Aerial shot of M traffic circle in summer
Creating a campus climate that affirms the value of diversity and inclusion


Community of Practice, Division of Student Affairs Diversity Initiative

Diversity, equity and excellence are core values of the Division of Student Affairs educational mission which is to maximize the potential of students by cultivating their personal, social and intellectual development. Our vision for the Division is to prepare students for the realities of living and thriving in an increasingly diverse global society by integrating in and out-of-classroom learning experiences and helping students build their capacities as leaders and citizens. In an effort to achieve this vision, we will launch and provide on-going support to diversity initiatives that are guided by the following over-arching goals:

  • Expand and enrich opportunities for students' learning about diversity in both curricular and applied diversity learning activities accompanied by assessments of their learning through increased inter and intra-Divisional collaborations.
  • Actively promote learning experiences for students both within and across their sub-communities of identity which are designed to help them imagine their own futures and develop tools and experiential repertoires that maximize their individual potentials.
  • Support Division staff members as they invest in the development of their own multicultural capacities as a product of our success in making the value we place upon diversity visible, practical and purposeful for our staff.
  • Establish the Division as model for its engagement and commitment to issues of equity, for its recruitment and retention of a diverse professional workforce, and for the collaborative and inclusive climates in each of its Departments.

Student Affairs Diversity Statement

The Division of Student Affairs offers programs and services designed to support and enrich all aspects of student life at the University of Maryland. Our fifteen departments, comprised of a diverse and dedicated staff, are organized around a common educational mission: maximizing the potential of students by cultivating their personal, social and intellectual development. Our primary goal is to prepare students for the realities of living and thriving in an increasingly diverse global society by integrating in and out-of-classroom learning experiences and helping students build their capacities as leaders and citizens. We are committed to creating a campus climate that affirms the value of diversity and multiculturalism.

Diversity Defined

Diversity is more than a description of demographics, an element of the social climate, or an appreciated value. Diversity is a defining feature of our University and democratic society. It requires acknowledging and understanding the multifaceted, evolving nature of the human experience and the historically rooted societal structures and practices that shape such an experience. Diversity arises from the broad range of intersecting social identities present in our community including, but going beyond, race and ethnicity, age, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion and spirituality, national origin, ability/disability status, social/economic class and life experience. Diversity also encompasses group identity and membership and the vital sub-communities that exist within the whole of the University community.

How We Engage Students in Diversity

We promote students’ motivated engagement with others across differences in identity. We do so with the premise that the college years, unlike any period in their lives, will present our students with the most direct and frequent contact with others of varied identities. These interactions occur in our living areas, dining venues, classrooms, social and recreational activities, student organizations, and in student employment teams.

We provide constructive intercultural experiences that are available to and affirming of all invested students. We promote not just cordial coexistence but go further in fostering encounters that include deliberative dialogue experiences, leadership retreats, and training programs in which diverse groups of students collaborate on real life dilemmas and learn about each other’s perspectives and identities.

We offer, through distinct campus agencies, learning experiences for students in sub-communities of identity. These agencies engage directly with students, provide support for them, and facilitate their development through targeted programs and services designed to enable students to imagine their own futures and develop tools and experiential repertoires that maximize their individual potentials.

We concentrate on students’ education through leadership development. We promote an understanding of leadership that values diversity, fairness, social responsibility, and individual accountability for issues of equity and inclusion. This approach to leadership is accomplished through advising student governance organizations and other leadership bodies, providing a variety of training programs to students and student employees, and offering a range of credit and non-credit interdisciplinary courses. These programs teach about leadership skills and concepts that enable young leaders to create a foundation for capable leadership in a diverse society.

