In the fall of 2012, as part of his inaugural address, President Lee Pelton asserted that the College would redouble its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Within days of that address, he announced the launch of a new initiative for Inclusive Excellence at Emerson. Inclusive Excellence is the active process through which colleges and universities achieve excellence in learning, teaching, student development, institutional functioning, and engagement in local and global communities (AAC&U, 2012). The six pillars below define Emerson College’s Inclusive Excellence goals. 

Work in these areas is achieved across campus, both academically and administratively. Emerson College is committed to a living, learning, and working environment where all members of our community are valued and respected. We believe inclusive and academic excellence are not possible without full engagement with diversity across all areas of the College. This page contains information and details related to steps the College has taken in our commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

Pillars of Inclusive Excellence

Flowchart of the Six Pillars of Inclusive Excellence

  • Access & Success: Increase access to Emerson College for prospective students, faculty, and staff while also enhancing our support for the academic and professional success of members of our community.
  • Climate & Human Relations: Develop a more inclusive campus environment, build community, and enhance human relations.
  • Teaching, Learning, & Scholarship: Innovate in teaching, learning, and scholarship to enhance student intercultural development. Grow scholarly work focusing on diversity and inclusion.
  • Civic & Global Engagement: Develop local and global relationships and partnerships that address pressing problems and serve the common good.
  • Recognition & Accountability: Recognize and reward innovative practices toward inclusion and establish measures of accountability for the achievement of goals related to diversity and inclusion.
  • Infrastructure: Build the infrastructure necessary for the achievement of Inclusive Excellence.

P.O.W.E.R. Demonstration

In October 2017, students led by P.O.W.E.R. (Protesting Oppression With Educational Reform) held a demonstration at Faculty Assembly. Students indicated their experience had not changed since a similar demonstration in April 2015. A link to a petition was sent to President Pelton, Emerson’s Board of Trustees, Provost Whelan, and the Faculty Assembly. The petition received over 2300 signatures. The contents of the petition as well as a timeline of actions taken committing to Diversity and Inclusion can be found below. Petition

Demand Action From Emerson Administration

Mission Statement

In the two and a half years since the protest of April 28, 2015, Emerson College has made only surface-level progress in response to demands made by students. While Emerson espouses “Inclusive Excellence” as a core value, the lack of substantial progress does not demonstrate a true commitment to implementing these values in the culture, climate, and curriculum of the college. Students of color and other marginalized groups continue to deal with microaggressions, bias, and discrimination while faculty and administration pat themselves on the back for minimal effort to combat the institutionalized racism that is present at this college.

Cultural Competency

  • We demand mandatory online cultural competency training for new students before coming to Emerson, so that a base understanding of culturally sensitive language and concepts can be established. This online course should be developed with student input and instrumented by the start of the fall 2018 school year.
  • We demand the utilization of orientation as a platform for not only open discussion, but also to include mandatory workshops that will set explicit standards for students to follow in terms of diversity and inclusion.
  • We demand the redesign of the First-Year Writing Program and CC100 as key touch points to include more conversations around diversity, inclusion, socio-economic diversity, etc. to promote cultural awareness, difference, acceptance, and sensitivity.
  • We demand the creation of a new full-time position of a CITL (Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning) specialist in inclusive pedagogical practices that reports to both the Provost and the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. The CITL specialist must be hired by the start of the fall 2018 semester and will be responsible for conducting cultural competency trainings for faculty, including required sessions within new faculty orientation and ongoing, in-depth annual workshops for faculty who have already completed the first round of training.
  • We demand that any cultural competency training include information on immigration and the experiences of undocumented students. To constantly encounter staff and faculty who do not know how to work with the complexities of being undocumented, as well as repeatedly explaining what it means to be undocumented, can be frustrating and disempowering as a student. To be a student in a classroom where professors are using outdated and offensive terms such as “illegal” and “illegal alien” can be demoralizing.

Recruitment, Retention, and Resources

  • We demand that Emerson College provide at least 5 new in-school scholarships of at least $10,000 for domestic students of color by fall 2019. Due to the historical disenfranchisement of people of color and the intersection of race and socioeconomic status, students of color typically have a higher need for financial aid, and allocating funds for this purpose will demonstrate the college’s commitment to providing opportunities for students of color and increasing the diversity of the student body.
  • We demand a funded commitment to recruit, retain and promote more domestic diverse faculty in every department.
  • We demand that the College provide incoming undocumented students with the contact information of the appointed administrator who serves as the primary contact for DACA and other undocumented students so they can receive the legal, academic, financial, and mental health resources available to them.
  • We demand that the College create a plan by January 5th, 2018 to ensure the smooth logistical transition of financial aid for new and returning students once DACA expires on March 5th, 2018 so that there is no confusion, interruption, or additional work/stress on the part of the students to continue to receive financial aid and attend the College.


