Students, administration discuss diversity, inclusion initiatives at town hall event


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions, discusses diversity in admissions in 2015. Watson will succeed Michael Mills as dean of undergraduate enrollment and associate vice president for student outreach in April.

Peter Kotecki, Reporter

Students and administration discussed Thursday the state of diversity and inclusion efforts on campus, including the search for a new diversity and inclusion administrator, the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force and undergraduate admission at Northwestern.

The search for the new Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion is “going well,” Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, associate provost for faculty, said during the town hall hosted by the Department of Campus Inclusion and Community and other Northwestern groups.

“I can’t go into lots and lots of details since it is a confidential process, but we have attracted very exciting candidates,” she said to a crowd of about 50 people at Annie May Swift Hall.

Cathy Grimsted, assistant provost for faculty, spoke to the audience about the University’s Native American inclusion efforts.

“The task force reviewed University enrollment data at the graduate and undergraduate level, benchmark practices at our peer institutions and suggested opportunities for improving campus support for Native Americans,” she said.

University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Daniel Linzer created a Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force in 2014 to study ways that NU could augment its relationship with Native Americans, Grimsted said.

In addition to efforts made earlier this year, such as four new courses Winter Quarter that related to the Native American inclusion initiative and four additional courses this quarter, NU established a Native American leadership council this year, Grimsted said.

“The purpose of the council is to provide insight and advice for the University with respect to our research, teaching and community for Native Americans,” Grimsted said. “We invited eight Native American community leaders from local, regional and national levels.”

The leadership council will report its observations and recommendations to Schapiro and Linzer in June, Grimsted said.

Grimsted said there have been discussions with Weinberg faculty this spring about creating an indigenous research center that would focus on producing interdisciplinary research to serve the needs of indigenous populations. She said a more formal discussion of the research center will begin when Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph assumes the position in July.

Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admission, told The Daily the University strives to bring diverse students to campus through its many partnerships with community-based organizations. Watson said QuestBridge, one of the organizations NU partners with, is a great resource for the University to reach out to students who traditionally were not thinking about attending NU.

“While Northwestern has a great national exposure, it doesn’t always with some of the communities we have the hardest time recruiting, which is underrepresented students and low income students,” Watson said. “QuestBridge does a wonderful job of finding for us, so as one of the partner schools, we have access to their 5,000 names.”

Watson also said NU has been doing a better reaching out to prospective students in the Chicago area.

“Visiting 80 high schools this past year versus 20 … that was six or seven years ago, that’s significant,” he said. “Chicago is incredibly diverse, so not to have the strongest presence possible in your own backyard is really hurting us.”

Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, director of the Department of Campus Inclusion and Community, told The Daily her department is able to address more issues on campus because the department’s staff has grown.

Brown-Henderson talked about Campus Inclusion and Community’s three-year plan, which includes hiring a director of social justice education and the growth of Student Enrichment Services, which is designed to help low-income and first-generation students. Currently, SES director Kourtney Cockrell is the only full-time staff member in that area, she said.

“We would love to have a full-time program assistant — our administrative assistant in that area — and an assistant director for her at the very least,” Brown-Henderson said.

Students also discussed the proposed Social Inequalities and Diversities requirement in Weinberg. ASG vice president for accessibility and inclusion Matt Herndon told The Daily he disagrees with faculty members who want the requirement to be globally based, and believes the requirement should focus on the United States.

“The new dean is getting a lot of what he is hearing so far from the administration, when in reality, in my opinion … this is not for the faculty,” the SESP sophomore said. “This is for the students.”

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