BIG RAPIDS – Ferris State University’s Chief Diversity Officer David Pilgrim presented
an annual assessment of progress toward achieving goals outlined in the University’s
diversity plan to the Board of Trustees today (April 9).
Pilgrim characterized Ferris as “excellent” in advancing its goal of creating an environment
that is positive for diverse populations; “above average” in recruiting, retaining
and graduating a diverse student population; and “slightly above average” in creating
environments for student learning that are inclusive of and sensitive to diverse student
populations. Efforts to hire and retain a diverse workforce were rated “below average.”
“We are aggressively recruiting students from racial and ethnic groups,” said Pilgrim,
who has served as CDO in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Ferris since January
2007. “Diversity and inclusion-related programming is increasing in frequency and
quality, and this programming is, in two words, more diverse.”
The assessment notes that in the past year, enrollments by African Americans increased
5.3 percent; Hispanics, 14.3 percent; and Native Americans, 15.7 percent. Pilgrim
interprets these numbers as indicators that “the Ferris student body is more diverse
today than it was in 2006.”
The creation of the International Center and the positive work of the Tuition Incentive
Program office and Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning were cited by Pilgrim
as points of pride for the University in its efforts to strengthen diversity among
the student body.
The report calls attention to 93 FSU courses that are classified as “Global Consciousness
Courses,” and 82 that are categorized as “Race, Ethnicity and/or Gender Courses.”
However, it was recommended that a diversity audit of the content of general education
courses be conducted and support provided for the FCTL’s Inclusive Classroom Initiative
which is designed to strengthen the mission of the diversity plan in Ferris classrooms.
The University’s ability to hire and retain a diverse workforce continues to be a
concern, according to Pilgrim. “Ferris is not doing as well as its peer institutions
in this area, and we must continue to make this a top University priority.”
Suggestions for diversifying the Ferris workforce include creating a University-wide
taskforce, co-chaired by Pilgrim and Fritz Erickson, provost and vice president for
Academic Affairs, to address this issue; identifying strategies to position Ferris
as a welcoming environment; working with search committees to create larger applicant
pools; and developing an “inclusion advocates” training program for employees.