  • We demand that bias reports and student evaluations relating to classroom inclusivity be taken into consideration during faculty tenure review and promotion. In addition, because professors of color are often called upon for mentorship and service work, tenure and promotion processes should recognize these forms of labor.
  • We demand that the college publicize issues and progress on addressing institutional racism at Emerson College online, as well as retention rates for faculty, staff, and students of color​.

Timeline of Actions Committing to Diversity and Inclusion


  • In February and April 2019, academic departments updated their Diversity Perspectives Goals/Outcomes and Diversity Action Plans through Academic Affairs. Since the student protests, faculty and academic departments have worked hard to elevate the strategic goal of academic and inclusive excellence in their areas. The First Year Programs have been substantially revised so that diversity and inclusion are core rather than ancillary concerns. Faculty overhauled the Diversity curriculum, more narrowly tailoring the curricular goals and student learning outcomes for all courses that fall under the US Diversity Perspective and the Global Diversity Perspective. Finally, the Schools and the Institute have developed Diversity Action Plans that cover areas of curriculum, pedagogy, hiring, and student recruitment, with appropriate targets and goals set within each. 
  • In March 2019, President Pelton, Provost Whelan, and Vice President Spears announced the appointment of Dr. Tuesda Roberts as Director of Faculty Development and Diversity. This new full-time staff position was created in response to the student petition to enrich inclusive pedagogy in the classroom, design and lead specialized programs concerning inclusive pedagogies and instructional strategies, and infuse diversity and inclusion in all faculty development programs at the College. Tuesda earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education, with a specialization in Chicano/Latino Studies and a certificate in Urban Education, at Michigan State University and an M.A in Foreign Language Education and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at New York University. She was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban Education. As Assistant Professor of Multicultural Education at Missouri State University, she has been involved in training and mentoring instructors, developing curriculum and resources, and strategic planning to ensure more holistic and culturally relevant teaching practices and curriculum. Before joining the faculty at Missouri State, Tuesda taught Spanish language and literature at Johnson C. Smith University.


  • In October 2018, Samantha M. Ivery joined the Social Justice Collaborative as Director of Diversity & Equity Initiatives. As a former Assistant Dean in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership at Dartmouth College as well as Director of the Center for Women and Gender, Samantha's programs, development activities, workshops, and engagement with students and student groups were informed by critical social theories including Black Feminist Thought and Critical Race Theory. As Director of Projects for Campus Equity & Inclusion at Bennington College, Samantha developed the strategic foundation for the college's new equity and inclusion initiative. She also designed and co-facilitated anti-oppression dialogue groups for faculty and staff, partnered with the Library staff to curate social justice online materials, and served as a resource to the Bennington Community around diversity and equity issues. Samantha is completing her Ph.D. in Higher Education at Indiana University. Her dissertation focuses on undergraduate black women’s perceptions of gendered racial micro-aggressions. Samantha has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. As Director of Diversity & Equity Initiatives, Samantha will work collaboratively with the Vice President for Equity & Social Justice in advancing diversity, equity, and social justice efforts at Emerson.
  • The School of Communication has tasked a committee with exploring opportunities for expanding diversity and cultural competency in the curriculum of CC100, beginning with the development of a new student learning objective related to understanding and adapting to the needs of audiences from different backgrounds and cultures, and the selection of a new speech textbook for diverse contexts and occasions. Faculty instructors teaching CC100 will take part in a workshop in August 2018 focused on diversity and inclusion. Additionally, Communication Studies will be offering two new courses in Fall 2018: Cultural Competency: Rhetorics of Inclusion & Difference and Sports as Civic Power.
  • The Division of Student Affairs added a new program to Winter Orientation, Embracing Identity, run by tamia jordan (Intercultural Student Affairs) and Harrison Blum (Spiritual Life). The interactive session focused on identity (both visible and invisible), intersectionality, personal pronouns, and bias (both conscious and unconscious), toward the larger goal of creating an affirming and inclusive community for all identities. Evaluations of this program will help guide decision making for Fall 2018 orientation.


