January 2021 Annual Report of 50in5 Initiative

Impetus for 50in5

In November 2018, the 50in5 Initiative began to be birthed both out of our strategic focus to build “capacity towards strengthening the Iliff Community through increasing racial and ethnic diversity.” 

The strategic focus led us to engage in an internal assessment:

  • We looked at the internal racial and ethnic diversity of our student body, staff, and faculty.
  • We considered feedback from our accreditors.
  • We discerned conversations with students, staff, faculty, alumni, and Greater Denver metro area community leaders.

The two faculty members who continue to inform the Iliff Community’s work towards justice are Dr. Tink Tinker and Dr. Vincent Harding. In his work, Spirit and Resistance, Dr. Tinker described harmony and balance in all of creation as the fundamental goal of American Indian spirituality. In this sense, nobody and nothing are left out. He adds, “[i]n the spirit of the prayer ‘mitakuye ouyasin,’ we all belong.” Dr. Harding also emphasized this notion of belonging when he described what he envisioned as the multiracial, multiethnic, multireligious, and democratic Beloved Community. In this community, no one is a minority, because you don’t have a minority in a family.

The scholarship of both of these great thinkers have helped us to realize that we seek 50in5 as a crucial step in our pursuit of and commitment to justice. The ethos of 50in5 encompasses three symbiotic commitments:

  1. Recruiting
  2. Nurturing
  3. Sustaining

Recruiting New Students

Iliff attracts students from 44 of 50 states across the U. S. and globally. During the 2019-2020 academic year, the Enrollment team recruited new students by traveling across the U. S. to 16 states to participate in denominational conferences, social justice and LGBTIQA events, and graduate school and seminary recruitment fairs. The team also hosted 50 prospective students for on-campus visits through spring 2020.  

Members of the Iliff senior leadership, faculty, and student success staff joined the Enrollment team to quickly pivot to offering virtual information sessions and open houses in June 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to 50 prospective students from across the country and globe engaged with the Iliff community through the virtual open houses offered in June, July, and August by participating in a faculty panel and Q&A, sample classes, and student success break out sessions with admissions, academic advising, financial aid, spiritual formation, professional formation, and student ambassadors. The virtual open houses resulted in an influx of new applications for the fall 2020 and future terms. 

The Enrollment and Dean’s teams are collaboratively engaging with local and national four-year colleges and universities that serve future scholars of color to explore new academic pathways to support students’ ability to complete their bachelor’s degree at their home institution and their master’s degree at Iliff. A recent example of these efforts includes service as guest speakers for the CWC Leadership Scholars Program at the University of Denver that supports undergraduate women who identify as first-generation college students and/or students of color.

Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity

Since launching the 50in5 initiative in 2019, the percentage of the Iliff student population that self-identified as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC) was 21% in fall 2019 and 17% in fall 2020. Students who self-identified as BIPOC for the fall 2020 were from Black/African American (7%), Asian American (2%), Latinx (6%), and Multiracial (2%) backgrounds. As of the fall 2019, on average, ATS schools reflect a BIPOC student representation of 22%. Click here to access The Association of Theological Schools, Data Visualization tool for more details.

Since launching the 50in5 initiative at Iliff:

  • Black/African American and Latinx representation has remained relatively steady. 
  • Asian American representation has steadily increased.
  • Indigenous and Two or More Race representations have decreased.
  • Students choosing to not self-identify their race/ethnicity has increased.

We have opportunities to continue to increase our local, national, and global representation.

  • Our LGBTIQ+ community and faculty diversity is strong.
  • New and enhanced academic programs, new initiatives, recruitment, retention and graduation support and strategies are being developed and implemented.
  • An increase in virtual events and digital marketing as channels to reach and engage more students is underway utilizing authentic representations of the Iliff community and it’s diversity.

Nurturing and Sustaining Student Belonging at Iliff

Iliff’s goal is to nurture and sustain the success of each and every student. A sense of belonging is central to meeting this goal.  We are cultivating the skills needed to support belonging among four key stakeholder groups. In winter and spring 2020 staff completed monthly day-long Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion trainings. The monthly faculty trainings continued into fall 2020 and are scheduled through the 2020-21 academic year. The Board of Trustees continues the quarterly trainings they began in fall 2019. Finally, all Iliff degree seeking students enroll in the required 1st year, 3 term long course “Identity, Power and Vocation in Community.”  

We cultivate belonging through authentic relational engagement, embodying and enacting the skills from trainings. Some of the many kinds of actions that happened in calendar year 2020 include:

  • Faculty enhancement of course syllabi to engage perspectives omitted in the White, European canons of our various fields
  • Faculty working flexibly with individual students in response to the complex factors influencing their success in courses
  • Groups of Faculty of Color meeting with groups of Students of Color for problem solving and encouragement
  • Significantly increased outreach by Academic Advisors, Financial Aid, and the Academic Dean to individual students dealing with crises in their community, organization, or home
  • A wide variety of programming across the school beyond courses, including events created by the Student Senate, the AI Institute, the Office of Professional Formation, and Spiritual Formation. These events have been designed as interactions between participants around a topic, rather than as lectures.

We’ve gotten more creative, finding multiple ways to express and deepen belonging even while we are distanced.

Employment

Our Academic Dean led the way here in guiding job descriptions for two new hires in 2020 that target specific combinations of skill sets needed in the faculty. She worked with the AI Luce Grant and with the Louisville Post-doctoral Fellows Program for immediate funding of these positions.  Faculty racial and ethnic diversity increased to 45% in fall 2020.

Our Chief Operating Officer and Human Resources Director has guided every staff search to advertise new openings in venues with the purpose of yielding a diverse pool of highly qualified candidates. These searches are also designed and facilitated to ensure the equity of the interview process. Our staff racial and ethnic diversity in fall 2020 was 27.5%.

Conclusion

The 50 in 5 Initiative is a process of transformation for our school, for the sake of the human community. It is taking time. It is making progress, progress that will be sustained. Together, we are creating, nurturing and sustaining a form of belonging that is meaningful to all.

This report was prepared by:

Caran Ware Joseph, Chief Operating Officer and Human Resources Director

Rev. Dr. Cathie Kelsey, Dean of Chapel and Spiritual Formation

Dr. Stephanie L. Krusemark, Vice President of Enrollment Management


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