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Wednesday December 7th

Journalism school announces new DEI Action Plan, student inclusivity programs

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The Hussman School of Journalism and Media released the 2022 plan of action on diversity, equity and inclusion earlier this month. The plan comes one year after the Oct. 2021 routine review of the school by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. 

Six months after the scheduled review, the council granted the school provisional accreditation status. According to the council’s standards, the University's journalism school was found to be out of compliance. 

However, the accreditation will remain while undergoing the necessary changes to regain full accreditation. 

Accreditation occurs every six years and ensures that journalism and mass communication programs are meeting established standards. UNC's program has been accredited since 1958.

According to Dean Raul Reis, the council will remeasure the Hussman School's progress in Jan. 2024, with specific focuses on the recruitment and retention rates of diverse faculty and students, transparency within governance and procedures, overall sense of community and changes or updates to curriculum.

The DEI plan 

The plan was developed through a collaborative process with Reis and other members of the school’s faculty and staff. Trevy McDonald, a professor and the director of Access, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (ABIDE) at the school, worked closely in the process, development and finalization of the plan. 

The plan aims to create a more inclusive environment by directly advising the school’s community to establish ways to measure success and appropriately respond to reaccreditation concerns.  

To increase faculty and staff retention, the plan outlines professional development opportunities for Hussman School employees. The plan will also investigate lack of diversity within existing school positions, as well as connecting with outside organizations through advanced partnerships. 

“There was a lot of input from our faculty and staff in the development of this plan,” McDonald said. “It sets very clear constituencies: students, faculty, staff, curriculum, alumni or community. And then very clear goals and then strategies for how we're going and how we're going to reach those goals.” 

Creating a sense of community within the school is also listed as one of the plan's priorities. 

In order to create a stronger sense of community, the document outlines plans to create specified ways of communication and measurement, continue elevating the ABIDE program and increasing the amount gathering spaces within the school. 

“The importance of it is to have a better environment for all of us where everybody can grow and everybody can thrive,” Reis said. “And at the same time to prepare students for a reality of the marketplace and the world that is increasingly diverse.”

He hopes the plan will increase transparency in leadership's decision-making while communicating accomplishments with staff, faculty and students.

Student impact

This spring, the plan aims to launch first-year experience programs that will enhance student experiences. The new first-year programs will encourage a sense of belonging for students. In addition to these programs, coursework is currently being developed with focus on DEI and cultural competency as well as listening sessions run by students and for students. 

The plan also includes the establishment of the Dean's Student Advisory Council. The council — established earlier this semester — is a group of students selected to work as a direct channel between the Hussman School dean and the student body. 

The Dean’s Fellows for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program is a section within the council that is scheduled to launch in the spring semester. This program will focus on increasing professional growth through identifying students with leadership potential and create development opportunities. 

Dean’s Student Advisory Council

Jade Wilson, a student pursuing a Master’s degree in visual communications, is a member of the council and hopes to see a more inclusive environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community at the journalism school. 

“From my year and a half being a part of this program, there is no trans representation in our school,” they said. “So that felt important to me to speak up on issues related to trans students.”

Along with increased LGBTQ+ representation, Wilson hopes to establish an environment where all voices can be heard and students feel represented in the classroom. 

They are excited that the dean is putting “action behind his words” by creating specific initiatives to increase inclusivity on campus. They believe that the advisory council is a strong first step.

“When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, what does that look like? And what does that really mean? And how do we actually implement that?” they said. 

Going forward

Although these programs will be implemented in the upcoming semester, McDonald said change will take time.

“Thinking about some of the things like curricular changes and updates, some of these were sort of in process,” she said. “And getting a course approved is something that does not happen overnight. So, these are some things are in process already."

Reis said that he is happy the plan became a collaborative effort between students and staff early on in the development stages. He emphasized that the plan is for everyone.

“And that's what I'm most proud of: how much people participated,” Reis said. “How much they were invested in it. And the fact that we did this in an unanimous way.”

@livvreilly

university@dailytarheel.com

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