College’s Response to Student Demands

Response to Cultural Competency Demands

  • Emerson College has been selected to participate in the "Diversity, Civility, and the Liberal Arts Institute," convened by the Council of Independent Colleges and funded by the Mellon Foundation, that will be held in Atlanta on June 3–6, 2018. Emerson's proposal is to create a First-Year Experience that bridges academic and student affairs while responding to cultural competency demands.
  • Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe has identified two online diversity programs for possible use in the new student orientation. P.O.W.E.R. representatives have agreed to help vet these programs prior to adoption. Student Affairs staff also examines ways to better integrate diversity into new student programs, including orientation, first year residential programs, and the pilot first year seminar.
  • The Division of Diversity and Inclusion will develop strategies for communicating information about the Bias Response Program to new students.
  • Provost Whelan has charged the Dean of the School of Communication, the Dean of the School of Arts, and the Dean of Liberal Arts to examine what is currently being done with respect to diversity in courses in the First-Year Writing Program, Fundamentals of Speech Communication, and the Institute's First Year Seminar Program. The Deans will examine the range of texts as well as the assignments that are currently part of these courses. This baseline will allow them to determine areas for enhancement.
  • The Diversity Requirement Subcommittee of the Liberal Arts Council continues with its audit of all courses offered under the US and Global Diversity Perspective to ensure alignment with the new curricular goals and student learning outcomes approved in 2016. The process will conclude by December 2018.
  • The Provost and the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion have proposed an associate director position within the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning that will focus on providing faculty with instructional support related to diversity and inclusion in the classroom. The position is pending budget approval.
  • The Division of Diversity and Inclusion will increase the discussion of issues related to DACA and immigration in its workshops and programs. The Division of Diversity and Inclusion has also developed a new webpage that provides information about College, local, and national resources for those with vulnerable immigration status. The webpage includes information regarding ways in which members of our community can know more about current immigration issues and do more to support members of our community who might be vulnerable because of their immigrations status.

Response to Recruitment, Retention, and Resources Demands

  • Enrollment Management had previously established five new $20,000 “topper” scholarships that will augment financial packages made available to incoming students. The new scholarship will start with the Fall 2018 incoming class. The College has also doubled the operating budget for recruitment, yield, and retention support for students of color.

Response to Accountability Demands

  • In 2013, the Provost and the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion created a pilot diversity hiring process that is supplemental to the hiring processes outlined in the Faculty Handbook. The pilot program allows for greater involvement by the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion in the full-time faculty hiring process. The pilot program calls for faculty recruitment plans to enhance the diversity of applicant pools, VPDI review of job ads, analysis of the diversity of faculty applicant pools, and review of selected candidates. This process has resulted in more diversity in faculty applicant pools, which in turn has resulted in increases in the hire of faculty from diverse backgrounds.
  • This year, President Pelton created the Presidential Inclusive Excellence Faculty Hire program. Departments put forth proposals for a new faculty FTE that would address curricular needs as identified through the recent curriculum review process in response to the 2015 student demonstrations. Each year, a new faculty line will be granted to a department who seeks to expand the diversity of their curricular offerings.
  • The NEXUS program provides mentoring support for faculty from the time they join the Emerson Community as well as through the tenure and promotion process.
  • Students requested that Emerson create a plan for the smooth logistical transition of financial aid for new and returning students who may be affected by the termination of DACA. The expiration of DACA will not have an impact on students’ enrollment status with the College or their financial aid. Emerson does not restrict admission to Emerson based on immigration status. In addition, financial aid packages for students who are undocumented or DACA recipients is not dependent on federal aid. Students who have any specific concerns regarding their status are encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Office.
  • Student evaluations of teaching are currently considered as part of faculty evaluations. Department chairs will be examining evaluations across their department specifically as they relate to questions about inclusive practices in the classroom and issues of respect. Reports on responses to Q15 are shared with Chairs at the end of each semester. Qualitative analysis of Q15 results were completed for all Spring 2017 courses.
  • The additional student mentorship and advising that faculty of color might be called upon to do is currently considered in the promotion and tenure process under both teaching and service. Efforts are underway to clarify the Faculty Handbook language. (Update February 2018: Handbook language has been clarified and on way to vote by Faculty Handbook Committee.)
  • The College will be working to enhance all of its communication to the community about important priorities and initiatives including those related to diversity. The Division of Diversity and Inclusion created a new webpage to better inform the Community about immigration issues and this page will be used to provide periodic updates about progress on critical diversity initiatives.
  • President Pelton, Provost Whelan, Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe, and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears hold two meetings with P.O.W.E.R. representatives to discuss their demands.
  • Ad hoc Committee on Cultural Competence hosts an open community forum on November 2. Committee co-chairs, Miranda Banks (Visual & Media Arts) and Roy Kamada (Writing, Literature and Publishing), launch the meeting with a review of the committee’s charge and its work since 2015. Approximately 120 students, staff, and faculty members attend. Meeting participants work in small groups to generate ideas for addressing student demands. Notes from the meeting are shared with the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, who will ensure appropriate administrators will have information as they work to address student demands.
  • Second annual Teach-In on Race on October 13, 2017, featured keynote Chad Williams, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University, speaking about Practicing History and Social Justice in Moments of Racial Crisis. Additional panels and concurrent sessions related to race, power, and immigration concerns occurred across campus throughout the day.
  • Two diversity trainings are held for faculty teaching at Kasteel Well by the Provost and Dean of LIberal Arts (May 2017) and by Office of Diversity & Inclusion (December 2017).
  • Academic departments led by the Institute and WLP hold faculty workshops open to all on current issues related to immigration and DACA.
  • The School of the Arts, School of Communication, and the Institute are charged in Fall 2017 Academic Retreat with completing annual Diversity Action Plans with four central components: curriculum, pedagogy, hiring, and student recruitment.
  • A new minor is launched in the fall of 2017: Peace and Social Justice.
  • In February 2017, a faculty-student forum was held on "President Trump's Immigration Order and its Aftermath."
  • In January 2017 two events were held on post-election conversations on democracy and immigration.


