A New Partnership in Diversity

“At the core of our work is a desire to make a difference in our society through impacting the way higher education responds to its role to serve the public good.” – Betty Overton, Director for the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good 

The National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good and the National Center for Institutional Diversity—both located at the University of Michigan—have agreed to a new level of partnership to include strategic collaboration, joint sponsorship of events and programs, and the development of funding proposals to support  work shared between the two organizations. This partnership will largely focus on the areas of higher education access and success for immigrant and undocumented students, and leadership for diversity in higher education.

Since its founding in 2000, the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good has worked to demonstrate the ways in which higher education serves a greater public role. It has recently focused some of its work on higher education’s responds to supporting underserved and minority groups, and the institutions that serve them. Led by its Director, Professor Betty Overton, the National Forum works to encourage people to frame college education as not only an access point for a career, but as a resource for the greater good of society.

Historically, the University of Michigan has distinguished itself as a pioneer in diversity. This commitment by the University to affirm the central value and undeniable importance of institutional diversity to the mission of all colleges and universities was the seed in creating the National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID). Since its establishment in 2006, NCID has centered its priorities on offering empirical context for diversity efforts, linking diversity to measures of meaningful participation, and acknowledging the discourse that surrounds higher education and using it as a principal means through which diversity can be understood, interpreted, and advanced.

With the 2013 appointment of NCID’s current Director, Professor John Burkhardt, the center has been successful in building partnerships across the UM campus and has  started to establish a network of scholars in other institutions who are studying diversity issues. They have begun to decentralize the diversity agenda by engaging  other schools and colleges, and promoting innovation across the university. The NCID strategic plan emphasizes  leadership development, national partnerships, and communications, and acts as a mechanism used to reassert the importance of diversity in the mission of higher education. As such, the recent partnership with the National Forum is an essential stride in the journey to further the diversity narrative.

One of the first steps taken in advancing the shared work will be the expansion of the uLEAD network, a web based utility that provides up-to-date information about issues affecting undocumented students in higher education. The uLEAD network was established in 2012 through a grant from the Ford Foundation. In addition to the expansion of uLead, the National Forum and NCID staff will collaborate  in supporting several leadership for diversity efforts, including programs with the American Council on Education, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, and the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance.

This partnership will advance the realization of goals long held by each of the two groups. The National Forum will  be providing support and technical assistance to NCID’s work in leadership development,  contributing research from its evaluation of related programming in minority serving institutions and building on institutional case studies.  Together, the National Forum and NCID will work to support a communication effort geared toward higher education leaders who are pursuing commitments to diversity and inclusion.

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