Lehigh University was awarded, for the fourth consecutive year, the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for continuous commitment to community diversification.
INSIGHT Into Diversity, a diversity magazine and website, presents the award, in addition to other diversity programs and initiatives. They chose Lehigh as one of 104 honorees in the country.
Donald A. Outing, vice president for equity and the community and university diversity and inclusion officer, said he takes great pride in being a HEED Award recipient.
“The HEED Award really does recognize our commitment to (diversity, equity and inclusion),” Outing said. “This demonstration of leadership and continued action is the DNA of the institution.”
According to INSIGHT Into Diversity’s website, to be considered for recognition, higher education institutions must complete a data-intensive form that acts as a demonstration of the school’s leadership, governance and organization as a whole.
The application also encourages faculty members of universities and colleges to collect data and reflect on the progress made throughout the academic year.
Outing said Lehigh’s strong suit comes from a diverse student body and its development.
“A diverse student body is an educated one,” he said.
Kwynsky Miguel, ‘25, treasurer of both the Latinx Student Alliance and the Circle of Sisters, said she is inspired by the communities at Lehigh.
“These are communities that are really special and matter to me,” Miguel said. “I love seeing people come together.”
Miguel said having positions in these kinds of student organizations allows students to develop their career skills and backgrounds in intersectional settings.
Providing study abroad opportunities and promoting membership and awareness of inclusive student organizations are a couple of ways Outing said Lehigh’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department helps students to further their personal and cultural development.
Kaitlyn Powel, ‘25, a student staff member at Lehigh’s Pride Center, said she understands Outing’s perspective regarding the importance of diversity within a student body.
“Exposure to diversity throughout college is so crucial to learning how to both navigate the world beyond the limits of your immediate community and also open yourself up to learning about the multitudes of beautiful identities and orientations that exist amongst the populations of our community,” Powel said.
The Pride Center on campus works to promote inclusivity and awareness through the creation of a space where people of all genders, sexualities and orientations can thrive.
As the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Kappa Alpha Theta, Sarah Mixsell, ‘24, is passionate about creating a safe and welcoming space for members of her chapter. From her perspective, there is no clear-cut way to do it.
“My position is a really open-ended position to have, and action looks like a lot of different things,” Mixsell said. “Firstly, I want my chapter, itself, to feel like an open environment.”
Mixsell said she recognizes the idea that Greek Life does not normally have the reputation of being a diverse space and she is striving to combat this standard.
In addition to improving diversity within Greek organizations, Powel said there are changes Lehigh can incorporate into daily campus life that would make the community more inclusive, such as having more transparency between the administration and the Lehigh community. She said Lehigh can increase the transparency between the administration and the wider Lehigh community, specifically organizations that work directly with the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Speaking specifically about our LGBTQIA+ population on campus, we are here, we are queer and we are proud,” Powel said. “This is something we strive to share with a wider community on campus.”
Outing said one area they are currently focusing on improving is achieving greater diversity of university faculty and staff, especially greater representation of women and racial minorities.
“Work on diversity, equity and inclusion is a journey, not a destination,” Outing said.