Pillar I: Leadership, Culture, and Communication

Pillar I acknowledges that the diversity message, commitment and progress must emanate from RIT Leadership.

Leadership reflects and creates culture; thus, Pillar I focuses on creating clear expectations for leaders and incorporating those expectations into evaluation and rewards. Further, Pillar I addresses some of the deeper cultural issues that tend to perpetuate inequality over time. Such actions include RIT’s approach to communication: how we communicate, what we choose to highlight, what kinds of discussions we promote versus those we discourage.

The five Broad Initiatives of this Pillar and their supporting action steps derive from the following vision that was crafted by the members of this working group.

RIT endeavors to elevate the institutional commitment to and actual work of creating a diverse, inclusive, and anti-racist culture.

In order to address leadership, cultural, and communications barriers, a critical mass of students, staff, and faculty must be given the tools to understand their own identities and roles in actively addressing interpersonal, cultural, and structural racism.

RIT envisions a campus environment where there is intentional dialogue about and celebration of the university’s rich racial and ethnic diversity. RIT imagines a skilled community that is able to proactively analyze old and new policies and traditions with a racially and ethnically inclusive lens. When interpersonal acts of racism arise, RIT will have a community practice of restorative communication and complex problem-solving in addition to reporting mechanisms.

RIT expects clear and regular communication of institutional goals related to racial diversity, pluralism, and anti-racism by senior leaders and managers. RIT expects offices, departments, colleges, or divisions to find solutions that are relevant to driving institutional goals in their areas. RIT expects accountability measures to be put in place to assess the collective ability to transition from compliance and symbolism to leveraging race and ethnicity as an institutional asset.

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Broad Initiative I:

RIT Leadership will set the tone for communicating the diversity message, commitment, and progress.

Action Step I.1:

The RIT President will regularly articulate RIT’s diversity commitment during presentations, highlighting both initiatives and progress. Vice Presidents, Deans and 1st Level Managers also hold responsibility for regularly sharing diversity initiatives and progress with various audiences.

Action Step I.2:

All of RIT’s senior leadership and managers will be required to participate in a development program focused on inclusive leadership.

  • Supporting Action Step I.2.a: Members of the President’s Cabinet will serve as a pilot for this initiative.
  • Supporting Action Step I.2.b: Upon completion of the pilot, leadership will determine the best path forward.
  • Supporting Action Step I.2.c: Develop manager education around what it means to be an inclusive leader and create a program for supervisors to develop skill sets and confidence to implement DEI plans for individual employees.
  • Supporting Action Step I.2.d: Institute an annual requirement for all employees to receive education related to creating an inclusive culture.
  • Supporting Action Step I.2.e: Host regular events whose mission is focused on diversity and inclusion.

Conferences might include AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society), SREB (Southern Regional Education Board)—Doctoral Scholars Program, SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science), AABHE (American Association of Blacks in Higher Education), NAAASA (National Association of African American Studies & Affiliates), NADOHE (National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education) and others.

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Broad Initiative II:

Create a new tradition of Day of Understanding, Solidarity and Racial Reconciliation over the next five years to build a culture of brave, accountable, and effective dialogue about race, ethnicity, and racism.

Action Step II.1:

RIT faculty, staff, students and alums who have completed research, scholarship, or have practitioner experience related to this subject will be highlighted in this one- day conference.

  • Supporting Action Step II.1.a: Mechanisms to enhance student participation will be employed.
  • Supporting Action Step II.1.b: Strategies to enhance participation by all RIT employees will be employed.

Opportunities to learn, build solidarity and problem-solve issues related to racism should be incorporated. Updates on strategic race and ethnicity goals will also be shared. This initiative would require limited funding for tech support, potential over-time cost for non-exempt staff, food, printing, and other incentives.

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Broad Initiative III:

Continue to strengthen RIT’s connections and commitment to the City of Rochester and its people, creating opportunities (see also Pillar II, Supporting Action Step II.2.d) for engagement by RIT’s students, faculty, and staff.

Action Step III.1:

Expand RIT’s commitment to urban entrepreneurship and economic recovery in downtown Rochester.

Action Step III.2:

Work with developers and city officials to expand RIT’s downtown presence.

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Broad Initiative IV:

Convey the essence of RIT’s diversity story in all its forms.

RIT Strategic Plan, 2018 – 2025, calls for the following in Goal 16: “Create a distinctive RIT brand and develop a supporting content marketing strategy that makes use of all relevant media.”

This goal provides an opening to convey the essence of RIT’s diversity story in all its form, herein with a focus on both the AALANA and ALANA communities.

At the same time, RIT Strategic Plan Goals 2, 5, and 6 are also served and supported by this Initiative, as these three goals are focused on “continuing to diversify” our student, faculty and staff populations, respectively.

Action steps that support Initiative III include the following.

Action Step IV.1:

Expand RIT’s commitment to urban entrepreneurship and economic recovery in downtown Rochester.

Every marketing communications strategy starts with a sound knowledge of the target market. While there is a good body of work done on the general RIT student as well as academic areas of interest, there is a gap for segmented research based on race and ethnicity. Research objectives include understanding why AALANA students choose RIT, perceptions of RIT among their parents, and the persona for those who are current RIT students. Answers to such questions will help RIT create a solid foundation and framework for developing marketing communications strategies that appeal to each audience.

  • Supporting Action Step IV.1.a: Conduct quantitative and qualitative research—along with analysis of existing data sources—to understand breadth and depth of awareness and perceptions of RIT, especially among prospective AALANA students and their parents. This research will also look to identify drivers and barriers to joining RIT.
  • Supporting Action Step IV.1.b: Leverage the Campus Climate Survey (see Pillar II, Initiative II.2.a) to gain an enhanced understanding of the current climate for AALANA students, faculty, and staff—which, along with III.1.a, will create a “perception vs. reality” gap analysis.
  • Supporting Action Step IV.1.c: Utilize the above learnings to develop recommendations for and implementation of appropriate marketing communications strategies and tactics.

Action Step IV.2:

Conduct a diversity audit of RIT’s marketing communications techniques and tactics.

Conducting an assessment of the current state of diversity representation will provide an important baseline from which to determine the appropriate courses of action and resource requirements to achieve them. RIT aspires to intentionally attract more ALANA students, faculty, and staff.

This will also help ensure that all of those engaged in marketing and communications across the RIT campus have a strong and current understanding of diversity and inclusion, programmatic, and learning opportunities.

Action Step IV.3:

Enhance education and understanding of diversity and inclusion to improve marketing and communications to these audiences, especially among prospective AALANA students and their parents.

The information gained from the above Action Steps will provide the platform from which to shine an ever-brighter spotlight on RIT’s ALANA students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

  • Supporting Action Step IV.3.a: Highlight diversity stories (including diversity scholars and their research, featuring alumni of diverse backgrounds, etc.) through the four main channels of content distribution (i.e., Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned media).
  • Supporting Action Step IV.3.b: Examination of best practices at RIT as well as other universities (and other sectors) will provide guidelines, instructions, and a toolkit to help build confidence and authority for our campus-wide community of marketers and communicators.