The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) messages from the Office of the President share Illinois State University’s ongoing progress advancing equity and inclusion with transparency and information exchange. 

This update includes increased retention numbers for students of color, new faces helping to create an infrastructure for continued DEI efforts on campus, and funds available for identity-based registered student organizations (RSOs).   

Retention rates 
The Division of Academic Affairs reported positive increases in student retention rates for the 2019-2020 school year, including noteworthy improvements among those who identify as members of underrepresented minority groups. Retention of African American students significantly increased to 80.2 percent in 2019-2020 from 66.8 percent in 2018-2019. Retention rates also increased for students who identify as Hispanic* for their primary ethnicity, up to 79.9 percent from 67.7 percent. The largest improvements in retention among Black and Hispanic students occurred among men. Retention rates for Black males rose by more than 15 percent (to 78.61 percent in 2019-2020), while the Hispanic male student retention increased by more than 11 percent (to 74.65 percent in 2019-2020). Retention of first time in college students (FITC) exceeded 82 percent, its highest point in nine years.  

“We feared retention would go down because of the pandemic, so we were happy to see these numbers as a result of the University’s efforts,” said Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education Dr. Amy Hurd. Institutional initiatives to assist students during the pandemic have included relaxing the pass/no pass and withdrawal policies, offering additional technology support, and altering specifications on account balance blocks. Other temporary measures included increased financial assistance with the federal CARES Act, and the state Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. (GEER). 

 “These measures are in addition to the work done every day for student retention through areas such as University College,” she said, pointing out the success of programs such as TRIOMASAI mentors, and the STEMAlliance
*“Hispanic” is the term used by the U.S. Census Bureau for reporting purposes.   

Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion additions  
Two Illinois State faculty and staff members have joined Interim Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Doris Houston to advance the University’s goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on campus.    

Dr. Byron Craig has joined Houston’s team as a content expert and writer for DEI and social justice-related stories. Craig’s forthcoming feature publications will generate dialogue and inform the campus community of current equity-related issues being addressed at Illinois State. Craig, an assistant professor in the School of Communication, will also lend his expertise with a series of multimedia features on critical topics facing our society and the academy such as systemic racism, heterosexism, gender bias, xenophobia, and income inequality.  

Rachel Hatch is working with Houston to create the infrastructure for communicating DEI institutional polices, programs, and initiatives on campus. Along with the monthly DEI Updates from the Office of the President, Hatch provides support for the President’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council and she will spearhead editorial work on the forthcoming inaugural DEI Annual Report from the Office of the President. She continues her Media Relations work as editor of campus newsletters, Identity and Report.  

Craig and Hatch join Houston’s team along with undergraduate students Logan Williams and Samiat Solebo, who have served as DEI student outreach leaders under Houston since the summer of 2020. Williams, a senior social work major, and Solebo, a senior politics and government major, will be working this semester on an inventory of campus councils and committees dedicated to DEI, anti-racism, and social justice efforts.   

Funds for RSOs 
The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund supports targeted initiatives in the state of Illinois to enroll and retain underrepresented, first-generation, and high-economic-need students. Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Success Dr. Amelia Noël-Elkins announced funds are still available to support Illinois State “identity-based” registered student organizations (RSOs) that qualify. Grants from GEER have already funded loaner technology equipment along with support for spaces for underrepresented students.  

Read more about the GEER Fund.  
Read more about The Onyx Connect RSO that qualified for funds.