  • Academic departments initiate curriculum reviews to identify ways to enhance attention to diversity and inclusion.
  • A new minor is launched: Latin American and Latinx Studies.
  • President Pelton issues an update on the 2015 student protest.
  • Provost, Deans, and Chairs meet with students from P.O.W.E.R. to discuss progress-to-date and next steps.
  • As part of the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Week, Why We Won’t Wait, students, staff, and faculty in over 30 departments across all Emerson College campuses take part in Conversations on Race and Difference.
  • Center for Teaching and Learning Ambassadors dedicate a year-long series of workshops on diversity and inclusion.
  • The Academic Cabinet, which includes the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chairs and Deans, participates in a special 12-hour training program on diversity and inclusion conducted by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Review of U.S. and global diversity requirements begins.
  • Curricular reviews  and self-reflection exercises continue in academic departments. The results of these are shared regularly with Academic Cabinet (Deans and Chairs).
  • Student Evaluation of Teaching form is revised to include two new questions focusing on respect and inclusion in the classroom.
  • First annual Teach-In on Race launches with keynote Eddie Glaude, Chair of the Center for African-American Studies and William S. Tod, Professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Princeton University, to speak about the "value gap" in American society. A full day of panels and concurrent sessions run across campus on topics related to race, activism, intersectionality, and community building. 
  • The Diversity Requirement subcommittee of the Liberal Arts Council concludes a process of updating and revising the curricular goals and student learning outcomes for US Diversity and Global Diversity. These are approved by Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.


  • Hundreds of students march into the last Faculty Assembly meeting of the 2014-2015 academic year led by a group of students of color, who speak with courage and deep conviction about their experience on campus and issues related to race at Emerson. Students call for faculty, students, and administrators to strengthen their cultural competence and to learn to communicate more effectively and respectfully across differences in identity.
  • Students establish P.O.W.E.R. (Protesting Oppression With Educational Reform), an independent student advocacy group committed to improving the educational experience of students from marginalized groups.
  • Faculty Ad hoc Cultural Competence Task Force is formed and co-chaired by Professors Jabari Asim (Writing, Literature & Publishing) and Nancy Allen (Communication Studies). Task force includes more than thirty members of the campus community.
  • The Division of Diversity and Inclusion launches the Bias Response Program. The program provides a central reporting mechanism for incidents of bias experienced by any member of the Emerson Community. The Bias Response Program is intended to provide support and advocacy for those affected by bias and is not a mechanism for disciplinary action.
  • A performance of Daniel Beatty’s Mr. Joy is added to new student orientation. The performance is followed by small group discussions across campus, facilitated by faculty, staff, and students. Discussions focus on what it means to live, learn, and work in the context of a diverse community. Mr. Joy continues to be part of orientation with a talk-back session about issues of diversity, intersectionality, and community.
  • Cultural competency readings, panel, and case study discussions are incorporated into the Faculty Institute, an annual gathering of all full-time faculty at the start of the academic year.
  • A new minor is launched: African American and Africana Studies.
  • A Diversity Requirement subcommittee of the Liberal Arts Council is created and charged with updating and revising the US and Global Diversity curriculum. 
  • Faculty Assembly votes to require faculty participation in diversity workshops, to launch curriculum review for diversity, and to clarify reporting mechanism for bias incidents. Note: As of December 2017, 97 percent of full-time faculty have participated in a Division of Diversity and Inclusion’s workshop entitled Teaching and Learning in the Context of Emerson’s Diverse Student Community or participated in the three–day Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellows Program. Seventy percent of part-time faculty have participated in these programs.  Faculty at Emerson LA and at Kasteel Well have also participated in these workshops.
  • Faculty Assembly votes to approve student representatives from the Schools of Arts and Communication as full members of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.
  • The Ad hoc Committee on Cultural Competence releases its “Summary Report of Initiatives to Increase Cultural Competency among Faculty and Students.”



Diversity and Inclusion hires Director of Diversity Education and Human Relations to lead the College’s efforts to enhance understanding of diversity and inclusion as core professional competencies. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion expands its offering of workshops, training, consultations, and coaching related to diversity and inclusion.



Emerson’s newly appointed president, M. Lee Pelton, launches search for the College’s first Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.