NORMAN, OKLA. – The University of Oklahoma continues to be nationally recognized for its perseverance in nurturing a place of inclusion and belonging. For the third consecutive year, INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine has honored OU with its Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award, which recognizes colleges and universities demonstrating an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is OU’s fifth time to receive this recognition (2016, 2017, 2021 and 2022 respectively).
In addition to receiving the 2023 HEED Award, the university was among only 16 colleges and universities to receive INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s highest honor: Diversity Champion. Known for outstanding visionary leadership, Diversity Champions are leading institutions in the country that exemplify “an unyielding commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout their campus communities, across academic programs and at the highest administrative levels.” This is OU’s second time to receive this recognition, the first being in 2017.
Impact Starts with Belonging is this year’s theme for the OU campus community. The university and the OU Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion continues its commitment to ensure all students, faculty and staff feel seen, heard, valued and respected, with the belief that these actions lead to students’ sense of true belonging.
“We are grateful to INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for these recognitions. We will continue as a university community to cultivate an inclusive campus community and work to focus on improving the conditions that matter to our constituents,” said Belinda Higgs Hyppolite, Ed.D., OU vice president and chief diversity officer. “The work of creating inclusive spaces and helping to facilitate belonging across OU campuses is the entire community’s responsibility. OU has the best faculty, staff, students and alumni because they care about people and are working hard to continue the positive impacts.”
The university’s commitment to making OU a place of belonging for all is emphasized as one of the five pillars in the “Lead On, University” Strategic Plan. The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is leading the charge of inclusion and belonging at OU by ensuring that the comprehensive plan outlined in the Strategic Plan is continually advancing.
To support this commitment, the university has enhanced several measures designed to recruit and retain prospective students and employees from various backgrounds. Indigenous Preview Day, Crimson Summit, Sower’s Day and The Weekend are recruitment events designed to showcase OU to high school students from historically underrepresented communities, first-generation students and students from rural communities. High school students are also supported by their involvement with Upward Bound, a federally sponsored program that helps prepare Oklahoma City school district students for success in high school and into college.
College retention and graduation rates are the primary goals of the Project Threshold and the McNair Scholars programs. Both programs concentrate on assisting students who are low-income, first-generation, veteran or have a documented disability but focus on different aspects of the student’s academic lifecycle. Project Threshold is a one-stop service system that supports undergraduate students throughout their academic life, whereas the McNair program encourages, guides and mentors students in preparation for graduate school.
The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion also supports students with disabilities by working across the university to decrease barriers to success and help improve access in and out of the classroom.
Ensuring that students, faculty and staff can find their “home away from home” through universal design access is the primary goal of OU’s Accessibility and Disability Resource Center. The center provides academic/housing accommodations and courtesy services, Deaf and Hard of Hearing services and digital accessibility resources that help students succeed in their academic careers at OU.
The division also supports faculty retention through facilitated workshops and engagement opportunities in partnership with the Center for Faculty Excellence and with a few initiatives designed to acknowledge the impact and value and contributions faculty make daily to OU and beyond.
Lifting the Voices of Inclusion is an annual award ceremony that recognizes faculty, staff and students for their work supporting historically under-resourced and underserved communities at OU and the surrounding community. The division also formed the Inclusion Council, composed of faculty, staff and administrators representing OU campuses who contribute their time, talents and scholarly expertise to advise on critical climate matters. These individuals also participate in the planning and promotion of building a community of care.
OU staff are equally committed to advancing a climate of inclusion and are often the frontline and first responders to campus climate concerns. Staff work to support all employees through the employee resource groups and by partnering with staff senates across OU to stay attuned to the needs and concerns and to serve as advocates to help belonging and inclusion for all.
About the University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. As the state’s flagship university, OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. OU was named the state’s highest-ranking university in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent Best Colleges list. For more information about the university, visit ou.edu.