Updates on key Inclusive Excellence projects

August 31st, 2023, marked a significant day in the history of Wake Forest University: President Susan R. Wente and Provost Michele Gillespie shared the Strategic Framework, laying out a blueprint for how our university will be a Catalyst for Good in Society through our 2034 Bicentennial and beyond. The Framework provides Wake Foresters with various ways to align individual, organizational and departmental goals with Action Steps organized under nine Strategic Aims, and all of which are connected to one of three Thematic Goals. At the center of the framework is elevating the compelling “why” of Wake Forest University: 

Wake Foresters will embody Pro Humanitate at home and in the world. 

Inclusive Excellence is critical to the Strategic Framework, both in how Wake Forest sees itself in the present and who it will become in the future. Specifically, the Strategic Framework denotes that our institution will “continue the work needed to provide greater access and opportunity to success through equitable learning, living, and working environments.” 

More aspirationally, the Strategic Framework seeks to help Wake Forest become “a nationally recognized model for acting on our commitment to ensuring inclusive excellence as a powerful catalyst for learning and community strength.” The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) understands its role in sustaining our Inclusive Excellence endeavors while influencing who we will become. 

To this end, the following provides overviews of three key Inclusive Excellence projects in academic year 2023-24; projects that are being undertaken by various offices and colleagues beyond ODI and are grounded in the Strategic Framework.

The Belonging and Inclusion Campus Evaluation Project (BICEP):

In July, the institution contracted with Rankin Climate (rankinclimate.com) to design and conduct a university-wide evaluation on belonging and inclusion. This project is funded by the Office of the President. The effort is not seen as a “one-off” approach to evaluation, but rather a year-to-year exercise where different questions and concerns are assessed (for example, two years ago, the Office of Campus Life conducted a campus climate survey on sexual misconduct, which will be repeated in two years). Specific to this academic year, current students, staff and faculty will be provided with an opportunity to complete a belonging and inclusion survey in late January through mid-February. Additional details will be provided in the coming weeks. In the meantime, regular updates on these efforts can be found at ride.wfu.edu/evaluation-data.

The University Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (UDEIC):

In fall 2021, Dr. Wente created UDEIC to provide her and senior leaders with feedback and guidance on Wake’s DEI efforts. The Council, composed of students, staff, faculty and alums from across Wake Forest, facilitates a broad representation of perspectives and experiences. Every two years, UDEIC welcomes new and returning members, allowing for different voices to be represented. Members of the Wake Forest community are encouraged to reach out to UDEIC members affiliated with their department, interests, etc. if they are interested in sharing their perspectives on belonging and inclusion at the institution. There are also plans for UDEIC to engage more directly with the community this coming year.

Realizing Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (R.I.D.E.) ReFresh:

Three years ago this month, Wake Forest formally adopted the R.I.D.E. Framework as our mechanism for pursuing Inclusive Excellence and holding ourselves accountable for equity and inclusion. Last year, the ride.wfu.edu website was launched to further facilitate access to resources, data and recommended practices that promote multi-level goals for inclusive excellence. For 2023, R.I.D.E. has been “refreshed” to include new resources and tools. In addition, university leaders are working with their leadership teams to develop R.I.D.E. plans throughout their academic and administrative units. Please visit the R.I.D.E. website regularly to keep up with new initiatives, programs and reports related to our long-term efforts towards realizing inclusive excellence at Wake Forest. 

Although the Strategic Framework serves as the catalyst for why we are recommitting ourselves to sustaining belonging and inclusion at our institution, the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is grounded in decades of work by hundreds of Wake Foresters, both past and present. As we look to this coming year’s rollout of the Strategic Framework, the three initiatives described above – plus forthcoming engagements currently under consideration in ODI and across various administrative and academic departments — are aimed at our students, staff and faculty using their knowledge, talents and compassion to better the lives of others. That is in fact how Pro Humanitate is defined by our institution, and that is the “why” we are an institution that is a catalyst for good in our society.