Building CU’s Strength through Diversity



from left: Chief Diversity Officer Theodosia Cook, CU President Mark Kennedy, Host Emily Davies
from left: Theodosia Cook, Chief Diversity Officer; Mark Kennedy, CU President; Emily Davies, Host and Senior Writer

Although perhaps well meaning, many diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives have fallen short or have even done more harm than good. DEI is a top priority at University of Colorado, and CU is prioritizing what system shifts are needed to enact and sustain success. How do we attract, retain and graduate diverse students? How do we ensure that is reflected among our faculty and staff? And, importantly, how do we repair generations of racism and inequity?

CU President Mark Kennedy and Chief Diversity Officer Theodosia Cook join host Emily Davies on the President’s Innovation Podcast to discuss what it will take for a systemic shift at CU and in the larger communities to create sustainable progress for cultural change.

  • The importance of DEI leaders being at the forefront of change.
  • Individuals who have dedicated their lives to DEI research and change are the most qualified to come up with innovations and solutions.
  • DEI success at CU is represented in the students, faculty and staff and the welcoming environment on the campuses and beyond.
  • Why many, if not most, DEI initiatives fail.
  • DEI is not a situation where ‘everyone has a voice.’ Leaders need to implement DEI innovations, and allies need to offer support.
  • How a failed DEI initiative loses the trust of constituents and hurts the organization’s brand.
  • President Kennedy, in October 2020, worked with the CU Foundation to create a $5 million diversity equity and inclusion innovation fund.
  • CU Anschutz Medical Campus has initiatives underway that are moving the institution toward greater health equity.
  • Representatives in the state government are working alongside CU to gain funding for these evolutionary DEI initiatives.
  • There is great frustration around the lack of progress in advancing DEI, but across the country, many institutions have outstanding programs underway that are laying the groundwork for the future.
  • How CU is embracing these programs, replicating the best and coming up with its own initiatives to benefit the campuses and community.
  • Students, faculty, staff and alumni can support these DEI efforts by supporting the DEI leaders and looking to those who have extensive experience and research in the area for solutions.
  • Each person is asked to ensure that each person on our campuses feels welcome and valued. Each is asked to listen and ask questions of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures.

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2 thoughts on “Building CU’s Strength through Diversity

  1. As a single white, straight female, and practicing christian, I see many Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs across the country actually excluding myself and many of my fellow single white straight brothers and sisters as well as my Jewish brothers and sisters. I have had many conversations with my friends at church,and through social media. My many married friends who are both Christian and Jewish with and without children feel the same way.

    I strongly feel that Identity politics is dividing our society more than bringing it together. Labels have always sought to bring difference, isolation, loneliness and self shame. I have been reading quite a few studies of people over the years who have been very affected by this labeling and it is not a positive way to bring people up, i find it to be quite juvenile and name calling. I feel that Higher Education Institutions like CU should be more sensitive to those that they are not including. Why do you seek to ‘Change Lives’ instead enriching, empowering, and enhancing the minds and bodies of our future.

    We as a society should be celebrating our people, our family, friends, colleagues instead we are bombarded my the mainstream media, social media and politicians attacking us if we are not in the narrative of those that seek to bring attention to themselves and not to bring people together. If America is such a horrible place, then explain to me why we continue to have the largest population of immigrants than anywhere else in the world. All of my family, friends, associates and colleagues came here for Freedom, for a better life, for opportunities that their country’s did not allow them to have.

    Maybe a pause, a breath, a fresh view from those people whose voices over the last 20-50years have been silenced by the voices of those who want to change this country and our people instead of accepting people as they are.

    The World should be celebrating One Race, The Human Race.
    Lets get back to the Human Race.

  2. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community involves more than the African American, Latino and Gender peoples. It is a constant frustration to consistently read the complete lack of American Indian/Indigenous Nation peoples absent from all conversations. Denver has one of the highest, perhaps the highest per capita, Indigenous populations in the United States. UCD fails to represent its legendary Indigenous faculty and its students who attend because of the faculty members. Where are the Indigenous speakers? Gregory Cajete, Anton Treuer, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Leanne Simpson, Winona LaDuke, David Treuer, Glenn Morris, Lisa Grayshield, etc.? Where are the Indigenous voices still fighting for their violated Treaty rights, human rights, Indigenous worldview of reciprocity, and exposing the ongoing battle to decolonize and survival against genocide in 2021?

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