Wartburg President Shares Changes Encouraged by Task Force

Below is a message sent out to the Wartburg College community concerning its findings from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force’s work.

Dear Wartburg Community,

I write today to tell you that the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force I convened late last year has completed its work and passed some final recommendations on to me.

I want to thank the members of that group who come from our large community of alumni, parents, and friends—Bruce King, Dajuan King, Ashlee McGrown, Ben Parks, and the Rev. Dr. Anthony Scott. I extend thanks, as well, to my colleagues Krystal Madlock and Dr. LeAnn Faidley for chairing that group despite everything else on their plates. I’m deeply grateful to all of you and thankful for your commitment to the college and your passion for helping to make it a more inclusive place for all students.

I’ve already shared highlights of the Task Force’s recommendations with the campus, but I’d like to repeat them here and then detail some steps we’ve already taken in response. At its most general level, the Task Force stresses the need for the College to pursue a coherent strategy, and for me to communicate that strategy clearly while holding the institution and its people, including myself, accountable. More specifically, the report recommends that we use the current effort at strategic planning to create a campus-wide shared understanding about what it means to become and be an inclusive community. It notes, importantly, that success will not be achieved programmatically but requires a cultural change that depends on everyone’s hard and uncomfortable personal growth in heart and mind.

The Task Force identified specific elements that our institutional strategy should include:

Shrinking gaps in my own learning and, together with the entire leadership team, undergoing comprehensive training so that we might “lead with a mindset of diversity, equity, and inclusion through a lens of anti-racism.”
Building skill and capacity within the Board of Regents so they can support me and my team in advancing a more inclusive climate;
More widely using internal data and reports, as well as national survey results, to support decisions;
Effectively applying such internal data to examine the entire enrollment process from admissions to graduation, looking for opportunities to enhance the success of students of color, and specifically examining financial aid and how our current strategy might be improved;
Training and sufficiently resourcing faculty and staff to develop and lead innovative initiatives to improve campus climate, such as culturally competent advising, active learning opportunities (service-learning, internships), and the development of innovative courses;
Examining the curriculum with a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to ensure that courses being offered center cultural competency as a core component of learning among all students and across courses of all types.

I’m pleased to report that, while we are using the current strategic planning effort as described, we are also implementing as many of these suggestions as we can in the present moment.

Taking to heart the challenge to shrink gaps in my own learning, the Cabinet and I have taken the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), have begun working our own individual development plans, and, together, have enrolled in a course offered by the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development: “Black History for a New Day.”
The Board of Regents, too, have completed the IDI, and have explored the results with Richard Webb, a facilitator and consultant with Second Layer Consulting. Both challenged and energized by the results, the Regents are forming a task force to develop a plan to build skill and capacity within the Board itself.
The Business Office has begun examining the financial relationship between the College and students, seeking to enhance the support we offer, clarifying that relationship as one in which we can better nurture students.
Together with the Vice Presidents for Student Life and Enrollment Management, I’ll secure an analysis of our data in the effort to improve student retention and graduation.
Working with the co-chairs of the task force, LeAnn Faidley and Krystal Madlock, I’ll convene a virtual meeting of our colleagues who were working among the Task Force as they made their start; next I’ll seek to meet with members of strategic planning groups actively addressing these issues; and then I’ll try to meet with other people leading various efforts and activities on campus. In these gatherings, I aim to learn how we all might benefit from more cooperation and support, and how our many activities can mutually reinforce our efforts to realize the larger strategic vision of creating “an inclusive community combining diverse curricular and co-curricular experiences to prepare students to be resilient leaders of positive change through service in a complex world.”

Attending to diversity, equity, and inclusion will be key to our next strategic plan; but, as you can see, we are taking immediate action where we can; and we’ll take more action in short order.

As I promised to you last summer, we will continue to update our website with our efforts, and when necessary, send more detailed email communications of our progress.

Thank you all for your continued support of the College.


Darrel Colson