How the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is working to create a more inclusive campus
Raymond Baccari & David Blais
Anchor Staff Writer & Asst. Sports Editor
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- In 2016, when Rhode Island College President, Frank D. Sánchez was appointed by Governor Gina Raimondo, he vowed to make ‘Inclusive Excellence’ an elevated expectation and priority. To do this, President Sanchez created the Office of Community, Equity, and Diversity (CED) which later became the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI).
According to their mission statement, “The mission of the Rhode Island College Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is to ensure that diversity and inclusion are active and ongoing processes that promote social justice and equity college-wide. The division provides leadership to identify, assess, and eliminate institutional inequities in areas related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, religion, social class, language, disability, socio-economic status, national origin, citizenship status, age and veteran status.”
In a meeting earlier this month, Anna Cano Morales, who serves as Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and as a member of the President’s Executive Cabinet, laid out her focus for ODEI’s work. The main points she emphasized in the meeting include:
The RIC Campus Climate Survey - The analysis and action steps as well as, the results of the survey have helped the ODEI team develop several initiatives for the Spring and Fall. These include; a Bias Response Form, ACTive Listening series focusing on Diversity themes, and the creation of the Accessibility Committee.
The ODEI strategic planning for 2021-2024, which was informed by different groups on campus, yielded three priority focus areas (Consultation and Education, Review of RIC’s policies and practices, and Accountability and Compliance).
The development of a PEC equity plan and data dashboard that will inform individual VP plans.
Actively updating and clarifying policies in regards to Title IX and Affirmative Action/Non-Discrimination.
A 2021-2024 Strategic Plan released by ODEI last September says, “The creation of this office could not be more timely as the college has seen a significant rise in enrollment of Black and LatinX students and students with disabilities.” At RIC, the population of undergraduate Hispanic students has grown by 32% since 2014, and the amount of black undergraduate students has grown by 16% during that same period. ODEI says, “RIC has the potential to fully seize and integrate our unique campus diversity and to be a leader for inclusive education and student success....Our focus is to build immediate and long-term capacities to fully engage with and serve all of our RIC community members to ensure we are living our values of inclusive excellence.”
ODEI is led by Anna Cano Morales, who is responsible for promoting and implementing the mission of the office as well as a more inclusive campus culture. In a 2017 statement requiring her hiring and the creation of ODEI, Sanchez praised her leadership experience stating, “Throughout her career, Anna has been a respected leader and champion for the Rhode Island community,” He continued, “Her extensive experience in social work and policy in Rhode Island makes her a natural fit to lead the effort to integrate diversity, equity and community into the College’s core mission, vision and strategies.”
Spearheading the mission of ODEI alongside Cano Morales are Keri Rossi-D’entremont, Assistant Dean of Students, Accessibility and Inclusion at the Disability Services Center and Margaret Lynch-Gadaleta, Director of Institutional Equity which includes both the offices of Title IX and Affirmative Action. Lynch-Galdalete “serves as Title IX coordinator and Affirmative Action Officer, and the Business Analyst supports her by conducting analyses for equity gaps and providing education, training, and outreach on issues pertaining to access, equity, opportunity, Title IX, and Affirmative Action.” Rossi-D-entremont says that at the Disability Services Center her team takes a student-centered approach. ODEI states, “The DSC is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and supporting them in achieving their academic goals.”
Anna Cano Morales, Keri Rossi-D’entremont, and Margaret Lynch-Gadaleta are all RIC alumni. Cano-Morales received her Master of Social Work from RIC. Lynch-Gadaleta graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Management and Rossi-D'entremont graduated with a Masters and Bachelors degree in Psychology from the college.
Although Cano Morales has laid out her vision for what the office has in store for RIC in the future, she noted there is still a lot of work to do and action to take.
This is in partnership with the Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion (DDI), faculty, staff and students. The RIC community all have a role to play in stamping out an unwelcoming climate and discrimination. To learn more about the ODEI, visit this link.