For Commitment to Equity Work, RWU Earns Diversity and Inclusion in Education Award

Providence Business News award honors RWU’s work to become a more equitable and inclusive institution

By Jill Rodrigues '05
Lorraine Lalli and Zoila Quezada accept the award.
Lorraine Lalli, Assistant Dean of Students at RWU Law, and Zoila Quezada, Director of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at RWU, accept the PBN Diversity and Inclusion in Education Award recognizing RWU's progress in increasing diversity and inclusion. Image Credit: Xaviea Brown

BRISTOL, R.I. – In recognition of its ongoing work to become a more equitable and inclusive institution, RWU was presented today with the Providence Business News (PBN) 2019 Diversity & Inclusion in Education Award.

The award honors RWU’s commitment to preparing a diverse population of learners to enter the workforce, promoting a diverse and inclusive environment for students and employees, and providing innovative academic programming and new employee training programs that advance social justice and equity across the university.

“This award is a wonderful validation of the work we have begun to become a diverse and inclusive institution, but there is always more work to be done,” said RWU President Ioannis Miaoulis. “In order to be the university the world needs now, we need to actively promote inclusion and to prepare our campus community to challenge societal norms and to thrive in a culturally diverse and global society. We have started to lay that foundation through expanded student recruitment initiatives and more intentional employee hiring and training practices that reflect diversity and inclusion principles. I’m excited to be leading Roger Williams as we continue to be a welcoming and inclusive place where equity matters in all that we do.”

This award honors the many partners across campus who are working hard every day to advance equity and inclusion at RWU and to ensure that our entire community is thriving,” said Ame Lambert, RWU Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. “Few pursuits are as challenging and rewarding as diversity, equity and inclusion work – it is complex, long-term, transformative and holistic. Working hard to narrow the gap between our aspirations and reality brings out the best in us as we work in service of our highest ideals. I hope this recognition provides even more momentum and motivation as we keep striving toward creating equity across campus.”

Over the last few years, RWU has created a broad range of new programs and initiatives that support students and employees of historically underrepresented racial, socioeconomic, gender and sexual identities.

Leading the way with institutional change, the university established a Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, hired its first Chief Diversity Officer, founded the Queer and Trans Student Resource and Advocacy Center, and launched a multiyear process, working with students, faculty and staff across the campus community, to develop an equity action plan.

With a commitment to developing a new talent pipeline of diverse learners, RWU works with partners in business, government and community organizations to create educational pathways, mentoring and training for women and minoritized populations that prepare them for workforce leadership opportunities. RWU’s University College established the first Gateway to College National Network program in Rhode Island, serves as the state’s largest contributor to the Advance College Network, and offers workforce development, certificates and degrees that enable career advancement for working professionals. At RWU Law, a comprehensive pro bono requirement instills in students an ethos of giving back to the community and helping underserved populations obtain legal assistance.

RWU employees who attended the award ceremony.
In addition to receiving the award, RWU faculty and staff heard a panel discussion on building an inclusive environment and the value of diversity in leadership roles at the PBN Diversity & Inclusion Summit.

For faculty and staff, RWU has instituted hiring and training policies to recruit and retain talented and diverse employees. Those efforts include outreach to engage a diverse applicant pool, the requirement that search committees incorporate equity ambassadors who advocate for an equitable and inclusive search process, and the formation of employee affinity groups, such as Employees of Color and Women in Senior Leadership. The university has also launched a Retain Grow Advance Leadership Academy, designed to build capacity of mid-level and senior management and cultivate them as inclusive leaders.

Additionally, RWU has begun offering a comprehensive diversity and inclusion training program, called Intercultural U, to many employees. And for faculty, the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows program provides a faculty-designed and led training to bring equity work into the classroom.

Students also benefit from the community and support of affinity groups, including the African Student Coalition, HALSA (Hispanic and Latin student association), Fem Society, and Jewish and Muslim student organizations.

While the work is just beginning, RWU has already seen the positive impact of these new initiatives. This fall’s incoming class is the most diverse group of students yet, with a 12 to 18 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity over the last four years. Over that same period, there has been a 33 percent increase in full-time employees of color, with 15 percent of new faculty and 40 percent of new staff hires being people of color.

By providing greater access to higher education and ensuring an inclusive workplace for its faculty and staff, RWU delivers a powerful rippling effect throughout our communities that will help create a more just and equitable society.