It was a Tuesday afternoon in January, and “[i]deas and excitement bounced off the walls of the Rogel Ballroom in the Michigan Union,” as evocatively described by the Michigan Daily. Okay, to be accurate, the ideas weren’t bouncing off the walls: they were handwritten on hundreds of index cards and pinned to large bulletin boards. But the excitement was definitely bouncing off the walls!
It was the DEI@LSA event: “Celebrate & Inform the Future of DEI in LSA.” At the event, we recognized the completion of LSA’s first five-year plan that focused on improving our culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion—and some of the exceptional work that LSA has done in this area. In four inspiring “lightning keynotes,” faculty, staff, and students shared what DEI work can look like in classrooms, labs, workplaces, and community gardens. And then people stayed to eat together, laugh, share stories on video, and write down their hopes and expectations of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the college in the coming five to 10 years. Here in the dean’s office, we have transcribed all these cards because we know that the best ideas come from everywhere. We are listening.
Let me share two quick examples of those successes. The LSA Laptop Program provided computers to undergraduate students with financial need. Many students cannot afford such an essential tool. The program was so successful in LSA that the university expanded it to cover students in all of U-M’s schools and colleges. “I’m ever so grateful for this laptop, and it truly lifted a lot of burdens off of my and my family’s shoulders,” one student said of the program. And the Kessler Scholars Program created a supportive community and wraparound support for first-generation students in LSA. Because of the unique pressures they experience, first-gen students graduate at much lower rates than their continuing-generation peers—it’s an educational crisis. But the Kessler program closed that gap in just four years. And the program has now expanded from LSA to 16 other universities across the country.
It was gratifying to celebrate DEI successes like these. They are essential to our excellence, and to our mission. At a time when the value of work like this is being questioned, or even outright attacked, it is clear to me that we are a stronger community for welcoming in more people and helping everyone thrive. To be honest, we still have much more to do to reach this goal—and that is why we’re working so hard on this.
Next up is “DEI 2.0,” the next phase of planning, which presents a chance for us to expand the ways that we incorporate DEI values into our instruction, research, hiring, recruitment, and retention.
Something that stands out to me about our event is that more and more people throughout LSA see DEI as a shared responsibility. Our university and college leadership have been clear that this is a job for all students, faculty, and staff, and I could see at the event our community embracing this charge. More than anything else, that gives me hope and confidence that in the long run, and despite obstacles, we will succeed.
Anne Curzan, Dean
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
“Receiving an LSA scholarship was the life-changing sign I needed that I truly belonged and would be valued at the University of Michigan.”
—Nur Muhammad Renollet, LSA Class of ’25
A high school internship at U-M introduced Nur to his passion for biomedical research. Now he’s an MCDB major in LSA pursuing a career in cancer research. Your generosity creates new opportunities for learning and innovation and allows us to maintain our deeply held values of exploration, common good, and inclusion. Help LSA meet the moment by making a gift today.