Skip to content
DEI: Living It, Rather Than Simply Stating It (The Documentation and Transparency to Have in Place, and How to Apply It)
Dawn GeertsemaOctober, 10, 20235 min read

DEI: Living It, Rather Than Simply Stating It (The Documentation and Transparency to Have in Place, and How to Apply It)

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has the ability to elevate and enhance higher education experiences. When people come together from diverse backgrounds with various life backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and viewpoints, it allows students, faculty and staff alike to experience a more vibrant social and educational environment.

In order to have strong DEI, your higher education institution should implement a formal and comprehensive DEI policy and appoint a leader or team to help accomplish your goals. But it takes more than that to truly live DEI, rather than simply stating it.

Need a basic, 101 rundown on DEI and what it means for your college or university? Check out our blog post on the matter.

Learn More About DEI

MicrosoftTeams-image (1)-Oct-10-2023-04-07-33-0746-PM

What Constitutes a Strong DEI Policy

To succeed, DEI initiatives need to go beyond just an idea from current leaders at your institution — they need to become a core mission or value.

According to EAB, there are four key parts that make up a strong DEI plan: define, create, facilitate and communicate.


When developing a DEI plan, first identify a vision that is specific to your campus, define your key terms and clarify what makes each important. If you have a centralized definition of “diversity,” “equity” and “inclusion,” it will make strategic goals and results related to each term easier to measure. To help all your stakeholders fully understand your plan, it’s important to illustrate why DEI is important when presenting your objectives.

You can find our definitions of DEI terms in our blog “DEI — What is It and How Do You Show It?”

By defining these terms, you will be able to better develop specific strategic objectives related distinctly to diversity, equity or inclusion.


Next, create detailed SMART goals and define the actions your institution will take to achieve them. These goals and their action items will be your road map to building a strong foundation of DEI.

MicrosoftTeams-image (2)-Oct-10-2023-03-54-17-2566-PM

As per your SMART goals, one of the most important parts of DEI is ensuring your objectives are measurable. A few important data points to collect and consider include the evolution of student and faculty demographics, academic performance, student surveys on DEI perception and training data for your staff members who have and have not gone through DEI certification.

Setting goals can help to motivate your stakeholders, faculty, employees and even students.


Of course, with any policy, simply making a plan doesn’t make it happen. You need to ensure you hold your institution accountable for following through with the plan — this cannot be done by one person alone. Groups at various levels need to have their own accountability measures in order for your DEI plan to succeed. This should include project timelines and deadlines to achieve each aspect of each goal.


Last, but not least, it’s important to remain transparent with your stakeholders on where your DEI plan’s progress sits, what roadblocks have come up and what updates you may have. Ensure that stakeholders, and the campus community, are aware that even if an aspect of the plan hasn’t been implemented yet, you have not yet forgotten.

With your plans and action items set in motion, each goal you achieve can help everyone on campus, and anyone involved off campus, to feel confident that everything is being thoughtfully and effectively implemented.

Examples of DEI Efforts

According to the United States Departments of Justice and Education, there are a variety of ways that institutions like yours can achieve better diversity in admissions, pipeline programs, mentoring and tutoring, recruitment and outreach.

For admissions, this could include a plan to guarantee admission to students from in-state high schools that graduate in a top percentile of their class. It could also include a plan where admissions considers geographic location, socioeconomic status, whether the applicant is a first-generation student and other race-neutral information to organically include more students from diverse backgrounds.

Pipeline programs are partnerships with school districts or other higher education institutions to promote DEI by increasing awareness. When your institution partners with another school, you could give informational presentations, provide mentoring, teach classes or host workshops to encourage students from your partner school to attend your institution.

Providing mentoring/tutoring, retention and support programs are also great ways to promote DEI. Your institution could do this by offering academic support to anyone enrolled and at risk of not graduating/finishing their programs, or you could go with a more selective program based on grade point averages and faculty recommendations.

For recruitment and outreach, you could consider targeting historically underrepresented school districts geographically or consider direct mail and digital media efforts to prospects with varying demographics.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has great examples of detailed initiatives and strategies in a variety of DEI categories worth exploring.

DEI Teams & Certifications

Before we dive into why your campus should develop a DEI team, it’s important to note that DEI is not one person’s or one team’s responsibility alone. Everyone needs to be involved and to buy in.

Having a team dedicated to DEI is an important aspect in holding your institution accountable for its stated goals. Your team will be critical to both enacting policy that promotes DEI, as well as enforcing said policy. They will also be crucial to identifying new opportunities for DEI policy as they arrive, in order to ensure that your programs and missions are living, scalable and evolvable. Certifications can be a great first step in ensuring you have the right team in place — consider certification of your DEI lead and as many members of your DEI taskforce or committee as is possible.

There are many certification options available, so do your own research and choose the right program for your team. But here are a couple to consider.

  • The University of Michigan offers a higher-education-specific course on the topic that is open to fostering higher education professionals into DEI experts.
  • Cornell University offers seven online DEI certificate programs covering a variety of related topics and issues. Some of these include a general certificate, one specific to HR, an Equitable Community Change certificate, Dialogue for Change and more.
  • At Purdue University, the Inclusive Excellence Graduate Certificate Program is available to help your team learn how to foster DEI.
  • Georgetown University has an Executive Certificate in Diversity Equity and Inclusions to help your team members master skills for DEI management.

 Download Our Whitepaper Here


EAB Key Components to a Higher Ed DEI Plan

Hanover Research

Cornell Certificate Program

U of Mississippi DEI examples

US Department of Education — Advancing DEI in Higher Ed