Rowan’s DEI Division Receives HEED Award

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Rowan’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division (DEI) highlights how hard work can pay off in a short amount of time. 

Despite being launched two years ago, the division has already received the distinguished Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from INSIGHT Into Diversity. The award aims to recognize colleges and universities that demonstrate commitments to diversity and inclusion. Rowan joins the list of recipients that also includes Clemson University, Northwestern University, and Columbia University. 

Senior Vice President Monika Williams Shealey has led the division from the start.

“We listened to the voices of our community and then we started to build what they said that they needed,” Shealey said.

The Neurodiversity Task Force and the Law Enforcement Community Collaborative are some of the programs Shealey highlighted that have contributed to the division’s success.

“Neurological differences are normal. They’re not deficient. They’re just different . . . Our task force for neurodiversity set out to better understand what students, faculty and staff experience . . .  and what services and support do they need,” Shealey said.

Because of the work of the task force, the Center for Neurodiversity will launch in October, making it the first of its kind in New Jersey.

The Law Enforcement Community Collaborative aimed to develop programming for law enforcement agencies to implement in various communities.

“We had heard from the students early on that they wanted us to take on addressing the relationship of law enforcement with students. The collaborative includes law enforcement agencies and organizations faculty staff, as well as [the]  community. We brought all of those voices together to be able to create professional development for law enforcement agencies and organizations,” Shealey said. 

The division is not stopping there. It continues to present new programs to the Rowan community; the newest one being the Anti-Racism Task Force composed of students and faculty. 

Task force sign-ups started in the spring where over 90 people joined. They officially met for the first time this semester. The goal is to look at more than historical context and location when addressing issues related to race. The task force is also looking to develop a training program for faculty and staff to help them better understand racism and be anti-racist. 

“That task force, I think, will be something that will transform not just our campus but I think it will have implications for South Jersey and the rest of the state,” Shealey said.

The two major priorities DEI has its sights set on are ensuring that the campus is safe and welcoming to all and improving campus diversity.

“Diversity is broad, but we also know that we want to make sure that our campus reflects the communities in which we reside. Our communities are racially and ethnically diverse but our campus is not as diverse as it could be,” Shealey said.

The HEED award recognizes the hard work that the division has done, but it is also a symbol of how everyone has contributed to DEI’s efforts.

“It was the students that told the president that they needed to have someone on the cabinet focused on DEI,” Shealey said. “To be able to receive this award, it’s really like a gift to the students as well as our faculty and staff who have been working so hard to develop the programming for the division.”

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