UMass Global advancing equity, inclusion on J.E.D.I. Day

May 13, 2022

The logo for the Office of Equity and Inclusion's J.E.D.I. day, in gold lettering superimposed over a starry image of outer space.

UMass Global faculty and staff, united by their interest in improving student outcomes by fostering a heightened appreciation for why a diverse university community is vitally important, convened on Thursday May 4 to join the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) for the university's inaugural recognition of OEI J.E.D.I. Day. The university established the OEI in summer 2020, and the term “J.E.D.I.” here is an acronym for the ideals of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

“We have a truly amazing university community who offered their insight and diversity of thought,” said Dr. Jalin B. Johnson, vice chancellor of equity and inclusion while acknowledging the more than 160 people within the UMass Global community who formulated the university’s J.E.D.I. statement during an early J.E.D.I. Day segment.

“And they did so by making a commitment, a commitment to uphold the humanity of every student, every staff and faculty member, by affirming and protecting the dignity and rights of each person,” Johnson continued. "We strive to facilitate justice, and equity, and diversity, and inclusion, or as we call it J.E.D.I., through an equity-minded education, a focus on student success, equitable hiring practices, and an inclusive campus climate.”

The May 4 event, which took place in a blended format mixing virtual presentations with in-person sessions taking place at the Irvine campus, provided an opportunity for OEI advisory group representatives to share their work.

Among the updates shared during the J.E.D.I. Day event, associate professor of sociology Dr. Lata Murti said during the Faculty Equity Advisors committee presentation that the university is improving its hiring practices by seeking out job boards likely to be frequented by potential candidates who are members of minority groups.

Additional sessions spotlighted groups focused on topics including accessibility, environmental justice, gender equity, intergenerational dynamics, and LGBTQ+ equity. Presenters also spoke to the distinct experiences and needs of constituencies including alumni, faculty, staff, and students. For this last category, OEI sponsors advisory groups focused on first-generation students, immigrants, and students with military experience.

“Together, we are committed to being the champion for promoting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in all aspects of our work,” said Stephanie Herrera, a one-stop specialist who works for the Ontario campus. “Together, we can create an environment that is inclusive, respectful, equitable to employ and retain talents of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to accomplish the mission of J.E.D.I.”

Star Wars aficionados among the audience likely noticed the nod to the film franchise’s Jedi heroes and the event’s date, May the fourth, being a play on the movie quote “May the Force be with you.” Space-themed imagery and moments of epic music also added a sense of fun, even as presenters discussed serious topics.

UMass Global’s assistant vice chancellor of student conduct and compliance, Justyn Howard, for example, shared how he dealt with his own experiences recognizing and overcoming biases. Howard called on his listeners to reconsider their own thoughts and encouraged them to have the emotional fortitude to be able to trade falsehoods rooted in stereotypes for facts.

“I’m here to challenge everybody here today, everybody who is joining us via Zoom, to embrace the challenge,” he said. “This work is not easy. The consciousness of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion is not easy. It’s something that we see emerging more and more, but in order to be a well-informed, well-educated and inclusive person, you must accept the challenge, you must embrace the challenge, you must accept all the emotions that come with the challenge.”

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