Systemic and Transformational Changes at Core of OIE Efforts

Office of Inclusive Excellence Staff on stairs,
Office of Inclusive Excellence (l to r): Shawn Washington, Meghan Ridgely, Kristina Poffenroth, Robin Kelley, Kristin Finch and David Gomez.

April 12, 2024
Gonzaga University Communications | Spirit Newsletter

Since hiring, then promoting, Robin Kelley to the University’s chief diversity officer in fall 2020, Gonzaga’s attention to improving its diversity, equity, inclusion and sense of belonging has taken a sharpened focus.

Through a program begun several years ago but expanded in recent years, three of the University’s underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellows have been offered tenure-track positions, signs that the program is fulfilling its prophecy to help diversify the faculty.

Last fall, Gonzaga helped orchestrate a meeting with area business and community leaders, GU faculty and staff to discuss how this community can best support Gonzaga students of color, a need reinforced in recent survey results from students and staff administered by the Office of Inclusive Excellence. Kelley also found many students and staff thought the campus climate for learning and engagement is positive. However, survey results also showed some members of the Gonzaga community did not possess a high level of feeling safe and belonging in the Spokane community.

“We have to continue to strengthen relationships and build new partnerships with many of our community members members of underrepresented groups,” Kelley says.

Over the past 18 months, OIE has crafted an Inclusive Excellence Strategic Plan to coincide with and support the University’s strategic plan and has worked with the college, each school and division in developing their own inclusive excellence plans to carry out the commitments outlined in these strategic plans related to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Kelley established the Inclusive Excellence Leadership Academy three years ago and 100 Gonzaga staff, faculty and graduate students have been educated during that span, most of who are implementing what they learned in their professional and personal lives today.

Moreover, OIE provides online and instructor- led DEI and belonging training programs such as Diversity.Edu, Bystander Education, Microaggression and Bias. OIE administers the Intercultural Development Inventory to assess University faculty and staff cultural fluency, which is both diagnostic and prescriptive, and each participant receives a development plan.

Kelley also serves as the University’s equal employment opportunity officer, helping to ensure equitable recruiting and hiring practices, as well as equitable training and promotion programs.

OIE is also where students needing religious academic accommodations can seek services.

OIE has increased staff to six, which also includes Associate Chief Diversity Officer Kristin Finch, who works with faculty; Assistant Chief Diversity Officer Shawn Washington, who works with students; Compliance and Equity Investigator David Gomez, who is charged with investigating complaints of Title IX, discrimination and harassment; Gender-based Violence Prevention Education Specialist Kristina Poffenroth; and Assistant to the CDO and Office Manager Meghan Ridgely, who coordinates many programs including Colleagues of Color, the IMPACT Group, Cultivating Community and the Inclusive Excellence Leadership Academy.

Kelley’s immediate priorities are fourfold. First, have inclusive excellence strategic action plans in place for the college, schools and divisions by the end of spring 2024. Second,
with the results of the three campus climate surveys, make recommendations for action steps consistent with the University’s strategic plan and the Inclusive Excellence strategic plan. Third, hire a new director of harassment and discrimination prevention and Title IX coordinator this summer, and a deputy Title IX coordinator by fall. Finally, implement the recommendations from the climate surveys given to faculty, staff and students and work closely with Spokane partners who serve people of color and marginalized populations to help make Spokane feel more welcoming and like home for GU community members who are from traditionally marginalized and underrepresented groups, and everyone.

In the long term, Kelley and her colleagues will focus on initiatives to bring about systematic and transformational change within the institution to foster greater diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for all of Gonzaga’s constituents.

Delve into Gonzaga's essence through 'Spirit.' Discover the heart, soul and stories of our community.