Strategic Objectives, Measures of Success and Action Plans

Rackham’s DE&I Strategic Planning Domains

In the President’s Charge, U-M units developing DE&I Strategic Plans were asked to develop strategic actions around four domains determined by the University. The University-wide domains include:

  • Recruitment, Retention, and Development
  • Education and Scholarship
  • Inclusive Climate
  • Service

The Rackham DE&I Strategic Plan includes working with graduate programs across 18 schools/colleges/units, as well as with the graduate students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars associated with those units. Based on Rackham’s unique mission, position, and functions as a graduate school (which arguably differ from those of other U-M academic and administrative units), we created a re-organization of the University-wide domains that we think best reflects the nature of Rackham’s structures and work (see Figure 3 below). This re-organization still includes each of the components of the University-wide domains.

Rackham’s DE&I domains include:

  • Recruitment
  • High Quality Academic and Professional Environment
  • Retention
  • Service, Partnership, and Collaboration

Figure 3: Rackham’s DE&I Foci

Rackham's DE&I Foci

Recruitment

This domain emphasizes one of Rackham’s core values and functions in encouraging and enabling use of effective practices and processes around recruitment and selection of an excellent, diverse student body. It also encompasses our commitment to the hiring and selection of our own staff and internal organizational actions, policies, processes, and practices that result in our achieving an excellent, diverse staff.

High Quality Academic and Professional Environment

This domain emphasizes the distinct but interconnected components of Education and Scholarship, Development Opportunities, and Inclusive Climate that are reflected in our programmatic activities and practices and that we view as critical conditions for supporting success outcomes for all members of the environment. This domain includes our commitment to conducting analyses, developing strategies, developing resources, enhancing the pipeline, and mentoring that promote professional and career advancement, both in our graduate populations as well as among personnel in our Rackham organization. Also, this domain includes our goal of supporting the development of “Diversity skills” among our students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and other Rackham constituencies, as well as climate enhancing activities skills that are necessary for achieving an equitable and inclusive community, especially as our U-M community increases in its diversity – demographically, culturally, and socially.

Retention

This domain emphasizes policies, practices, and structures for eliminating typical barriers and challenges to success outcomes (student completion, effective job performance), including those barriers and challenges likely to be disproportionately experienced by members of historically underrepresented and/or marginalized groups. Within this domain is a focus on ensuring available pathways for conflict resolution for students, faculty, and staff (including roles, procedures, communication, and deeper analyses).

Service, Partnership, and Collaboration

This domain reflects Rackham’s broader mission of leadership and service to graduate education, including the necessary partnerships and collaborations with colleges/schools/units, programs, faculty, staff, students, postdocs, and alumni in order to achieve our goals around diversity and excellence in graduate education.

Strategic Objectives

Strategic objectives are defined as the key strategies we will use to further our goals of diversity, equity and inclusion. A number of our strategies might be categorized under multiple domains (e.g., a strategy that impacts both recruitment and inclusive climate). In such cases, we organized the strategy based on our judgment of the strategy’s primary/central purpose and domain area. Similarly, some strategies may have multiple DE&I goals (diversity, equity, and/or inclusion). In such cases, we assigned a primary goal and used the “additional domain” heading option to describe the additional domains and DE&I goals to which the strategic objective applies.

Success Metrics

Each strategic objective in a domain is accompanied by success measures that will be tracked over time, as well as descriptions of single and multiple year actions we will take to accomplish those objectives. For additional detail on assignments, timelines and accountabilities related to the objectives, see Section VI.

It is important to acknowledge that identifying measures of success (or “evaluation metrics”) will be an iterative process of clarification of the desired and feasible outcomes for a particular strategy. In some cases, our indicators of success are more direct, easily measurable outcomes (e.g., increased diversity in Rackham Merit Fellows, decreased staff turnover). In other cases, the appropriate indicators of progress and success are more distal outcomes but that have important implications for other success outcomes of interest. For example, increasing students’ sense of belonging can be viewed as a valuable outcome in itself, but research suggests it also has indirect impacts on student completion that may not be seen quickly or for which the impact of sense of belonging cannot be measured as readily. Similarly, increased faculty participation in mentoring workshops (an important outcome that we can measure fairly easily now) is not the same as an examination of actual enhanced faculty mentoring practices (which is a desired outcome of mentoring workshop exposures, but one that we may have to develop new ways to measure). Also, in defining our success metrics, we took care to focus on outcomes for which we could be most accountable. For instance, although we desire it as an outcome, we are careful in stating outcomes such as “an increase in diversity of admitted students” as one of our success outcome metrics, acknowledging that we have limited direct impact on admissions decisions that are made by academic units themselves. Thus, even more, we emphasized the types of outcomes that impact the admission and matriculation of diverse students for which we can be most influential and accountable (sharing and encouraging best practices in recruitment and admissions for diversity; development and use of policies that incentivize academic programs’ recruitment and admissions of a strong and diverse student population). In our planning and iterative process over time, we will continue to work on the best ways to identify and assess success indicators of our strategic actions, including those indicators that may be hard to affect or difficult to identify. At all stages of our plan and plan implementation, our goal is to be as transparent as possible about how we are defining and measuring the success of our strategies, even if those success outcomes take time to see a difference. Furthermore, our definitions and indicators of success may change over time, for instance, if our priority strategies change as we learn from our efforts and feedback from the various constituencies with which we engage in our strategic efforts.