Diversity in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Q&A with Dean Hendrick

Ron Hendrick began his position as dean of CANR in July 2016. Diversity programs will be a priority in his first year. We sat down to discuss why diversity is a priority of his, and how we can all be a part of that.

Ron Hendrick began his position as Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resouces in July of 2016. Diversity programs will be a priority in his first year. We sat down to discuss why diversity is a priority of his, and how we can all be a part of that. 

ODP: Why is diversity a priority in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR)?

RH: A diverse community that includes students, faculty and staff members gives us an opportunity to meet that entire community’s needs. It fosters creative thinking. Ensuring that the CANR is diverse is one of the most important ways we serve our community – and as leaders, that’s what we do. Research shows that professionals from different backgrounds bring different ideas to classrooms, to labs, to offices. Diversity programs are not just a nice thing to do, the excellence of our teaching and research depends on them. To be successful, every student needs to have professors, and professionals around them with whom they share life experiences. Being the only person like you in a room - whether because of your gender, race, ability, age, or anything else - is a barrier to success, and we want everyone in the CANR to have the most direct path to success that we can provide.

ODP: How can we create an inclusive CANR community?

Everyone has a role to play in creating a diverse community – it’s not just a job for the Office of Diversity and Pluralism, or the dean, or human resources. Thinking about making our classrooms, office environments, and labs accessible is a start, but there’s a lot more we need to do. We need to ask ourselves how would someone else see this environment, what would they think, would they feel welcome? We have to take proactive steps in our recruitment, our outreach, to make sure we are the first choice for students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds. We’re going to make sure people know that the CANR values inclusive excellence, because that’s a selling point for the faculty, staff and students we’re looking for.   Individually, we can learn more about diversity from workshops and online resources. There is professional development time and funding available for this work. We can make sure our classrooms are inclusive. We will provide opportunities for people to learn how to talk about difference in classrooms, in offices, and wherever it comes up. Having a diverse community is complicated, but it’s worth it – so we will work to make sure everyone is prepared to be inclusive. Some things are small, like using gender inclusive language in a syllabus. Some things will require more college level planning, but we’ll do both in time.

ODP: What is your step one when it comes to diversity?

I am working with the leadership team to seat an advisory group on diversity as part of the next steps for the CANR. This is a priority for me, and I will look to this group to inform the process. We are incorporating a diversity statement component in all new faculty position descriptions, and take it seriously in hiring decisions. It’s going to be an expectation for working at CANR that you know why diversity is important to us, and that you’re willing to do your part – regardless of your race, gender or other status.

You can welcome Dean Hendrick and weigh in on the CANR diversity priorities by email or on twitter: CANRdean@anr.msu.edu


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