Skip to main content
Close Search
COVID-19 Updates: Stay Informed

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion



 Since 2012, SDSU has made efforts to reaffirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The last strategic planning cycle focused on providing more access and opportunity to underrepresented populations. The diversity and inclusion mission that follows is aimed at supporting the underrepresented populations in the SDSU community. 

An underrepresented individual is defined as a person whose identity does not have majority representation across the university community and who has less political and social power structures that support their experience. Underrepresented and marginalized groups are people of color, low income, women, transgender/gender non-conforming, lesbian, gay, bisexual, Native American, international, non-native English speakers, people with disabilities, people with exceptionalities, people of non-Christian faiths, veterans, unemployed, housing insecure, food insecure, and first-generation students. This operationalization is fluid and evolving with the intention to be more inclusive than previous institutional definitions of “underrepresented.” 

Since the start of the last strategic plan, Impact 2018, SDSU has made some progress to address the need for the university to build a more inclusive and diverse population. SDSU has implemented the American Indian Student Center and American Indian Studies program, which supports Native American students, scholars, and studies. It has also restructured the International Affairs Office to bring international admissions, student support, study abroad, and English as a second language together. Furthermore, SDSU’s Multicultural Center has further developed programming and support focused on developing and supporting inclusion at SDSU. Each of these respective offices provide programming, academic and personal support, and space for students. 

In addition to the integration of these offices, the university created a Dissertation Fellowship for Underrepresented Scholars, which offers one-year positions to ABD-stage graduate students who would contribute to the diversity of SDSU; three of these fellows have been hired as assistant professors. Despite these efforts the overall proportion of underrepresented groups among employees—faculty, NFE and CSA—remains low and in some cases with a decreasing trend (see Table 1 and appendix). 

With the renewed commitment to diversity in Impact 2018, SDSU’s diverse population changed, but large disparities still exist in the population. Additionally, much of the demographic shift has occurred because of the growing international student population at SDSU, a trend that is not otherwise seen with other underrepresented populations (see Table 1). 

More Recently, SDSU has succeeded in recruiting a full-time Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access to serve in the senior, diversity, 

leadership role as well as a Director of Veteran Affairs. Finally, the Wokini Initiative intends to better support the needs of the Native American population at SDSU and beyond. 

Table 1: Summary of SDSU Community according to ethnic origin, gender and legal status since 2012 

Students (in Percentage)


American Indian and

Alaskan Native

AsianBlackHispanicNative Hawaiian and Pacific IslanderWhite2 or more races Non-resident foreign

All Permanent Employees (in Percentage)


American Indian and

Alaskan Native

AsianBlackHispanicNative Hawaiian and Pacific IslanderWhite2 or more races Non-resident foreign

Permanent employees by profession category (Faculty-NFE-CSA) (in actual number)


American Indian and

Alaskan Native

AsianBlackHispanicNative Hawaiian and Pacific IslanderWhite2 or more races Non-resident foreign
2016597-565- 641218-310-3923-3-1187-19-1111-6-913-8-50-0-0481-528-6042-1-133-8-1


Lessons Learned

Right structure, leadership and resources produce results. Restructuring the International Office with appropriate leadership led to a doubling of international students on campus. TRiO student support services have assisted first generation and low-income students and students with disabilities to achieve academic success. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, while successfully reaching some students, has suffered from inconsistent leadership and structure and as a result has made insufficient progress in addressing the needs of minority populations and increasing diversity on campus. 

Right physical infrastructure helps to serve underrepresented populations. The Veterans Resource Center was recently relocated to a more prominent location to the north of Brown Hall. The new center is centrally located within Jackrabbit Grove to heighten visibility and access for students who are veterans. However, the American Indian Student Center, the Multicultural Center, Disabilities Services, and LGBTQ Services are located in spaces that are not ideal for accessibility and/or visibility for serving underrepresented populations. 

Integration of diversity and inclusion in the curriculum (and co-curriculum) contributes to cultural competency for the SDSU community. The newly adopted requirement to integrate diversity and inclusion as a learning outcome in every academic program, Common Read, International Nights, Wacipi, the Tunnel of Oppression, and increased study abroad programs all have increased cultural diversity awareness. 