We encourage an active engagement in one’s own learning about diversity to help students articulate what they have learned and provide a frame of reference for a life-long process of learning about diversity and issues of equity. We assist students in ways that foster personal reflection on their learning about diversity, and enable students to describe their cumulative learning about identity and intercultural skills. This in-depth understanding and the ability to articulate what they have learned will be critical to students’ success in the job search process and in the world of work. This is an on-going process and must not end with the college years. One’s commitment to diversity is defined by life-long investment in habitual engagement with others, self-reflection, flexible and critical thinking, and the practice of well-developed communication skills that enable mutual understanding and collaboration.

What Students Should Learn from Our Diversity Programs and Services

Diversity challenges us beyond our comfort zones to consider the experiences of those whose perspectives may be profoundly different from our own. Learning amidst a climate of inclusiveness and acceptance is a right not a privilege and establishes a foundation for greater understanding, openness, and equity. The opportunities we provide for cross-cultural interactions, which enable transforming educational, interpersonal, emotional and spiritual change, are designed to promote the development of capacities for:

  • Developing empathy for the experiences and feelings of others.
  • Engaging in critical self-reflection to broaden awareness and challenge assumptions, stereotypes, and personal biases.
  • Respecting individual differences.
  • Using complex and critical thinking to inform decision-making.
  • Practicing listening and speaking skills to enhance cross-cultural communication and understanding.
  • Establishing relationships with others in the interest of fostering understanding and collaboration.
  • Seeking opportunities for common ground as well as accommodating and understanding irreconcilable sentiments and positions.

We recognize the importance of these capacities for students as well as for our own continuing development as professionals who work, teach and serve in a diverse community.

Principles That Guide Our Work with Diversity as Staff Members

The following principles guide our work with students and fellow staff in the Division of Student Affairs. We express and model these principles in our work with students, in the interest of their inclusion and learning about diversity. With fellow staff, our observance of these principles supports a constructive and inclusive organizational climate, and serves our goals in the recruitment and retention of a diverse and collaborative professional staff.

Equity is a priority for the Division. We insure that our programs, processes and administrative actions are fair and unbiased. We welcome students’ appraisals of our actions and give careful proactive consideration to the implications and symbolism of our decisions.

Our efforts at diversification harness the strengths brought by many voices and perspectives and infuse them in our work and our students’ educational experiences.

We embrace inclusion knowing that our conduct must support the sense of rightful place of any member of our community.

Our encounters with others are characterized by authenticity. We display candor, care and genuine regard, conducting our person to person interactions in a manner that demonstrates integrity and fosters trust amidst a climate of safety and respect.

We engage each other with sincere receptivity, listening closely and with care to sentiments, perceptions, initiatives and suggestions. We seek first to understand, placing ourselves in the position and views of those with whom we engage.

Commitment to diversity and multiculturalism is apparent in all we do. We take the high road with students and fellow staff, working optimistically toward the best outcomes and solutions when faced with conflicting needs and perspectives. Our commitment demonstrates our faith in candor, collaboration, positive change over time, and the promise offered by the strengths of diversity.

Diversity Initiative Projects

Inventory Practices, Programs and Data on Diversity and Inclusion

Survey the Departments in the Division and compile an inventory of existing practices, programs, and data on areas related to diversity, including but not limited to creating inclusive organizational climates, student diversity education programs, recruitment and retention of diverse organizational staffs, inclusive strategies for organizational decision-making and problems solving, and equitable professional practice. The inventory will have two main branches: practices that are directed toward students, and those directed toward staff. This inventory will portray good work, enable Departments to speak to their stakes and interests and learn from efforts in other Departments, and perhaps incorporate strategies that others are using.

Objective 1:
Create survey, orient Department Directors to project and administer.

Objective 2:
Examine data to determine areas where more data is needed and/or new programs might be created.

Objective 3:
Suggest areas of effort where expansion of existing programs or the creation of new ones might be desirable through inter-divisional collaborations.

