ISU announces new Office of Equity and Inclusion and 'corporate engagement' plan
Illinois State University is about to hit a five-year stretch of immense change – from the launch of a new engineering college to the long-awaited construction of a large residence hall and fine arts complex.
That’s according to ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy, who delivered her State of the University address Tuesday. Her speech focused on what ISU will look like in 2027, when major building projects like the new 1,200-bed dorm and dining center will be completed. Many of those projects took shape or advanced despite disruption from COVID-19.
“It may take half of a decade, but I believe we will begin to understand the full impact of all that we accomplished during a global pandemic,” Kinzy said.
Also during Tuesday’s speech, Kinzy announced the creation of ISU’s new Office of Equity and Inclusion.
The office will become the “center point of collaborations and creative thinking across campus,” she said. It will be housed on the third floor of the Old Union building, after WGLT vacates the space as part of a relocation to the Vidette building at Locust and University streets.
The office will come with space for meetings and funding for programming and staff, Kinzy said. It will be a “strong partner” alongside existing resources like the Multicultural Center.
“Our goal is to make sure we are accommodating in every possible way,” Kinzy said. “People that come with different life experiences, different backgrounds, races, and political points of view.”
Doris Houston, who served as the assistant of the president for diversity and inclusion since 2020, will become ISU’s first chief equity and inclusion officer Oct. 1. Houston and Milner Library Dean Dallas will conduct a national search for a new chief equity and inclusion officer – Houston’s successor – by summer 2023.
Kinzy also noted an equity, diversity and inclusion survey will be sent to students and employees to complete this month. That will build on a 2015 campus climate survey that’s informed steps up till now.
“I expect we’re going to see areas where we’re doing better than we think, and I think we’re going to see areas where we definitely have room to improve,” Kinzy said. “We’re looking forward to actually hearing the voices of every person on campus.”
Meanwhile, Kinzy announced a plan to spark more “corporate engagement” at ISU, through a partnership with a corporate-engagement strategy firm called UNITE.
“Our goal is that we help make it really easy for people to partner with us at Illinois State,” Kinzy said.
Few specifics were shared Tuesday, but “corporate engagement is strongly built on career services, continuing education, advancement, athletics, sponsorships, and all of the activities where we partner with people at corporations and small businesses.”
A “scoping study” with UNITE will help build a plan to establish “very strong strategic, holistic interactions” between ISU and businesses of all sizes, Kinzy said.
“This is a very inclusive process. So people that have an interest in this will have an opportunity to be a part of how we do this – how we plan it and execute it in the future,” Kinzy said.
UNITE is billed as a “training, consulting and technology company” that spun out of Ohio State University. It says other clients include Michigan State, Georgia Tech, and the University of Nebraska.
“At UNITE we have cracked the code on how universities activate corporate relationships,” UNITE co-founder Chris Svec said in a statement. “Our proprietary process and valuation tool were designed specifically to help universities work more effectively with industry, resulting in aligned internal teams going to business with a singular voice and increased engagement.”