Recruitment and retention of students, staff and faculty from underrepresented populations requires dedicated efforts. Even though the Admissions Office has a dedicated multicultural student recruiter, efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented students should be broadened. 

Establishing a campus culture that values and appreciates diversity requires a personal commitment from everyone. This requires consistent, ongoing and inclusive programming, policies, procedures, training, and critical conversations at every level. 

National Trend and external picture

Diversity, inclusion, equity, and access have become priorities for many higher education institutions over the past couple of decades. With population growth of underrepresented populations, higher education institutions are prioritizing recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation efforts to address the needs of these populations. 

National trends and best practices suggest that institutions need to commit to diversity and inclusion at higher levels by allocating time, resources, and space to advancing the mission. This requires that institutions hire a senior leader of diversity and inclusion who is well-supported by the university president, to lead these efforts. In addition, it is vital for institutions to incorporate diversity, inclusion, and equity into their strategic plan and mission statement. Making equity and inclusion a priority at the broader institutional level sends the message to current and prospective underrepresented individuals that there will be commitment to addressing their needs. 

One way to improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students is to focus on hiring faculty and staff of underrepresented backgrounds. Underrepresented students who see and interact with people of similar identities and backgrounds are more likely to persist to graduation. In order to do this, institutions should develop strategic faculty and staff recruitment and retention plans to grow the diversity within each population. In addition to hiring more diverse faculty and staff, institutions should treat the retention of students with underrepresented backgrounds as a collaborative effort, rather than an effort dedicated to one office. For example, Wessel et al (2009) found that universities that allocated significant resources into expanding the accessibility services to 

students with apparent and non-apparent disabilities saw similar retention and graduate rates as students without disabilities. Thus, universities should have service units that directly and collaboratively support students from various identities and backgrounds. To illustrate, most institutions with a marked increase in enrollment and graduation of underrepresented students have most, if not all, of the following: multicultural resource centers, international affairs offices, disability services, veteran affairs, LGBTQ resource centers, Native American student centers, African-American student centers, and Hispanic resource centers. 

Building an inclusive university community where diversity is woven into the campus culture is essential in developing and retaining underrepresented populations. Institutions need to have a pulse of the campus climate to proactively address areas of improvement through programming and initiatives, such as cultural competency training, diversity and inclusion co-curricular programming, and on-boarding programs. Ensuring that all students are a part of the diversity mission will help reduce bias incidents, micro-aggressions, or blatant discriminatory practices, thus facilitating a more welcoming environment for underrepresented populations. 

Across the nation, institutions of higher education that prioritize diversity, inclusion, equity, and access are seeing greater enrollment, retention, and persistence of underrepresented students. 

Strategic Themes

A summary of the critical issues that stakeholders must understand is listed below. These issues were identified in stakeholder specific listening sessions. Some points are classified under more than one category. 


Removing barriers for underrepresented groups for access/support Perception of hidden physical spaces can prohibit sense of belonging Buildings are not all accessible 

