Our students’ pathway is guided by a community of diverse mentors, the opportunity to reflect on their identity and interests, and a sense of being welcomed and accepted.
One way Furman fosters belonging is by creating a sense of community at a critical transition time in a student’s pathway, their first year. This spring, the university broke ground on a comprehensive renovation of the South Housing complex that will include building a new residence hall and updating four others devoted to first-year students. This residential village will offer new personal, social and learning spaces for students to connect with faculty, staff and one another, setting students’ trajectories for success. The design will also provide abundant space for the Center for Inclusive Communities, which will move from the Trone Student Center, to grow initiatives and programs that promote student success through inclusion.
Like every year, the past year’s campus programming brought rich opportunities for students to develop their empathy, curiosity and understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. One Cultural Life Program, “Breathing New Life into Old Treaties: Contemporary Enforcement of Native American Treaties,” examined the U.S. government’s legal interactions with Native American tribes. Another CLP offering was a yearlong series under the theme “Women and Gender in World History.” Students also explored historical sites in Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, during a visit to the Civil Rights Trail. In the spring, students attended presentations such as “Beyond ABCD: A Desi American Story,” “Creating Home on Both Sides of the Pacific Ocean: The Archeology of Old Chinatowns & New Villages” and “Voices of Africa,” in which African students presented on the distinctness of their homelands.
A May Experience course on the “Seeking Abraham” tour gave students a deeper awareness of Furman’s connection to slavery and the legacies of racism. The course was one recommendation of Furman’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice, which created a report and recommendations to tell a fuller, more accurate history of the university and to recognize the contributions of Black Americans to Furman’s founding and success. Among many other recommendations, the task force’s “Seeking Abraham” report called for renaming or placing contextual signage at campus sites.
Where we are, where we aspire to be
In fall 2021, Furman conducted a campus climate assessment to measure the university’s progress in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and to support the university’s broader goal of inclusive excellence. Climate surveys help universities understand perceptions and perspectives of an academic organization and the degree to which students and employees feel a sense of engagement and belonging.
Anita Davis, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Trinity College, led the assessment, while the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium administered the survey. Davis and her team also conducted focus groups, whose feedback was included in the data analysis. In April 2022, Davis and her colleague, Kelly Weeks of Rhodes College, returned to Furman and reported their findings to faculty, staff and students. The results of this assessment will inform ongoing and future efforts to make Furman more diverse, equitable and inclusive. Key preliminary findings of the assessment include:
Points of progress
• Hiring a more diverse faculty.
• A solid infrastructure of diversity, equity and inclusive initiatives in place and a core group of people committed to advancing them.
• Students are leading DEI efforts among students and faculty.
• Professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, including conversations such as “Foundations of Anti-Racism.”
Areas to address
• Increasing diversity among administration and staff.
• Increasing messaging from top administrators that DEI is a priority for all divisions.
• Improving a sense of belonging and safety for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students.
• Creating a vice president-level chief diversity officer to develop a campus wide strategy to continue Furman’s advancement in DEI.