An aerial view of the Anderson Student Center, John P. Monahan Plaza, and the fountain.

September Update on the Action Plan to Combat Racism

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work by students, faculty and staff has continued across campus over the summer months, bringing to life the university’s commitments in the Action Plan to Combat Racism.

A continually updated list also can be seen anytime by St. Thomas community members on the President’s OneStThomas page.

Kha Yang begins as AVP of Inclusive Excellence

Kha Yang began July 15 as St. Thomas’ first Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, a crucial leadership role that will guide the university’s ongoing journey to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

Kha YangYang is a first-generation Hmong American and a former refugee from Laos with a commitment for social justice work. She brings more than 20 years of experience as a campaign organizer, human rights investigator, equal employment opportunity consultant and inclusive program developer. After getting to know St. Thomas, she aims to collaborate with individuals and groups across the university to develop a shared vision and further implement St. Thomas’ Action Plan to Combat Racism. Yang reports directly to President Julie Sullivan.

“Kha brings an outstanding range of experience and knowledge in mobilizing individuals and organizations,” Sullivan said. “As St. Thomas continues on its journey to becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university, we welcome Kha’s leadership and look forward to her contributions in supporting our collective development.”

Yang will host a lunch hour Inclusive Excellence Drop-in on Sept. 25 in the Anderson Student Center, located in the Father Dorsey Way on the second floor from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Enjoy appetizing refreshments and engage in short conversations with Yang and other community groups about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across campus.

DiversityEdu training

Student Affairs implemented DiversityEdu for incoming first-year students. First-year students were engaged in small group conversations about inclusion during Welcome Days led by 34 staff and faculty.

The DiversityEdu course is based on social science research and teaches skills for understanding the impact of unconscious bias, language and behavior. This course helps participants understand how they can contribute and get the most out of their St. Thomas experience and any diverse community they may choose to live, learn and work in. The goal of the program is to help participants develop, enhance or build upon their personal skills for an inclusive culture. Learn more about DiversityEDU here.

ThreeSixty Journalism's busy summer

ThreeSixty Journalism, a College of Arts and Sciences high school journalism program that trains and supports the next generation of diverse thinkers, communicators and leaders, had another full slate of six weeks of camps this summer. Those included News Reporter Academy, Digital Audio Storytelling Camp, TV Broadcast Camp and Radio Broadcast Camp.

Check out the incredible stories students produced with professional media partners during TV Broadcast Camp and Radio Broadcast Camp.

SEED continues growing

Dozens of faculty and staff members took part over the summer in the university's second cohort of Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED), a peer-led professional development program that creates conversational communities to drive personal, organizational and societal change toward greater equity and diversity. The university also invested in several more employees being trained as SEED facilitators, which means going forward more cohorts can be offered.

“It is really a model about how to engage in a conversation about all of the things that make us different, the types of oppression people experience and the need to create systemic change,” said Michelle Thom, associate vice president for human resources. “It’s about giving schools and campuses a model through which they can have these critical conversations.”

Check out the Newsroom story about last year's first cohort; the three 2019-20 cohorts are forming and will be meeting throughout the school year.

Summit on Inclusive Learning

Nearly 50 faculty members attended the Summit on Inclusive Learning, a full day of programming on Aug. 27 hosted by the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs office and the Center for Faculty Development. Course topics including diversifying your syllabus; creating accessible course documents; unpacking the promise of embodies, culturally sustainable pedagogy; creating inclusive graduate programs; and learning from White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

Student Affairs

120 students participated in the inaugural LEADR retreat in August.

Many initiatives and efforts continued throughout the summer within Student Affairs, including:

  • Hiring a multicultural counselor, Phil Rosier, who is dedicated to outreach efforts working with Student Diversity and Inclusion Services and has experience with racial healing and trauma.
  • Residence Life has launched a “Hate Has No Home Here” campaign in the residence halls.
  • First-year student orientation was changed so that small group discussions were focused on the convictions of our university. Students reflected on their own values and how their values fit with our convictions.
  • Parent orientation was also adapted this year. Parents had a session focused on the convictions of St. Thomas and how the work of various departments (Campus Ministry, Dean of Students, Center for Well-Being, and Student Diversity and Inclusion Services) is framed by our university convictions.
  • Student Affairs also hosted 120 student leaders for a “Leadership for Equity And Diversity Retreat” this summer, focused on diversity, equity and anti-racism.

Faculty focus

Faculty Development Summer Seminar in June focused on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL principles and guidelines offer faculty strategies and best practices to build inclusive classrooms that support all types of diverse learners among today’s college students.

Two new resources were developed this summer and made available to faculty:

  • Suggested syllabus statements that include bias reporting and Title IX statements and provide resources for faculty to develop their own Inclusive Excellence Statements:
  • A Critical Incident Toolkit, with materials to support faculty conversations in response to challenging campus incidents (or local/national events):

Several new steps have been implemented to enhance diversity in the hiring of faculty, including:

  • Required anti-bias training for all search committees
  • Designation of one search committee member to serve in role of diversity advocate for the search
  • Expectation that departments will include a department-specific statement of commitment to DEI
  • Faculty Advancement development of materials to help departments form long-term strategies for building and broadening candidate pipelines for future searches

During New Faculty Orientation in August, new full-time faculty completed the “Preparation for Day One” workshop, which is the foundational workshop for certification in the Inclusive Classroom Institute.

Human Resources efforts

Several initiatives have started and continued over the summer from Human Resources, including:

  • Posting majority of jobs externally
  • All postings including language on our commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Search committee kickoff including training on diversity and inclusion
  • Candidate pools and interview pools reviewed for diversity
  • Diverse candidates added to interview pools
  • Minimum of one diversity-related question in interviews
  • Reviewing job profiles for noninclusive wording
  • Promoting “mission-based” hiring versus “fit"
  • Redesigned jobs and careers page
  • Developing training on writing inclusive job profiles
  • “Post-mortem” on recent hires to identify points at which bias enters the search process
  • Mandatory Managers’ Forum on Recognizing and Responding to Bias, which 284 attended
  • Revamping affinity groups
  • Piloting blind resume screening in Innovation & Technology Services
  • Networking opportunities for employees and alumni of color
  • Facilitated staff of color World Café
  • Developed and implementing online diversity and inclusion training for faculty and staff


Several changes have taken place through Admissions, including:

  • A new design around the office's physical space in the Murray-Herrick Campus Center, designed to be more welcoming and inclusive.
  • A more diverse pool of Tommie Ambassadors students.
  • A first-year class on track to have representation for students of color.
  • A new partnership with Chicago Scholars, an organization that helps to launch academically ambitious, first generation college students from under-resourced communities in Chicago.
  • A new fly-in program will allow students associated with a community-based organizations to have 100% of their flight reimbursed by St. Thomas when they come for a visit to campus.

Departmental initiatives

Several departments across campus have begun and continued initiatives over the summer months, including:

  • Marketing, Insights and Communication hosted two sessions with external training organization Team Dynamics, focused on Identity and Culture and Conflict Communications. MIC's Representing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion With Integrity group also created a feedback form within OneStThomas so community members can share their thoughts on anything they see out of the department.
  • Innovation and Technology Services (ITS) built on its creation of an equity committee and department-wide completion of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The equity committee began working with St. Thomas alumnus Joelle Allen, who runs a consulting company that focuses on workplace diversity and inclusion; in June, Allen led a half-day session on the IDI that allowed us to focus more specifically on race and privilege.