Diversity efforts earn national recognition for fifth straight year


For the fifth year in a row, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has earned the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

UL Lafayette is among 103 recipients of the HEED award, which is given by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. They will be featured in the November 2022 issue. It is the largest diversity magazine and website in higher education.

The publication examines colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada for programs, initiatives and efforts that advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Recruitment and campus leadership is also considered.

“Consistent HEED recognition is indicative of our steady progress – and continual planning and work – in providing and enhancing academic opportunities and resources for underrepresented groups,” said Kiwana McClung, UL Lafayette's interim chief diversity officer.

McClung singled out several programs and initiatives that contributed to the University earning the HEED award.

Its Educating for Equity program that was completed during the past academic year is among them. The University’s Office for Campus Diversity led the campus-wide initiative. The Louisiana Board of Regents funded the program to explore strategies for inclusiveness in virtual and traditional learning.

The program brought together faculty and staff members to “think intentionally and plan for ways to incorporate strategies for inclusiveness in their classes and curriculums,” McClung explained.

She also cited the annual, weeklong “First to Geaux” initiative, which assists first-generation students – those whose parents either didn’t pursue or earn a college degree. It included awareness campaigns to promote campus departments, resources and programs for first-generation students, who are likely to come from lower-income backgrounds.

The University’s Women’s Leadership Conference was also singled out by McClung. The annual event, held since 2008, provides opportunities for leadership development that is focused on the needs and experiences of women from various cultural backgrounds.

Hundreds of people attend the conference, including leaders from education, business and public service. The 2022 conference focused on women’s health.

The foundation for the University’s ongoing work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is its Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence. The comprehensive plan sets forth strategies for developing policies and expanding resources that advance equity and inclusion.

Objectives include bolstering engagement across campus and in the community, recruiting and hiring a diverse faculty, and increasing enrollment and retention among underrepresented students.

McClung said the plan’s fundamental intent is “to guide the campus on things we need to pay attention to, as well as provide a framework to gauge how we’re doing.”

“The intent is to discover, ‘How do we engage people of different cultures and backgrounds, and how do we foster a climate of respect and valuing others and belonging?’” she explained.

For more information about INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine and the 2022 HEED Award, visit insightintodiversity.com. Learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion at the University at the Office for Campus Diversity website.

Photo caption: For the fifth year in a row, UL Lafayette has earned the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. The HEED Award recognizes colleges and universities for programs, initiatives and resources that advance diversity, equity and inclusion. Photo credit: Rachel Rafati / University of Louisiana at Lafayette