New strategies ensure campus diversity: A conversation with CPE VP Travis Powell
April 17, 2020
The Committee on Equal Opportunities presented results of its first comprehensive review of campus progress tied to the Kentucky Policy for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Council's June meeting.
Travis Powell, vice president and general counsel, oversees the new work in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. He provided an update on campus progress after the first year of the policy's implementation.
Powell said the campuses did well overall in implementing their campus diversity, equity and inclusion plans during this first year of evaluation.
"We were pleased to see overall significant improvement in the success of our underrepresented minority population," he said, adding that while there was some overall improvement with our low-income population, he'd like to see more in the future.
"The qualitative portion of the evaluation was very new, and for the first time through this process, I was very pleased. The thoughtfulness and desire to do good work in these areas was clearly present, and the fact that we are systematically capturing it is a win for the state."
The policy's annual reporting format includes quantitative measurements of progress in the following areas:
- Undergraduate and graduate enrollment of underrepresented minorities.
- Graduation rates of underrepresented minority and low-income students.
- Degrees and credentials awarded to underrepresented minority and low-income students.
- Diversity of the campus workforce.
Reporting also includes a new qualitative narrative - a "lessons learned" section - that requires each campus to reflect on its progress in each area and discuss any changes they plan to make moving forward as a result.
Powell believes that continuous improvement is the ultimate goal.
"In today's fiscal environment, it is extremely important to ensure that we are allocating resources to the best ways possible. Through reflection, campuses can make informed decisions on whether or not a strategy should be continued, expanded, redesigned or completely discontinued," said Powell. "The only way to improve on anything you do is through reflection. We wanted to make sure to build this into the annual review process, not only for the sake of the campus implementing the strategy, but also for other campus staff who can learn from these experiences."
Kentucky is the only state in the nation to tie new academic program approval to outcomes of campus progress toward equal educational opportunity goals. Campuses not making sufficient progress toward these goals will work with Powell, Dr. Dawn Offutt and the Committee on Equal Opportunities to develop plans and timelines for improvement.
Powell said three campuses stood out when it came to strategies for improvement:
- Henderson Community College (HCC) – The campus' goal was to increase visibility into the community. Staff worked with community leaders to gauge opinions of the campus' diversity efforts and followed with an event targeted to attract African American and Hispanic residents. While increased community involvement helped attract African American students, HCC will ramp up its efforts for Hispanic students, who are a growing demographic in the service region.
- Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) – In order to improve retention, HCTC shifted to a more personalized approach to advising, which featured more mentoring of minority students, as well as completion of an individualized completion (or graduation) plan. This helped both students and advisors track progress to graduation, as well as alert the advisors when a student was off track.
- Northern Kentucky University (NKU) – The campus engaged 65 students, faculty and staff to serve on committees to develop NKU's 2022 Inclusive Excellence Plan and metrics. To strengthen diversity efforts of the individual colleges, the campus implemented unit-level "inclusive excellence plans" that aligned with the university's overarching plan. These plans helped focus efforts on marketing and communications to a variety of student demographics.
The policy introduced a new, broader definition of diversity,including different ethnicities, races, ages, abilities, sexual identities, religions and income levels. During the plan development and review process, this new definition challenged campuses to reflect upon how they not only serve these various student groups, but also how they create culturally competent students, faculty and staff.
The policy's addition of equity and inclusion takes campus diversity to the next step of creating an open and accepting environment that aids student success.
"Equity ensures that all have equal access to our institutions and academic programs. Inclusion ensures that, once access is provided and students are on our campuses, they are in an environment where they can be comfortable regardless of their background. It is very difficult to be successful and focus on the challenge that is a college curriculum unless you are in a place where you feel supported. With equal opportunity and an inclusive environment, we are confident that the achievement gaps between the overall student population and our historically underserved populations can be closed," said Powell.
Through the policy development and reporting process, the Council also learned some lessons as to how a statewide policy plays out on Kentucky's campuses.
"Overwhelmingly, the reports showed that campuses were implementing their strategies with fidelity," said Powell. "However, in some instances, the analysis of strategy effectiveness and lessons learned were not as robust as we had hoped. Through our own reflection, we realized that providing training to the campuses on our expectations in this regard and how reports could be best written would have been of significant value. We are working to develop this training now so that we may provide it in the fall."
Those with questions about Kentucky's diversity efforts can contact Powell at or Dawn Offutt at .
Last Updated: 7/27/2021