| 4 minute read

Towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university

Elena Galán-Muros
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During the 2023 UIIN Conference in Budapest, we spoke with Monroe France, Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice at Tufts University, about how to champion the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across all levels of an institution, including in strategic partnerships approaches.

In this article, we summarise part of that conversation, but you can listen to the full interview in our podcast:

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Madeline Arkins:
I would like to hear more about your role at Tufts University.

Monroe France:
I am the inaugural Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice, and a Professor of Practice in our School of Civic Life, where I teach courses around global democracy, inclusive leadership, and strategic leadership. But for my full-time job – the bread-and-butter job – I am the most senior person at the university responsible for strategic efforts to create a more inclusive environment at the institution. I work with all our deans across the institution, the assistants and associate Dean’s in our schools that are responsible for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice at the localised level. What I’m hoping to do is create an alignment and a shared vision to advance the work across the institution.

Madeline Arkins:
There are many of these inaugural roles and inaugural offices for DEI, for gender equality, inclusion, all coming up in the last decades where these institutions are making either dollar or time commitment. Leadership buy-in is often said to be the foundational element to making change in these institutions. What is your perception of leadership – you being a leader yourself – and dealing with other leaders?

Monroe France:
When I was at NYU, about six years ago, I started an inclusive leadership program, mostly for that “messy middle” – middle level managers where information can stop. You have the senior leaders up there who think “this is a great idea, let’s make it happen”, but then you have the people who are in the grassroots, who are more junior employees, and they don’t see what the institution is doing. So, there’s that in the middle, that “messy middle” who doesn’t translate from the upper levels to the lower ones or doesn’t advocate up. It is often hard to get senior leaders to move because sometimes they don’t know what’s happening on the ground.

I felt like what I needed to do was to galvanize the middle, help the middle understand where they can make a difference.

Madeline Arkins:
Decolonizing universities has been massive movement, and even though learners and, in some cases, practitioners have become more diverse over the last few years and cater to a much more diverse group of people, there is often that disconnect in terms of structures and practices. How do you make Tufts more inclusive through your work?

Monroe France:
Institutions are always catching up with people. More and more learners, especially those who are in the more contemporary generations, are coming in talking more about their disabilities in ways that are much more visible than ever before. The stigma is diminishing in that population, which is disrupting our normative practices in higher education, so much so that we are having to put in public unpopular discourse, conversations around disability in real, concrete ways. For me, that is a serious justice conversation, because for us to reimagine learning how learning happens, we must be guided by the learners.

Interested in more insights like this?

You can listen now to Ian Thompson (Head of UTS Animal Logic Academy) talk about how UTS has created a ground-breaking model for their master’s program in this episode, or to Santiago Iñiguez, President of IE University, imagine what the Future University looks like and learn more about how IE University is working towards that in this episode.

Stay tuned for the next episode on this series and don’t forget to follow us on your preferred podcast platform!

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