Community Engagements on Conceptual Basis of Diversity Practice

Create opportunities for all members of the Division Staff who are passionate about and/or who have come to specialize in some aspect of practice related to diversity to come together, share information on their work and the resources they offer, and to confer on the conceptual basis and underlying constructs of their work. Members of this community will reach shared understandings on what is intended in working toward diversity, multiculturalism, social justice and societal equity, on the nature of learning intended for students, and on how these concepts are reflected in the various practices and pedagogies currently in use in our Departments.

Objective 1:
Portray the professional community intended and establish means to encourage and incorporate interested staff.

Objective 2:
Assemble network of interested staff, portraying each individual’s interests, experiences, and what is offered to others in the Division in terms of consultation, training and educational skills.

Objective 3:
Plan a series of discussions, dialogues, panels and presentations that will achieve a shared understanding of philosophies, pedagogies and conceptual basis for individual’s and Department’s efforts. Pursue an agreed upon set of concepts that portray the learning intended for students.

Engage Division Staff on the Development of Multicultural Capacities

Discern between those specialized skills necessary for Division Staff directly engaged in diversity education and programs, and the skills, understandings and investments which make each Division staff member evermore able to work effectively in a diverse university community with students and with other staff. Portray those skills, understandings and on-going investments as multicultural capacities that continue to expand and evolve as the result of experience, intentional investment and appropriate risk. Arrive at a description of these capacities and provide on-going activities, engagements and presentations that assist Departments and Division Staff in their development.

Objective 1:
Examine existing models for multicultural capacities and competencies.

Objective 2:
Work within community of practice to reach an agreed upon set of multicultural capacities.

Objective 3:
Plan presentations and consultations that enable Division Staff to pursue development of capacities and Departments to plan continuing staff development activities.

Multicultural Student Leadership Advisory Council

Create an advisory body made up of student leaders representing a broad diversity of identities and drawn from a wide range of student leadership roles. Consult with the members of the advisory council in the implementation of the Diversity Initiative’s projects, particularly with respect to students’ diversity learning outcomes, program creation and marketing to students. Provide opportunities for applied learning on the part of advisory council members through involvement with the work of the Initiative and/or through formal internship experiences. Lay the groundwork for the potential creation of a permanent body that would maintain an advisory relationship with Division leadership subsequent to the Diversity Initiative.

Objective 1:
Construct and portray the role of the advisory council in the Initiative and determine how student members would be recruited.

Objective 2:
Establish the council and work with students to pursue Initiative projects and goals.

Objective 3:
Work with students and Division Leadership to design a permanent student advisory body.

Web Presence for Diversity Initiative

Establish and maintain web-based structures and resources as part of the Diversity Initiative which would keep publics and staff informed on the Initiative, assist with Initiative projects and goals, and eventually become a climate enhancement for the Division.

Objective 1:
Establish and maintain a website describing the Initiative, its goals and projects, publishing related documents, and publicizing activities and opportunities in which staff may become involved.

Objective 2:
Establish web-links to resources, programs, and functions as they are created and become available.

Objective 3:
Establish social media that portray, broaden and enable access to the diverse community in the Division for existing and prospective students and staff.

Visibility Events

Produce a series of activities that make our work visible and contribute to awareness and momentum within the Division for our work and for complementary efforts on the campus.

Student Affairs Diversity Committee


  • Malia Witherspoon, Interim Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Division of Student Affairs
  • Nicole Mehta, Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Department of Resident Life

Leadership Team Members

  • Warren Kelley, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Leslie Krafft, Resident Life
  • Amanda Preperato, University Recreation & Wellness
  • Kia Weeden, Resident Life
  • Malia Witherspoon, Conferences & Visitor Services

Committee Members

  • Pamela Allen, Career Center
  • Bridgette Behling, Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy (MICA), Stamp
  • Shirlene Chase, Dining Services
  • Brandon Dula, Adele H. Stamp Student Union
  • Nancy Forsythe, Career Center
  • Linda LeNoir, Career Center
  • Denise McHugh, Memorial Chapel
  • Chandni Shah, Counseling Center
  • Danielle Walker, Parent & Family Affairs