Campus culture 

  • Assumptions/perceptions of difference 

  • Changing minds takes time 

  • Accountability in exceeding federal guidelines; continuing evaluation 

  • Perception of physical spaces can prohibit sense of belonging 

  • Lack of diversity in the community 

  • Hiring from within and mostly white men 

  • Maternity leave/FMLA; tenure clock 

  • Ability to differentiate difference between diversity and inclusion 

  • Changing demographics of state are important 

  • Frequent micro-aggressions in departments and in hiring process 

  • Retention of minority students is as or more important than recruitment


  • Removing barriers for underrepresented groups for access/support 

  • Accountability in exceeding federal guidelines; continuing evaluation 

  • Hiring from within and mostly white men 

  • Maternity leave/FMLA; tenure clock 

  • Ability to differentiate difference between diversity and inclusion 

  • Frequent micro-aggressions in departments and in hiring process 


SDSU should strive to develop a more inclusive community by providing conditions necessary for all members to feel welcomed, supported, included, and valued. Further development of an open, inclusive, and diverse University will enhance the educational experience of students, faculty, and staff by exchanging ideas, challenging preconceptions, addressing micro-aggressions, encouraging critical thinking, promoting diverse perspectives, broadening the talent pool, and respectfully communicating when there are disagreements. Recognizing and welcoming differences will help SDSU create engaged global citizens and better serve a changing student population. Potential challenges to an inclusive and diverse university are limitations on resources required to enhance programs that promote diversity and inclusion. The resources required could include additional FTEs to assist diverse students, diversity and inclusion programs, additional financial aid, and faculty and staff awards for promoting a diverse and inclusive campus climate. Other obstacles may include disagreements that can arise from differing views and backgrounds, diverging views between traditional university policy and contemporary policies, and the inability of governing bodies to adapt to changing university culture. 

Short- and long-term plans 


  • Continue aggressive and creative recruitment of outstanding diverse students so that the diversity of our student body, faculty, and employees meets or exceeds the diversity of the population from which they are drawn. 

  • Develop aggressive and create best practices to attract a more diverse pool of qualified candidates for all positions at the administration, faculty, non-faculty exempt, and civil service levels. 

  • Develop and implement new community-based mechanisms to promote and advance the educational equity and career aspirations of South Dakotans. Expand formal structures for university/community interactions in order to strengthen the college-going culture in South Dakota (e.g. college and career centers, professional development for K-12 counselors, and more effective communication). 

Student scholarship 

  • Enhance and deploy scholarship resources in support of diversity, inclusion, equity, and multiculturalism so that SDSU is not losing students to peer institutions based on financial aid award levels. 

Academic programs 

  • Establish an effective academic and career support program that assists diverse students with attaining graduation, licensure, and career placement. 

  • Continue to develop and offer guest speaker and other extracurricular programs that advance diversity, inclusion, equity, and multiculturalism.

  • Highlight and support diversity, inclusion, equity, and multiculturalism in the Union through dedicated displays that promote and support these values. Promote and increase awareness of multicultural affairs events and programming. Increase attendance at multicultural events and programming. 


  • Develop a facility assessment program to regularly report on the progress in achieving SDSU’s strategic goals in diversity, inclusion, equity, and multiculturalism. 

  • Upgrade buildings to meet or exceed 2010 ADA Guidelines within the next 10 years in order to achieve a more inclusive physical environment. 

  • Assess all building restroom facilities to convert single-stall facilities to gender-neutral facilities; develop a map of gender-neutral restroom facilities on campus. 

Campus Culture 

  • Develop a reward structure that recognizes and incentivizes achievements that advance equity, inclusion, and diversity at SDSU. 

  • Include diversity and inclusion in the university mission statement 

  • Develop campus climate teams that represent primary university stakeholders like undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni, with the goal of facilitating cross-cultural interaction and dialogue. 

  • Help individuals transition into SDSU by building upon best practices in mentoring and academic support. Enhance the formats and venues in which the university welcomes all students, faculty, and staff. Provide support for transitioning into SDSU’s academic and social culture. Reduce intergroup disparities in retention, advancement, and graduation rates. 

The expected outcomes of this plan are: 

  • Greatly reduce or eliminate intergroup disparities in the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of undergraduate and graduate students. 
  • Student enrollment reflects the diversity of the region. 

  • Increase in campus members reporting a strong sense of belonging. 

  • Faculty and staff at all levels reflects the diversity of the national and local talent pool. 

  • Intergroup disparities in the composition of managers and executives are greatly reduced or eliminated. 

  • Reduction in reported bias-related complaints.

  • Increase the university’s analytical capacity to identify and address obstacles and remedies to equity and inclusion. 



This report prepared by Nancy Hartenhoff-Crooks, coordinator, Disability Services; Chamika Hawkins-Taylor, assistant professor, College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions; Jonathan Meendering, project architect; Nathan Ziegler, director, Inclusion, Diversity & Equit; Jason Zimmerman, interim dean, College of Arts & Sciences; Kathleen Fairfax, vice president, Academic Affairs-International Affairs and Outreach; Jose L Gonzalez Hernandez, associate professor, Agronomy, Horticulture & Plant Science.