Only seven out of 52 goals have been accomplished in the Elon University Global Education Center’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. Created in 2019, the master plan was set to be achieved between 2020 and 2025, with goals curated by members across the GEC to serve Elon students and their global studies from a DEI standpoint.

In its second year, the strategic plan is only 13.5% of the way in, but the lack of progress isn’t necessarily due to the long list of items, but rather the global pandemic that came into play during its inception, according to associate director for Global Diversity and Inclusion Allegra Laing. 

“It was daunting to launch a strategic plan in light of a global pandemic, not knowing what campus would be like, and to be completely honest, people’s attitudes toward global engagement,” Laing said. “I’m OK with it taking longer than five years, as long as we get it right. I think we have to, realistically at this juncture, say it might take longer than five years in light of the changes that the campus has experienced.”

Despite the large number of goals created by staff members of the GEC at the time, Laing said when the team first came together to create the strategic plan, there were originally 88 goals, but they narrowed it down to 52. Each item on the plan was created to serve minority populations engaging in global education such as the African-American/Black, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, Alaskan Native, and Multiracial communities, first generation, high financial need, LGBTQIA, diverse religious backgrounds and students with disabilities. 

When it began in the 2020-21 school year the GEC started 16 goals — seven were completed and nine carried forward into the 2021-22 school year. 

The goals in 2020 focused on professional staff development to enhance their knowledge of diversity, equity and inclusion through group readings and DEI terminology presentations. The GEC also reached other goals such as developing a timeline to audit identity-based resources on their website, re-examine the proposal process for new programs and embed identity based resources into the appointment scheduling process. 

Dean of the Global Education Center Nick Gozik wrote in an email to Elon News Network that the staff’s professional development in diversity, equity and inclusion will also help students appreciate, understand and navigate differences at the university. 

“I do not think that we can continue to operate without embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of our work,” Gozik wrote. “Some may see a separation between global and diversity, equity, and inclusion, though it is difficult not to see how these areas are two sides of the same coin.”

Though Gozik wasn’t part of the members of the strategic plan working group because he joined Elon in 2021, he still works closely with achieving the current goals today.  

Each item that has been completed or started so far is stated on the GEC’s DEI strategic plan website. Laing, who works with each staff member to check in with the goals they created, said it is good for the Elon community to be aware of the plans the GEC has, but also to hold the center accountable for its progress. 

“One of the reasons why all the goals appear on the website is to hold us accountable,” Laing said. “If people know what we projected to do, it’s harder for us to backtrack on those things.”

New, carried goals this year

For the 2021-22 school year, there are 17 goals in progress — nine carried forward from the previous year and eight new ones started. This year, the goals in progress include generating annual reports that will look at financial need by programs and terms, racial and ethnic breakdown by programs and terms and revise identity based resources on the GEC website. 

According to Laing, one goal that has been partially achieved is goal 14: “Identify identity-based student organizations on campus and create a plan to initiate contact by Spring 2021.” The GEC has partially reached this through the recent creation of the ALANAM student advisory board, a group created in spring 2022 to function as a way for students’ voices to be heard and directly impact the Global Education Center’s future decisions. 

Communications Manager of Global Education Shanna Van Beek worked with Laing and the other faculty members back in 2019 to build the plan. Since then, she said she has watched Laing lead work that she defines as “fairly exceptional at this level in our field.” 

“Not many global education centers or study abroad offices have a 52-point diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan that’s been fully developed and executed by its staff, from top of the department to entry-level professionals,” Van Beek wrote in an email to Elon News Network. “It’s slow work, and it can be painful work as we look directly at shortcomings in order to assess and improve. But it is important and necessary work, and I’m grateful for Allegra’s leading us through it.”

One goal that Van Beek created but has not been started by the GEC yet is goal nine: “Create an intentional process for highlighting the stories of students from underserved communities on the GEC website and social media platforms.” Van Beek helped set a number of goals that focus on communications, or use communications as a means to achieve a goal, and although they have yet to be started or met, they are still important items to recognize.

“This goal will require substantial work on building the infrastructure, but frankly, with the volume of students that study away at Elon, and the reputation Elon has built on global education, there is a need and opportunity for better amplifying stories of underrepresented students,” Van Beek wrote.

Gozik also said Elon’s work on the strategic plan will take time, as each staff member is responsible for some of the goals. 

“One of the things that Elon excels at is planning. We make slow, steady strides, with a clear vision in mind,” Gozik wrote. “The GEC’s DEI Strategic plan is no different. It is ambitious, with 52 points and a timeline of five years, yet it is also well thought out and feasible. Each year, we tackle a new set of goals, with each staff member taking responsibility for one of them. It is exciting to see the progress continue.”

As the GEC continues to achieve more items on the list, the center also plans to reflect the themes within Elon’s institutional strategic plan for 2030, Boldy Elon. The center plans to assess its progress toward the goals, and possibly develop a plan for 2025 to 2030 if needed. 

Although the plan is only 13% complete, Laing said there was always the question back in 2020 of whether it should go through as a strategic plan because of the ambiguity of global engagement due to the pandemic. But as the team continued to think about it more, it was always a “resounding yes.” 

Though it’s likely the plan will need to be extended beyond five years because of the changes in global education because of the pandemic, it’s about doing it right, especially when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The issues don’t change, the issues will persist even when the pandemic is over. The time to start change is always now, the time to start change is always today,” Laing said. “I think we’ve recognized that it might take longer due to the pandemic … and to do it well, it might take longer. But I’m excited that we’re on this journey together, and I look forward to the journey next year.”