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Coalition of Urban Serving Universities Announces Second Racial Justice and Equity Award Winner

December 7, 2021

Washington, DC – Aiming to address racial injustice and inequity through university-city partnerships, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) today named Portland State University as a Racial Justice and Equity Program Award Winner. In partnership with local non-profit organizations, Portland State will focus on increasing university diversity and inclusion through the development of a leadership academy to cultivate personal and professional development of employees from minoritized backgrounds.

Through ongoing efforts to advance diversity and inclusion on campus, Portland State found that staff and faculty demographics do not match the diversity of the student population and that employee onboarding and promotion processes were presenting barriers to retaining a diverse faculty and staff.

As a USU Racial Justice and Equity Program scholar, Portland State is launching a multi-pronged leadership academy focused on: cultivating an onboarding culture that welcomes employees and provides a sense of belonging for employees from minoritized backgrounds; fostering a support structure through mentorship and sponsorship opportunities; and undertaking a critical examination of policies and structures to identify and address barriers to equity. Portland State is leveraging local partnerships with organizations such as Partners in Diversity to help address equity gaps on campus.

“We’re thrilled to select Portland State as a Racial Justice and Equity Award Winner,” said Melissa Rivas, Assistant Director at the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities. “Diversity of staff and faculty is essential for a thriving university and we’re delighted Portland State is taking a leadership role in addressing equity gaps staff and faculty that are far too common across higher education.”

The competition was open to USU’s entire membership of 39 public urban universities. USU’s Racial Justice and Equity Scholars Program supports urban university efforts in three thematic areas – thriving students, thriving universities, and thriving communities – to explicitly address policies that produce equity gaps. Award winners must directly partner with external organizations to advance their work. Each award winner will work closely with USU over the course of 12 months to collect data, monitor progress, evaluate outcomes, and disseminate project findings. In July, USU named the University of Texas at Arlington a Racial Justice and Equity Scholar. USU will announce a scholar in the remaining thematic areas – thriving students and thriving communities– early next year. Each winner receives a $20,000 grant to further their efforts.

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