November 1, 2021
CIIS is rededicating itself to our Seven Commitments. They are what unite us, inspire us, and propel us every day to contribute to our collective good. One of these Commitments is to Diversity and Inclusion. Today that Commitment deepens.
It is with much appreciation and enthusiasm that I announce the new Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to be overseen by our, newly titled, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), Rachel Bryant!
CIIS has long recognized the importance of honoring the diversity of the world's peoples, cultures, and wisdom traditions and promoting a dialogue of difference. Embedded in our founders’ vision was consciously welcoming the contributions of all people to academic scholarship and multiple ways of knowing. Around the new millennium, CIIS took the important step to appoint Lesa Hammond as the first Director of Diversity. Over the years, others held the position: Shirley Strong; Arisika Razak; and Denise Boston, under whose leadership the Office of Diversity was formed.
In 2019, Rachel Bryant stepped into the role with an expanded vision that more could be done to evolve and improve efforts to advance social justice, equity, and inclusion. Rachel also recognized the need to account for the lived experience of specific populations, their history, and institutional context to inform this work, with funding and resources to make them impactful and sustainable.
The COVID-19 pandemic alongside the racial and political uprisings in the last year and a half have catapulted society to an inflection point: diversity, equity, and inclusion is no longer an if, a nice-to-have or even a should; it is a must — an imperative. At CIIS, this imperative will manifest by operationalizing the Division so thoroughly in the University structures that it becomes an institutional asset.
The Division’s New Charter
Previous approaches to diversity and inclusion at CIIS were low-level, intuitively driven, and defensive, as if they were a crisis to be managed. The Division will now move to a proactive position, meaning that strategies will be embedded systemically as policies and practices; they will also utilize data-driven decision-making so that the University can measure actual progress. As CDO, Rachel will hold us accountable to these institutional long-term commitments.
Under Rachel’s leadership, the Division will strive to fulfill the following strategic priorities:
- Operationalize Racial Justice and Equity: Develop programs, initiatives, and day-to-day decision-making practices and policies based on CIIS’ vision and values. Develop community relationships and partnerships that prepare students to meet the evolving challenges of our diverse communities.
- Increase Faculty, Staff, and Student Diversity, Retention, and Professional Development: Diversify representation to reflect Bay Area and national demographics and commit to creating a culture that is equitable and inclusive and a community of practitioners that are equipped with the necessary tools to be successful.
- Expand Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+, Neurodiverse, Disabled, Ecological, and Liberatory Perspectives: Collaborate with faculty, staff, and students to enrich the curriculum, pedagogy, and environment with respect to diverse scholarship, worldviews, and lifestyles.
- Measure the effectiveness and impact of the Division’s initiatives. Review and analyze institutional data that identifies needs and enables strategic action.
- Create a culture of belonging. Embed community practices based on world-wide indigenous models of relationship building, peacekeeping, trust, mutual caring, and shared accountability.
Expanding and Evolving Roles
Integral to the success of the Division is having talented and invested staff to support the new charter.
Division staff includes Assistant Director, Damali Robertson. Damali joined CIIS in August 2021 and will be responsible for increasing the sense of belonging across the community. She will also lead the Division’s communications and programming. Adriana Beltrame Dos Santos, who started in June 2021, serves as Program Manager. Adriana leads The Bridge program and a series of other Division initiatives. The Black Psychology Project, led by CIIS faculty member Dr. Adeeba Deterville and supported by Ph.D. student in Integral & Transpersonal Psychology LaTronda Lumpkins, is also part of the new Division.
The new team and structure are the first steps in a strategic direction that will lead to more sustainable momentum toward integral change.
The elevation of the Division is thanks to long-time advocacy from the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and Faculty Diversity Committee and support by former CIIS President, Judie Wexler, among others. As your new President, I too see the wisdom in and necessity for embedding the Division across the University, and you have my promise that I will champion Rachel and her team in their efforts however I can.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are CIIS values and sources of strength. Said bell hooks, “All of us in the academy and in the culture as a whole are called to renew our minds if we are to transform educational institutions — and society — so that the way we live, teach, and work can reflect our joy in cultural diversity, our passion for justice, and our love of freedom."
Let us now as a community renew our minds and work together to celebrate and support Rachel and the new Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Congratulations! Now, let’s get to work!