by Dr. Nicholas Wright, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are more than buzzwords for the Human Development Institute (HDI) at the University of Kentucky and DEI means more than just headcounts. In order to truly understand the magnitude of diversity, equity, & inclusion here at HDI, it is first important to understand what we mean when we use these terms. We view the term diversity as the presence of different identities including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, age, political perspective, etc., and this in no way is an exhaustive list. When we use the word equity, we promote justice and fairness within HDI through policies and research. Understanding equity means that we first have to understand the causes of disparities in society and ensure that resources are distributed where they are needed. Inclusion at HDI provides an environment where employees feel genuinely welcome in all processes and places. Inclusion establishes that all individuals, but especially diverse individuals feel comfortable participating and developing to reach their full potential. Understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in this way and committing to our understanding allow for the implementation of initiatives and policies to care for our employees to ensure that everyone feels that they genuinely belong and can be their authentic selves.
As Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at HDI, I aim to find innovative ways for all 340+ employees to come together regularly for a purpose. With many HDI employees working remotely, this poses a challenge, but I view this as an opportunity for us to come together through technology to all grow as individuals and as a whole both professionally and personally. Monthly Diversity Discussions were introduced to achieve this goal, which is a series of events occurring once a month focused on various topics pertaining to diversity, equity, & inclusion. HDI staff accepted the Monthly Diversity Discussion series and eagerly joined the conversation. The first Monthly Diversity Discussion was in August of 2022 and 77 colleagues happily accepted the meeting invitation. The first Monthly Diversity Discussion focused on “Diversity, Identity, & Culture of Inclusion.” This event enlightened every one of our goals to make DEI a priority, bring people together in community, and create a culture of inclusion throughout HDI. Since the inaugural Monthly Diversity Discussion, we have extended this concept of inclusion by focusing on “Cultivating a Sense of Mattering” to discuss the importance of understanding that a sense of belonging is a sense of mattering, and to highlight ways we can instill this concept in ourselves and the people we work with. The October Diversity Discussion focused on “Cultural Bias” and invited national expert Dr. Allen Lewis, Jr. Dean and Professor at the State University at New York Downstate Health Science University, to discuss the impact of bias and discrimination in the workplace. HDI has a commitment to create an environment where differences are not only recognized and respected, but also celebrated. The November Monthly Diversity Discussion celebrated diversity by sharing individual traditions and food at an in-person event. The most recent, December Monthly Diversity Discussion focused on “Barriers to Advancing Diverse Populations” at HDI. This work was guided by HDI’s two-year strategic plan, and we had approximately 60 colleagues RSVP for this event. Conversations surrounding barriers here for underrepresented groups were initiated which reaped a wealth of information. These monthly diversity discussions have achieved our goal of coming together for a purpose and growing both personally and as an institute.
We are actively coming together to find connections and work in collaboration. HDI has a committee dedicated to disability, equity, & inclusion. The DEI committee allows for support to be built and opportunities for connection. I believe we are each other’s greatest resource, and the DEI committee is actively accomplishing that goal. From the main DEI Committee, two workgroups were formed to carry out the strategic plan. The first workgroup’s mission is to recruit, develop, and retain talent having knowledge, skills, and abilities that contribute to advancing HDI’s mission, with a focus on increasing representation from diverse populations. The second workgroup will identify and address barriers reducing or preventing the advancement of underserved groups within the Institute. These workgroups actively work on the strategic plan and encourage further development by giving leadership opportunities. These workgroups also allow for collaboration and ensure that everyone understands they are active members in the decision-making process.
HDI strives for an inclusive environment and culture where all people can be their true selves and genuinely belong. Through the Monthly Diversity Discussions, and committees focused on diversity, equity, & inclusion, we strive to be a leader in diversity at the University of Kentucky and the state of Kentucky. Fostering an inclusive and diverse HDI community is crucial to fulfilling our mission: to advance efforts that build inclusive communities, address inequities, and improve the lives of all people who experience disability across the lifespan. This is the Human Development Institute’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. As Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, my focus is on DEI, but DEI is everyone’s responsibility. I challenge you to make the commitment as well and find opportunities to gain knowledge in DEI to become more multiculturally competent. Gaining this knowledge will enhance communication and strengthen relationships throughout HDI. Whether you get involved in the Monthly Diversity Discussions, the DEI committees, or any other DEI initiative, I encourage you to always find ways to gain additional knowledge in diversity, equity, and inclusion. By doing this, we can ensure that the Human Development Institute is a great place for everyone to learn, work, and grow.