Students pose in front of the mural “Monuments: Atlanta’s Immigrants” during a Fall Break program through the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection and the Hispanic Outreach and LatinX Awareness group. During the trip, which was called “Immigration Pilgrimage Through Georgia,” students spoke with immigration detainees and visited a center that offered hospitality to refugees and other immigrants fleeing violence.
The space to simply be – authentically, in community and without fear. By allowing our students, faculty and staff the space to express their full identities, we create a culture of belonging, one in which all may realize their distinct potential to effect a just and equitable world.
Our principles of diversity, equity, inclusive excellence and belonging are intended to create a better learning environment for current and future students, a supportive climate for all faculty and staff, and the conditions to advance Furman’s mission to prepare students for lives of meaning and consequence.
These values also inform the university’s charge to prepare students for a pluralistic world – one in which an embrace of our differences powers a flourishing society, drives innovation and fosters open and healthy discourse. In the coming year, we will build community further by expanding on the work of Dins Dialogue workshops, the peer-to-peer offering of the Intergroup Dialogue Program, which encourages participants to engage with one another across differences in ways that promote understanding, compassion and social justice.
These elements are strengthened through the four-year pathway, with the Pathways Program curriculum helping to ease students’ transition to college by connecting them to campus resources and then encouraging students to reflect on who they are, what they value and what they want to pursue both in and out of the classroom. This is followed by department-specific programming in years 3 and 4 that help students learn about careers in their discipline and discipline-specific expectations.
Awareness and understanding through student experiences
- Students attended a rich variety of Cultural Life Programs, featuring speakers with diverse perspectives and lived experiences. Among them: “Have You Seen Me? Missing and Murdered Indigenous People,” a panel of women from tribes throughout the Carolinas; “Jewish, Gifted & Black: A Conversation with Rapper Nissim Black”; and the Furman Drag Show, hosted by the Furman Pride Alliance, an exploration of evolving gender and sexuality norms that featured professional and student drag queens.
- During the five-day “Immigration Pilgrimage Through Georgia,” students gained a deeper understanding of the ramifications of U.S. immigration policy for those seeking refuge and opportunity in the United States. On the trip hosted by Furman’s Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection and the Hispanic Outreach and Latinx Awareness student group, students learned the stories that inspired city murals about the Latino community, met farmers and volunteers who maintain housing for immigrants, and packed donated supplies for individuals who have been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. The students also spoke with an immigrant who had been detained in a federal facility for eight months.
- The campus community experienced international students’ homeland cuisine during Furman Engaged, the university’s annual daylong celebration of research, internships, study away and other immersive learning experiences. The International Student Association and Dining Services hosted an international lunch featuring international students’ beloved recipe from their countries of origin, including Ghana, China, Peru and Kazakhstan.
- The Riley Institute’s Advantage Scholars summer program for students with named merit-based scholarships explored human differences through a variety of topics, including unconscious bias, the meaning of whiteness, gentrification and affordable housing, and the university’s historical connections to slavery.
A skilled and dedicated faculty
This past academic year, the Furman faculty passed an inclusive excellence policy, part of the university’s broader DEI strategic plan. The intent was to formalize the expectation that faculty andacademic departments contribute to the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals. The university also advanced several programs to ensure faculty are prepared to teach and mentor a diverse student body, one that is known generationally for prioritizing mental health and well-being, belonging and inclusivity. Cynthia King, the associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence and a professor of communication studies, received a grant from the Associated Colleges of the South to pilot staff professional development programming specifically related to DEI.
The Faculty Development Center (FDC) launched a Duke Leadership Peer Coaching initiative with a grant from The Duke Endowment. In the inaugural year, the initiative trained 30 faculty and staff who deepened their expertise with applied peer coaching activities related to advising, DEI, and teaching and learning initiatives.The FDC also facilitated a 16-month faculty-led initiative to update Furman’s existing survey of student opinions of instruction to gather more specific teaching feedback to reduce bias. To further expand faculty awareness, the FDC developed a series of on-demand Learning by Design Studios for faculty on equitable grading practices highlighted in the book “Grading for Equity.” Open-rank tenure-track searches continued to enhance faculty recruitment by extending the reach of job ads and generating large pools of highly qualified applicants. The slate of on-campus recruitment experiences for finalists allowed groups of campus constituents to reflect on the professional experiences that will resonate most deeply with our principal goal: to provide the strongest, most immersive and transformational education for our students. The 2023-2024 new faculty class – expert teachers, scholars, performers and innovators with diverse experiences and accomplishments – are perfectly positioned to make meaningful contributions to The Furman Advantage.
The embrace of communityFurman staff also gathered to strengthen their sense of belonging. In the spring, the Furman Staff Advisory Council (Staff AC) worked with the DEI-Staff Recruitment, Advancement and Training Subcommittee to plan the Pride Month Ice Cream Social. The entire Furman community was invited to join Staff AC in celebrating Pride Month, enjoy popsicles and hear excerpts read by individual contributors of the newly published edited volume, “Colors of the Rainbow: Voices from Furman University’s LGBTQIA+ Community.” The group also organized a DEI community read, in which participants received a copy of the book “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee. Thirty-one staff members signed up and participated in various ways to learn and grow together.