The University of Wyoming’s chief diversity officer has been busy since she was appointed in May.
Two months after Emily Monago joined UW from Bowling Green State University, the school’s board of directors approved a five-year strategic plan that included diversity goals. She took the reigns with the mandate to craft her own blueprint to hit those specific targets by pulling comments from the campus, from the community and from a diversity council that she’s also developing.
“We’re actually down the homestretch,” she said of the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion plan. “There are a lot of components that went into it. We looked at historical documents that we have at the University of Wyoming.”
Those documents included the university’s 2007 diversity statement, which committed to advising and assisting “in the creation of an environment free of discrimination, further enhance the university’s appreciation for the contributions of diversity to teaching and learning, and secure a climate of acceptance and mutual respect for different opinions, cultures, experiences, and lifestyles.”
“There were some campus-wide meetings that happened before my position,” Monago continued, referring to other things she’s examined.
One of those meetings — in November 2015 — ended with an abrupt mass walkout of students and staff. A member of organizing group BreakthrUWYO told the officials holding the forum — including then-UW President Dick McGinity — that “it is not the responsibility of marginalized students to educate you.”
The UW walkout occurred as discussions and protests roiled college campuses across the country. The University of Missouri garnered national attention when a student went on a hunger strike and its football team refused to play over diversity issues on campus. High-level officials at the university eventually resigned.
“I think as a campus community, these are things that we need to be talking about,” Monago said recently. “These are very difficult conversations. What happens in society at large, we’re going to see them happening on our college campus.”
Wyoming has not been immune to alleged acts of bigotry. At UW, Holocaust-denial fliers were left around campus in November. At Sheridan College, at least three Native American students were the targets of racist threats.
Monago praised Sheridan College’s response by holding campus conversations and instituting quick changes.
“It helps raise awareness to campus communities at large,” she said. “As an institution, we definitely need to provide support that our students need to be successful.”
Currently, UW’s student population is 6.39 percent Hispanic, 1.14 percent Asian, 0.52 percent American Indian or Native Alaskan, 1.03 percent black, and 0.15 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. More than 3.5 percent of students are two or more races.
Monago said the university hopes to grow its enrollment by about 4 percent per year. Its overall goal by 2022 is 13,500 students. The hope, Monago said, is minority student growth will mirror that 4 percent jump. She said she has the support from the (also recently appointed) associate vice provost for enrollment, Kyle Moore.
The university’s strategic plan calls for the number of “underrepresented students” to increase from its current level of 13 percent of campus to 17 percent. UW hired its first Native American program adviser late last year.
“We have our own working plan to provide some of the detail that will help us move forward,” Monago said. “It’s still in draft so I’m not ready to go into a lot of detail without getting the OK to go public.”
She did say that she hopes to have demonstrable indicators to give officials an idea of how their diversity efforts are progressing. She said she’s had conversations with a number of organizations, students and staff. One hundred and twenty-five people responded to an online survey.
The university will also host diversity workshops next week for students, faculty and staff. They’ll be available be available to “UW faculty, staff and students” via a live-streaming service, Monago said.
“It’s really to look at ways that we can create more inclusive classroom environments,” Monago said of the workshops. “Getting some of our faculty support. When classroom conversations go into topics such as homophobia, racism, sexism, just difficult conversations, helping them have some tools to facilitate those conversations.”