This issue of Engage magazine addresses the critical need for organizations and communities across the nation to focus on being inclusive and supportive of an increasingly diverse population. At UW Oshkosh we strive for what we refer to as inclusive excellence—the fostering of greater diversity, equity, inclusion and accountability at every level of university life.
While it’s important to increase diversity in our student population and within our faculty and staff, it’s equally as critical to make the campus a welcoming and safe place for everyone. We need to foster an environment where people have the support they need to be successful. It is with great pride that I can say we not only increased the diversity within our student population, we’ve also improved the success rate of students of color and, for now, closed the “retention gap.”
For as good as that news is, we also need to acknowledge the ongoing challenges we still face. I make an intentional effort to meet with students of diverse backgrounds on a regular basis. From the students’ own stories, I’ve learned a lot about how they experience UW Oshkosh. While there is still a long road ahead of us, and that road is different depending on the student, a need for greater diversity among faculty and staff is a common concern. I know that a variety of backgrounds and diversity among leaders, faculty, staff and students brings richer conversations that ultimately lead to better decisions.
We owe it to those in the past and certainly to the generations to come to make this a more equitable and just place. We need a healthy balance of diversity of thought, diversity of race, diversity of life experience, diversity of LGBTQ+ identity, diversity of political beliefs. We must embrace all that makes each of us different so we can learn and grow from each other.
It’s like dropping a pebble into a pond. I want UW Oshkosh to be where that pebble lands. After the pebble drops, we will see concentric rings—waves that move out beyond our campus. These waves affect our economy as we bring people here to fill jobs. These waves increase our sustainability as students who come here are socially and environmentally conscious. These waves affect our social structure because they bring culture, community and ideas.
We need to celebrate our differences and ensure we never use them as a means to separate us. The more that we talk about it and the more that we try to understand each other as individuals and as groups, the better off we’re going to be.
Andrew J. Leavitt, Chancellor