Weber State University is navigating toward a more equitable and successful future for students as its strategic planning to meet new goals nears finalization.
The process, which began in February 2020, set out to define the university’s priorities and goals for the next five years, identify pressure points key to the university’s future and create realistic, creative and measurable steps to success, according to university leaders and faculty that met for a virtual town hall meeting on Feb. 9.
In fall 2020, five task forces were created on the University Planning Counsel to address certain pressure points and areas of focus. One issue — equity, diversity and inclusion — has taken a front seat as the demographics of the university rapidly change to include an ever-growing number of students of color.
Adrienne Andrews, Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer at WSU, presented the official goal of the equity, diversity and inclusion task force, which is to eliminate disparities in educational outcomes for underserved students, particularly students of color and students of low socioeconomic status.
“What we have realized is that equity cannot be a pillar of our institutional commitment, it must be the framework of our institutional commitment,” Andrews said. She described equity as the “preamble” to all other mission statements, plans and strategies for the future of the university.
The task force believes the new strategies will embed a discipline of equity in all university policies, strengthen a sense of belonging and make substantial progress toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, or HSI.
HSI’s are federally-recognized institutions defined as having a Hispanic enrollment of 25% or greater and are eligible to receive certain federal grants aimed at promoting the success of that population of students. According to a university press release from October 2019, 22% of certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s and graduate degrees in that year had gone to students of Hispanic or Latino descent.
Another task force was created to revamp the university’s marketing. WSU President Brad Mortensen said the goal is to be more intentional as an institution to share stories.
The other three task forces have focused on retention and completion, personalized learning and the anchor mission of the university and build community resources.
“We really took a fresh look at where we are as a university and what our priorities are,” Mortensen said.
The five task forces and the UPC will move ahead to finalize and implement new procedures as the current strategic planning draws to a close this semester. On March 2, the Board of Trustees will review the plan presented and consider it for approval.