all.
Central to the core of our learning community is the ability to engage with one another to understand differing viewpoints. The Constructive Engagement series, begun in 2018, has covered a range of topics with invited presenters: abortion, civil discourse over political differences, police reform, gun rights and finding forgiveness after hate. Support for Constructive Engagement comes from Kelly Williams '86 and her husband, Andrew Forsyth, through the Williams Legacy Foundation.
DEIB Statement and Land Acknowledgement
The College’s diversity leadership team and the Presidential Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion developed a DEI statement and Land Acknowledgement. Both can be found on our DEIB Statements page.
In the new General Education curriculum, beginning for first years in the fall of 2022, students take courses in two major areas – Justice, Equity, Identity and Difference (JEID); and Global Challenges (GC). Union is part of the inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Inclusive Excellence 3 Learning Community. The IE3 initiative is a commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in U.S. academic science. The Templeton Institute for Engineering and Computer Science, made possible by a $51 million gift from Class of 1980 graduates Rich and Mary Templeton, is to enable connections, experimentation, innovation and discovery through integrative coursework, projects and research. The Templetons made an additional gift of $1.4 million to provide scholarships for incoming women who plan to study engineering and computer science, as well as for first-year students admitted to the Union Scholars program who want to focus their studies on these fields. The Faculty Development Institute supports faculty members who are committed to broadening their teaching and curriculum development skills. The summer workshops support faculty who are revamping their existing courses or developing new courses to support either the Justice, Equity, Identity and Difference (JEID) or Global Challenges (GC) areas of inquiry.
Efforts to build a diverse and welcoming workplace for all college staff include: UNITAS, an organization that supports diversity initiatives and community building projects, has teamed with Human Resources to offer DEIB events for new employees.
- DEIB communications are developed with HR’s director of talent acquisition and chief diversity officer.
- Enhance the visibility of organizations including the BIPOC Employee Alliance, Women of Color Collective and President’s Commission on the Status of Women
Access and Outreach
The Schuler Access Initiative will help Union support and enroll significantly more low-income students by giving them access to the $42 Million ($20 Million raised by Union and $22 Million matched by Schuler) that Union has gained through the partnership with the Schuler Education Foundation. This scholarship provides access to many Pell-eligible students that will make Union more affordable. The First-Gen Pre-Orientation, offered for two days before the start of regular orientation, provides first-generation students the chance to settle in and discover what the campus offers. Each November since 2019, Union has celebrated First-Generation Student Celebration Day with a breakfast, social media spotlights and a luncheon open to all. The Bridges First-Generation program, begun in 2019, is an innovative one-on-one mentoring program to ensure the success of first-generation college students at Union.
The Women at Union Project
Appointed by President Harris to lead the effort, Vice President and Chief of Staff Darcy Czajka, and Title IX Coordinator Mary Simeoli are facilitating a study on the experience of women at Union. The study involves collecting data relative to the recruitment, retention, work, learning, extracurricular and residential life of students, faculty, and staff. In addition, they are leading focus groups across campus to document experiences, impressions and personal narratives.
An integrated and inclusive education cultivates the whole person through a range of learning experiences. The College in the fall of 2022 launched U Journey, a residential curriculum that blends informal learning that takes place in residence halls with academic learning. The goal is to form closer-knit community of engaged contributors who are equipped in well-being, life skills, decision making, cross-cultural competency, belonging and reflection.
A re-invented GenEd
The Global Challenges and Social Justice curriculum at Union, introduced for the Class of 2026, aims to create opportunities for critical and deep learning through diverse perspectives of major areas of human understanding. This curriculum combines Union’s longstanding college-wide commitment to lifelong learning with social purpose.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chronology
Union partners with the Schuler Education Foundation to fund the Schuler Access Initiative; $42 million raised to ensure access to students of all economic backgrounds
A generous gift from Mary and Rich Templeton, both Class of 1980, supports scholarships for women in engineering and computer science History & Symbols committee formed to examine how spaces, symbols and monuments advance our learning environment and foster community of belonging
President David R. Harris announces the Initiative on Race, Power and Privilege to engage the campus on important issues, and forms a team of chief diversity officers.
Union launches Making U Possible: The Presidential Initiative for Scholarship and Immersive Excellence; Union launches the Bridges Program for first-generation college students; Fran’Cee Brown-McClure is the first woman, and first Black person, to be vice president for student affairs and dean of students
David R. Harris becomes the first Black president of Union College The Union College Forum on Constructive Engagement debuts
The College’s motto is updated to include sisters: Sous les lois de Minerve nous devenons tous frères et sœurs (Under the laws of Minerva, we all become brothers and sisters).
The Committee on LGBTQ+ Affairs is established
Inaugural Pride Walk held, becomes annual
First annual LGBTQ+ at Union art exhibit held
Union's inaugural group of Posse Scholars arrive as first-year students
Women's hockey joins the ECAC at the Division 1 level, after becoming a varsity sport in 1999.
Dinner, Devotion and Discussion – now Dinner and Discussion Around Diversity – begins
Swimmer Julie Benker ’93 becomes the College’s first woman national champion
First graduate in Women’s Studies
College begins Future Professors of America program, aimed at encouraging seniors to pursue careers in college-level teaching
The Black Student Alliance, founded in 1968, changes name to African and Latino Alliance of Students Roger Hull becomes the first Jewish president of Union College
The interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Program formed The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Alliance founded
LeAta Jackson '88 awarded the Bailey Cup Asian Student Association founded
Julie Miller ’84 wins the New York State singles tennis title
First sororities – Sigma Delta Tau and Delta Gamma – start chapters
Dr. Paula Brownlee, a chemist, named dean of faculty
First varsity women’s athletics teams – tennis and softball – begin play
Robert Murray ’53 elected alumni trustee, the first Black member of Board
Women arrive: Union admits first coed class Board of Trustees elects first female member, Muriel Kauffman
Higher Opportunities Through Education program begins; soon to be known as the Academic Opportunity Program
Librarian W. Loretta Walker becomes the first Black woman with faculty status