Winning streak in diversity: FSU receives national diversity award for third year

FSU received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for a third consecutive year.

The HEED Award is given to colleges and universities that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to diversity and inclusion. The award is given by “INSIGHT into Diversity,” the largest and oldest magazine and website in higher education.

The HEED Award is the only national award that honors colleges and universities that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion. FSU is among 81 recipients and one of four institutions of higher education in Massachusetts that will be featured in the magazine’s November 2016 issue.

Sean Huddleston, chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, said the award “is seen as one of the most prestigious awards one could get in diversity and inclusion. … It is the only one for higher education.”

The HEED Award application process is rigorous. INSIGHT into Diversity looks at the composition of the institution in terms of underrepresented and underserved communities, according Huddleston.

He said, “It’s not just race. It also looks at sexual orientation, gender, income and socio-economic status” in terms of the progression of the institution overtime.

It also considers the university’s retention and graduation rates, along with the cultural climate of the institution from the perspectives of student, faculty, administration and staff.

Both academic and social programs are evaluated in the application process. Some of FSU programs that qualified the University for the award were Brother 2 Brother, a support group whose mission has been to address low retention rates among men of color in college; M.I.S.S, whose goals are to support and inspire the educational, professional and social advancement of female students of color; Widening the Circle, which focuses on establishing diversity in the curriculum; and the Center for Inclusive Excellence, which is a Brave Space created to support, promote and advocate diversity and excellence in inclusiveness. 

Chon’tel Washington, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence, said, “It’s nice to be honored and recognized in this way. There is a lot that you have to do to get this award.”

She added, “Any institution wants to be academically excellent and to do that – to really serve the population of the campus – you have to be inclusive. It goes hand-in-hand.”

Jace Williams, a junior, said, “I think [the award] is awesome because we are really working on making sure our campus is inclusive and diverse, and to have it recognized is really exciting.”

According to Huddleston, FSU plans to continue the winning streak by proceeding with its strategic plan for inclusive excellence, which launched in 2015. “We have a strategic plan that we have goals and objective and strategies each year that we look to accomplish. … It’s really a living document – we wanted it to be very flexible to the needs and growth of the institution.”

He added, “Having a very intentional effort in advancing inclusive excellence on our campus … helped us to achieve the award.”

Junior Zachariah Pierce said, “I think it’s really cool that FSU got this award. It’s really representative of some of the work that’s been done on campus in order to be inclusive of other marginalized groups. … The organizations and resources we have are incredible compared to other campuses. So, there’s still some improvement that we can make, but we definitely deserve to have this award again.”

To receive the award, the University must show ongoing advancements in diversity and inclusion across campus. The application process also allows the University to identify areas that still need work, according to Huddleston.

“It’s a very nice recognition, but not a signal that we need to rest,” said Huddleston, “We are not stopping – it’s actually more to the contrary. It just fuels our desire and need to continue on the path of growth and advancement in diversity.”

[Editor’s note: Cass Doherty is a member of The Gatepost.]