Diversity is essential to excellence in higher education and beyond. Inasmuch as biodiversity is critical in maintaining delicate balances within and across ecosystems that ensure survival, diversity as a core element of excellence enhances the respective communities from which individuals come, but more importantly, it enhances the larger human condition. Despite substantive evidence of the myriad benefits of diversity, there are concerted efforts to delegitimize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) progress through anti-DEI legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. The sociopolitical climate has a chilling atmosphere, which suggests DEI is antithetical to free thought, freedom of speech, and meritocracy.

Central to the mission of higher education is critical inquiry, knowledge production, and problem-solving, which are critical to the continued advancement of society. As such, if higher education is to be a vehicle whereby we interrogate and address complex issues, it is important to recognize that our excellence as an institution is dependent upon diverse perspectives and ideas in order to achieve the collective and intended impact. Though it can be difficult to construct a shared meaning, innovative solutions often come as a result of contributions from diverse viewpoints (Sun et al., 2016). Further, in recognizing that diverse perspectives and ideas are necessary for the advancement and vitality of our society, we must also acknowledge that diverse viewpoints are a function of and connected to the lived experiences of individuals and their respective identities that shape the way they come to know and understand the world.

Through this discussion, panelists will draw upon their expertise and experience as scholars and practitioners to offer counternarratives and frame the essentiality of diversity to our collective understanding of what excellence encompasses.

Framing Remarks

Elizabeth R. Cole

Elizabeth R. Cole is a professor of psychology, women's and gender studies, and Afroamerican and African studies, and director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan. Her scholarship applies feminist theory on intersectionality to social science research on race, gender, and social justice. She is a past president and a fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Div. 9), and a consulting editor for American Psychologist. She has received the Committee on Women in Psychology Leadership Award from the American Psychological Association, the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award, and the Sarah Goddard Power Award from the University of Michigan. Dr. Cole has served as associate dean for social sciences and interim dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.


Carson Byrd

Carson Byrd is an associate research scientist in the Center for the Study of Higher & Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan. His research examines the mechanisms of racism within higher education and in broader society, racialization of science and knowledge production, and critical quantitative approaches for improving the study of social inequalities. His current work explores the impacts of affirmative action bans on the intersectional inequalities of student degree paths and experiences.


Mitchell Chang

Mitchell Chang is the interim vice provost of equity, diversity and inclusion; professor of education and Asian American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Chang’s research focuses on the educational efficacy of diversity-related initiatives on college campuses and how to apply those best practices toward advancing student learning and democratizing institutions. He has written over ninety publications, some of which were cited in the US Supreme Court ruling of Grutter v. Bollinger, one of two cases involving the use of race-sensitive admissions practices at the University of Michigan.

Robin Means-Coleman

Robin Means Coleman is a professor of media studies and professor in the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. Dr. Means-Coleman’s research focuses on the historical and contemporary presentations of Blackness in media and the role of media in shaping cultural consciousness. Attending to culturally defined experiences, geographies, politics, and performances across media platforms and genres, her analyses center on meaning production and industrial and representational systems to further illuminate interrelated discursive themes around race, identity, and belonging. Her latest book project focuses on the history of the NAACP and its media activism.

Robert M. Sellers

Robert M. Sellers is the Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology, and professor of education at the University of Michigan. His research interests include ethnicity, racial and ethnic identity, personality and health, athletic participation and personality. The meta-objective of his research has been to examine the ways in which the interaction between person characteristics (e.g., identity and attributional styles) and characteristics of the social environment (or event) influence subsequent behavior and adaptational outcomes. Both personality and social psychology have investigated this question from different points of view. Dr. Sellers' work has attempted to incorporate approaches and methodologies that are common to both of these areas of psychology as he has tried to develop important conceptual and methodological constructs that represent relevant experiences in the lives of African Americans and college student-athletes.