Letter from Humphrey School Administration on Equity and Diversity

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs dean, associate dean, and assistant dean distributed the following letter to students, staff, and faculty on September 6, 2016. 

Dear Student, Staff, and Faculty Colleagues:

As we begin the school year, you are receiving a great deal of information about School programs and priorities, and key issues involving our community.  

That is as it should be, especially as we want new students and staff to be aware of the breadth of activities in which Humphrey faculty, students and staff are engaged.

With all this in mind, we'd like to take a few moments to write about efforts at the Humphrey School to address a range of issues surrounding the public discussion of equity, diversity and inclusion.  A comment on our efforts seems particularly appropriate at this moment in history.  Over the past several months, events—often tragic events—in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and beyond have intensified the public discussion of critical issues that go to the core of the mandate of a school of public affairs, whatever one's philosophical, political or partisan perspectives.  In short, how do we most effectively promote an inclusive society that celebrates diversity, encourages civil discourse and tolerance, and advances hope and opportunity for its citizens?  

 It is a great source of satisfaction for us that faculty, students and staff at the Humphrey School are so deeply involved in these questions, within the walls of our School and in the community beyond.  What follows is a summary of some of these efforts, all of which stem from our School's mission to inspire, educate and support innovative leaders to advance the common good in a diverse world, and we look forward to the engagement of new members of our community.

Introduction: Scholarship, teaching, and service on issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion: 

The breadth of the scholarly and other work of our faculty focused on these critical issues is far too extensive to summarize here. Throughout the year we're confident that each of you—faculty, staff, and students—will have opportunities to learn about and help shape our School's substantial research and engagement relating to equity, diversity and inclusion.  For starters, you can explore these themes on the People and Research page of our website.  In addition, you can monitor regular updates on research and engagement on our Homepage

We also thought we'd draw to your attention a number of specific efforts underway within our institution.  We highlight them not because our School sets the standard for the promotion of equity and diversity in graduate education, but rather because we believe we have generated important momentum for this work and that our collective commitment and focus is essential to us becoming a model for responsible practices in higher education.  

 The Humphrey School Diversity Strategic and Action Plan (2012-2017):  

Our Diversity Plan was developed with contributions from over 120 Humphrey School stakeholders and continues to guide our School-wide and mission-focused efforts related to student and staff recruitment, retention, professional development and community engagement.  While it will soon be time to review and update this five-year plan, the core goals remain timely and we encourage you to review them.

Organizational opportunities for all of us to engage in equity and diversity work at the School: 

1. The Humphrey Diversity Committee will be co-chaired this year by David Wilsey and Pepe Wonosikou, with transitional guidance and encouragement from last year's co-chairs Kathy Quick and Joel Mixon. Here's a brief summary of the charge for this student, faculty and staff committee:

The Diversity Committee is responsible for generating discussion and initiatives that value and actively promote diversity, which is defined by the University of Minnesota as follows:

It is our responsibility as an institution to serve and support the following individuals and groups at the University of Minnesota:

• American Indians and other indigenous populations
• People of color, including underrepresented groups and new immigrant populations
• People with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities
• People who identify as women
• People of various gender and sexual identities and expressions
• First-generation students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

We must also address issues of access and climate for individuals who might encounter barriers based on their religious expression, age, national origin, ethnicity, or veteran status. Furthermore, we recognize the importance of working with people who claim more than one of the above identities (University of Minnesota Office for Equity and Diversity).

The work of the Diversity Committee is guided by the objectives and strategies outlined in the School's Diversity Strategic and Action Plan. Further, the impact of this group will be measured by the metrics outlined in the Plan.

Stay tuned for updates and invitations to participate in the efforts of this group, and please contact Dave or Pepe if you have particular recommendations for the work of the committee.

2. Our newly formed Schoolwide Neighborhood Engagement Committee will be chaired this year by Stephanie Haddad and will focus on promoting partnerships and engagement with our Cedar Riverside neighbors.  For those of you new to the School, we hope you will take the time soon to learn about this remarkable and culturally rich neighborhood and explore with us how we might be fully engaged as partners in ensuring the neighborhood continues to thrive.  

Here's a brief description from the city of Minneapolis website: 

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is named after the intersection of the two main avenues of the neighborhood, Cedar and Riverside. The neighborhood is triangular-shaped with three definitive boundaries: the Mississippi River on the east side, Interstate 94 on the south side, and Interstate 35W on the west side. Cedar-Riverside‘s history is nearly as old as Minneapolis'. In the late 1890s, the neighborhood was known as "Snoose Boulevard," with a thriving community of Scandinavian immigrants, many of whom worked in the milling and lumber industries on the Mississippi River. In the 1960s and 1970s, Snoose Boulevard turned from a quaint neighborhood to a beehive of hippies, intellectuals, actors, artists and musicians. Today, the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood boasts the largest community of immigrants in the Twin Cities and is home to the largest Somali immigrant population in the United States.  

