ECU honored for diversity and inclusiveness for 10th straight year

For the 10th consecutive year, East Carolina University’s focus on diversity and inclusiveness has been recognized with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award.

Raymondi McCullen plays Frisbee on campus. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The HEED Award, sponsored by INSIGHT into Diversity magazine, recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. The 2021 award winners were selected for initiatives that focus on all aspects of diversity including gender, race, ethnicity, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We are so pleased to be recognized with this award and to be among only seven schools to be named 10-time HEED Award winners across the nation,” ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers said. “Building a diverse, inclusive and equity-minded campus is a priority for me and my leadership team as well as so many others across campus. As we engage the entire campus community in this journey to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the institution, we will take a holistic look at what it means to live out our values and embrace a shared equity leadership model.” 

ECU was one of just 101 institutions across the country to receive the HEED Award for 2021.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is a mission-driven imperative at East Carolina University,” said Toya Jacobs, diversity and inclusion program manager in ECU’s Office for Equity and Diversity. “As a publication dedicated to advancing diversity in higher education, we appreciate INSIGHT’s tireless work to recognize and promote best practices across the landscape.”

Along with a variety of programs and centers that focus on inclusion and diversity — such as the Dr. Jeese R. Peel LGBTQ Center that is celebrating its 10th year in 2021 — ECU had several new initiatives that were recognized.

  • The university’s THRIVE (Towards Hiring, Resources, Inclusion, Value and Excellence) program is designed to change culture, build support and remove barriers to reduce bias and improve gender equity in faculty recruitment, hiring and advancement. A $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation ADVANCE program targets women in STEM, and the initiatives put in place can benefit the entire campus.
  • The Office for Equity and Diversity launched an institutional anti-racism campaign called Pledge to ACT Against Racism and Injustice, which invited individuals in the community to commit to working for social, cultural and structural change. The program provides a framework, resources and other support for action-oriented steps that ECU faculty and staff can take to ACT against racism and injustice.
  • The PIRATES engineering scholars program supports low-income students pursuing undergraduate engineering degrees with up to $10,000 in scholarships annually. Funding comes from a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Program. The program also offers support that includes tutoring, faculty mentoring, various social activities and integration into engineering living learning communities.
  • In an effort to recruit historically underrepresented and first-generation students, ECU entered into a partnership with Fayetteville State University to develop pipelines and pathways linking its undergraduate students to ECU’s professional and graduate programs.
  • External partnerships for diversity, equity and inclusion have been developed with schools including Fayetteville State, the University of Florida, UNC Chapel Hill and others designed to diversify ECU’s faculty and graduate school pipelines and enhance collaborative research and educational opportunities.

“It is such an honor to receive the HEED Award for 10 consecutive years,” said LaKesha Alston Forbes, associate provost for equity and diversity and chief diversity officer. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments while also assessing our efforts for continuous improvement and building a more equitable and inclusive campus.”

Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT into Diversity, said the HEED Award application process is comprehensive and rigorous. Institutions must show student and employee recruitment and retention and the best practices for both, leadership support of diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion.

“We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient,” Pearlstein said. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across campus.”

Biology students study Drosophila in the Howell Science Complex. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)