Diversity, Inclusion, Access
In this long-overdue historic moment, businesses and institutions are publicly pledging to root out and dismantle practices that have systematically disadvantaged people of color.
But at Walden University, the focus is on building. Recently announced diversity initiatives add new purpose and dimension to the university’s long tradition of inclusiveness. For 50 years, Walden has been providing underserved populations with access to quality higher education.
“We were founded to serve working adults at a time when no one else did that,” says Ivanie Bronson, Walden’s chief diversity officer and vice president of human resources. “We focused on serving women at a time when most institutions of higher education did not. We focused on serving African American students—all minority students—at a time when they were not the focus of institutions providing quality higher education. So, the very nature of who we are, and how we’ve come to be, is founded on this mission of access, which is all about diversity.”
Bronson points to university data to illustrate Walden’s tradition of access and inclusion: More than half of Walden students are minorities; three-quarters are women. According to the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates, Walden is No. 1 among 377 accredited U.S. institutions for awarding doctorates to African American students. The university is No. 1 for awarding doctoral degrees in public administration and social service professions to Hispanic students, and for awarding graduate degrees in multiple disciplines to African American students, according to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
“When you graduate women and minorities with master’s degrees and PhDs, you put these underserved populations at an advantage for having a seat at the table where policy decisions are made. And that’s a legacy of our mission of diversity as well,” she says.
Bronson joined Walden as the human resources VP in 2019, after almost five years as executive director of human resources for Laureate International Universities. She stepped into the role of chief diversity officer earlier this year. In June, Bronson wrote Walden faculty and staff to share a multistep plan for improving diversity and inclusion throughout the university. These actions include:
- Increasing efforts in hiring, developing, and advancing a diverse workforce. Efforts will include ensuring collaboration across Walden’s footprint, respecting unique differences, and having diverse voices driving decision-making in leadership.
- Hiring a director of diversity and inclusion, who will report directly to human resources and serve as a critical leader on the HR team. (The job has been posted; Bronson encourages all who are interested to apply.)
- Developing a required diversity training program for all leaders, faculty, and staff. This training program will focus on advancing an inclusive culture throughout the university community.
- Partnering with Dr. Sue Subocz, Walden’s provost and chief academic officer, to ensure the university’s classroom environment provides a safe, civil, and open forum among people of different cultures and backgrounds—one that is respectful of all points of view.
“As Paula Singer, CEO, stated in her message last week, we are going to advance the civil discourse throughout our university—starting with faculty and staff,” Bronson says. “To do so, we need to have shared information, knowledge, and language on these critical topics.”
Bronson says these actions, though just a beginning, will further Walden’s goal of advancing “Education for Good,” for all.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about Walden, which has been so authentic in this space since its inception. There’s something very true about rolling up your sleeves on the ground in the communities that you serve,” Bronson says.
“To do the hard work of teaching social workers and teaching psychologists, and all the nurses and first responders that Walden teaches and graduates year after year … I think that’s really amazing. And I think that’s something that should be celebrated, and especially in a time like this. Because when everyone goes home and when the protesting is over, Walden will still be there, in the community, serving underserved populations and providing access to communities that would normally not have access.”