Strategic Planning for Diversity

College of ACES Academic Programs, April 24, 2014 (Abridged version)

Mission of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

Discovering, advancing, and integrating new knowledge to ensure nutritious and safe food, sustainable and innovative agriculture, strong families and communities, and environmentally sound use of natural resources to benefit the people of Illinois and the world.

Mission of the ACES Office of Academic Programs

  • To support the educational mission of the College of ACES by recruiting, enrolling, and supporting an academically talented and diverse student body.
  • To enhance the success of ACES departments as they teach, advise, and prepare students to contribute to a global society.

We achieve this mission by:

  • Successfully recruiting students for freshman, transfer, and graduate enrollment whose interests and talents align with ACES-related fields
  • Ensuring the ACES student body is representative of the myriad diversity of our state, our nation, and the world as a whole
  • Providing appropriate academic supports for this diverse population of students that continually boosts student retention and graduation
  • Bolstering the intellectual growth of students within and beyond the classroom through the provision of undergraduate research opportunities, honors programs, education abroad, leadership, and other scholastic programming
  • Intentionally promoting students’ career and professional development
  • Fostering teaching and advising expertise through the continued education of faculty, staff, and graduate assistants
  • Supporting instructional improvements, such as access to emerging technologies for teaching and learning
  • Building leadership, citizenship, and global awareness among students
  • Contributing to college affordability through the cultivation of scholarships and financial aid.

Areas of emphasis

Focal point 1: Increasing inclusiveness

Define what this focal area means to your specific unit. In addition, address how Inclusive Illinois is actually implemented and institutionalized within the unit.

The College of ACES understands that the development of a culturally competent community of faculty, staff, and students is critical. Through our policies, procedures, and practices, we seek to provide opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to fully participate in workshops, seminars, and individual discussions that promote understanding and appreciation of such differences.

How does your unit compare in findings, i.e., qualitative reports and rankings (when appropriate) to the nation, the University of Illinois, and peer units at other universities?

At 14.6%, ACES leads peer institutions in the Big Ten in the percentage of underrepresented students (African American, Hispanic, Native American), compared to 11.8% at the Ohio State University, which has the next highest percentage.

Identify your unit’s strengths and challenges in this area.

A major strength of the College of ACES is its responsivity when concerns about inclusivity are raised. ACES provides unlimited opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to meet with the assistant dean for diversity programs to share insights and concerns about the college environment.

Focal point 2: Building a critical mass of undergraduate students

  • The recruitment of a diverse undergraduate student population is a key priority of the college. The provision of appropriate academic supports continually boosts student retention and graduation.
  • The Research Apprentice Programs provides an on-campus experience to educate students about STEM in the food and agricultural sciences. This is considered one of the leading recruitment efforts to attract diverse underrepresented students among peer agricultural institutions.
  • The retention of underrepresented students in ACES programs is a result of focused efforts from our summer transition program, Young Scholars Program (YSP), specialized academic support, and enhanced opportunities for scholarly and leadership development. Of YSP graduates who enroll at Illinois, 96% earn bachelor’s degrees.  
  • A major challenge in the recruitment and retention of these groups involves consistent financial support across all four years of college.

Focal point 3: Building critical mass of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows

  • Promotion of institutional collaborations with minority-serving institutions and other majority institutions that have strong diversity goals would have the most immediate impact to build a critical mass of diverse students and fellows. Productive and cooperative long-term relationships and interactions between ACES faculty and other faculties can result in an increased pool of diverse students pursuing degrees as scientists and educators, thus more faculty and professionals holding degrees from the University of Illinois.
  • According to the USDA Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS), the percentage of minority graduate students enrolled in ACES (9.3%) is fourth when compared to the percentage of total domestic graduate student enrollment within peer Big Ten agricultural institutions.
  • A major strength of the college and the university is theirnational reputation for research, which attracts top diverse talent for graduate studies. There is a need for fellowships and graduate assistantships to attract top diverse applicants to ACES graduate programs.

Focal point 4: Building critical mass of faculty members

  • Institutional diversity emphasis through the representation of more minority and female faculty and staff is a goal of the College of ACES. Campus programs, such as Targets of Opportunity Program and Faculty Excellence, as well as coordinated searches which seek to create a diverse pool of qualified candidates for all openings, provide an important means of active recruitment for such faculty and staff.
  • The percentage of underrepresented tenure-system faculty members was 9.3% in 2013; ACES aims to increase that to 12% in 2016. The percentage of female tenure system faculty was 29% in 2013. ACES aims to increase that to 30% in 2016.
  • Institutional cooperation - especially with the CIC institutions producing minority Ph.D.’s in the food, agricultural, and related sciences as well as with selected universities nationwide - provides an important means for identifying individuals for faculty and staff openings. As we do a better job of recruiting underserved populations into our graduate programs, this will enable us to recruit members of these groups into our faculty positions.

Focal point 5: Building critical mass of all staff members

  • Increase the number of academic professionals and other staff members from underrepresented groups in all departments and units in the College of ACES so that by 2016, 12% of academic professional staff are from underrepresented backgrounds and 60% are women, and 15% of civil service staff are from underrepresented backgrounds and 90% are women.

Focal point 6: Increasing diversity in public engagement

  • College of ACES students, faculty, and staff are enriched through outreach, service, and partnerships with diverse communities. Reaching out through our various programs (e.g., experiential and community service-learning academic programs, U of I Extension, and work in public schools) that are based in underresourced neighborhoods statewide, serves to strengthen university-community partnerships.
  • U of I Extension conducts a wide variety of programs that reach out to Illinois residents, families, and communities, such as Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, Save our Urban Land, and the Spanish Language Program. In the diverse and underresourced neighborhoods surrounding the U of I, ACES students and faculty are participating in programs (e.g., community gardening projects and providing outreach to migrant families).
  • Create greater awareness and understanding among ACES students and faculty of the issues facing children, youth, and families in underresourced communities while also gaining information about available resources. Such engagement provides these neighborhoods with support and a voice where one did not previously exist.