3. Humphrey School Student Organizations, including the Humphrey International Students Association (HISA),  Humphrey Students of Color Association (HSOCA), Humphrey Association for Disability and Mental Illness (HADMI)  and the Public Affairs Student Association (PASA), all offer fora for students to be actively engaged in shaping and driving equity and diversity initiatives across the School.  We urge students to be engaged in leading and advancing the impressive work of these organizations.

4. Courageous Conversations brown bag lunch series.  Last year we hosted two 2-day workshops entitled Beyond Diversity: Courageous Conversations about Race.  The workshops were attended by over 200 Humphrey faculty, staff members and students and focused on helping us better understand how to engage productively in discussions about race.  In followup, this academic year we will again host semi-structured lunchtime brown bag conversations where anyone in the School community (whether or not you attended the workshop) can gather to practice the courageous conversation framework for discussing public life issues that are often contested and difficult to talk about.  Based on last year's conversations, you can expect to discuss issues or events that typically emerge at the intersections of contested (or politically charged) practices, policy and beliefs relating, for example, to community policing and race, free speech, immigration policy, political beliefs and gender, community development and cultural traditions.  

Watch for an email invitation to our first lunchtime conversation later in September or early October.

Policies and practices to guide equitable practices across the Humphrey School

In recent years, we've developed and endorsed specific guidelines as recommended in the 2012-2017 action plan and that we believe will help us to meet diversity and equity objectives we've long identified.  In particular, we call your attention to these guideline documents approved by the School last year.  Each is attached here and we urge you to familiarize yourself with them: 

1. Guidelines for recruiting faculty and staff candidates from a diversity of backgrounds

Brief summary:  These guidelines are intended to align with our overall personnel policies and serve to guide all aspects of hiring in order to ensure the most diverse and highly qualified applicant pool possible.  Guidelines are included for writing position descriptions, advertising positions, recruiting, selecting a hiring committee, candidate interviewing and hiring oversight. 

2. Equity and Diversity Guidelines for Developing Humphrey School Event Programming

Brief summary:  One of the Humphrey School’s five mission-focused goals is to ensure diversity of people, thought, and experience in all areas of the School’s work. These guidelines help ensure the Humphrey School is hosting events that include speakers from diverse and underrepresented populations and ensure events are fully accessible to all audiences.

These guidelines, and the articulated commitments they are designed to reflect, matter.  In terms of faculty recruitment, for example, we have made progress, though much more is necessary.  Since 2011, the School has completed eight searches for tenure-track and tenured faculty.  In six of those searches, we have had applicants of color as finalists, and four persons of color are among our eight recently hired faculty members.

The Humphrey School as a purchaser of goods and services  

In February, 2016, University of Minnesota President Kaler sent a campus-wide letter urging support of and compliance with the UMN policy on Targeted  Business, Urban Community Economic Development, and Small Business Programs.  In the memo President Kaler wrote: "The University must play an active role in the economic development of diverse businesses. By strengthening such businesses, we also strengthen the community in which we all live and work."

We take this practice very seriously and, in fact, endeavor to use the University's Targeted Business Directory when contracting for most all of the event catering, services, and materials purchased by the School.  As stated on their website: The Targeted Business Directory is intended to increase the University's utilization of business enterprises owned and operated by women, minority and/or disabled persons (WMDBEs). To ensure that all vendors are of the highest quality and meet the University’s definition of Targeted Business, each registered vendor must be certified by a University-recognized Targeted Business Certification Agency.

Over the past six years the Humphrey School has been recognized three separate times with a $10,000 award for its commitment to working with businesses owned and operated by people of color, women, and people with disabilities.  Each year the award is given to the University School or Department with the highest percentage of contracts going to these targeted businesses in our community.  We intend to continue building awareness of—and commitment to—this proud tradition, and we urge you to share that commitment in your work as part of this School Community.

The Humphrey School and the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Program

After a nationwide competition among a number of public policy schools, the Humphrey School was selected last year to host the national office of the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program, a nationwide effort to increase diversity in the public affairs profession through specialized training programs for undergraduates. We were delighted to be selected, and we believe this new set of responsibilities underscores our obligation to more substantial efforts to ensure that our School population reflects the changing character of the community outside our doors. In the summer of 2017, we will join Berkeley, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and Michigan in sponsoring a summer PPIA training institute for undergraduate students from around the country.

Recruitment of students from historically underrepresented groups

We have increased our efforts to recruit students from underrepresented groups.  In the last two entering classes, some 19 percent on average have been domestic students of color, a significant increase from prior years. We have a higher percentage of students of color in our mid-career programs than in our other degree programs, and we are eager to increase the percentage of students from underrepresented communities in all of our programs.  

In closing, and as we noted in a message to the School community earlier this summer following the tragic violence in Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge and Dallas, we are a public affairs school that honors the legacies of Roy Wilkins and Hubert Humphrey, a school community shaped by the extraordinary talents and commitments of our staff, our students and our faculty.  We have so much to offer the public that we serve, and we look forward to working closely and collaboratively with you in the months and years to come.

Kind regards,

Eric Schwartz, Dean
Laura Bloomberg, Associate Dean
Stephanie Haddad, Assistant Dean


Office of the Dean

Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Office of the Dean
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455