Diversity Made High Priority As Colorado Community College System Looks to Grow
The 40 location education system will host a diversity hiring fair for faculty and instructors Jan. 10
In its attempt to expand its faculty and instructor cohort, Colorado Community College System is hosting a diversity recruitment fair January 10 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Lowry Conference Center. Exhibiting its commitment to equity and inclusion, the system already educates 48 percent of Colorado's undergraduate students of color and hopes to attract a staff that is representative of that student body at all 13 CCCS colleges and 40 locations across the state.
ColoradoBiz spoke to a few three members of the CCCS team – System Chancellor Joe Garcia, Associate Vice President of Human Resources Christina Cecil and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Diversity and Inclusion Ryan Ross – about the special event.
CB: HOW DOES CCCS DEFINE DIVERSITY?
Joe Garcia: "How do I interpret diversity? Our students define that for us. Those that come to our colleges dictate what diversity means – and this goes beyond race and gender. Young, old, working parents, rural, urban, have military experience, etc. When pursuing diversity-related goals at CCCS, we are focused on closing specific equity gaps in student success outcomes and this extends to how we recruit, hire and train the instructors and staff that are educating, training and supporting our students.
CB: WHY IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME TO HOST A DIVERSITY RECRUITMENT FAIR?
Ryan Ross: "It is always the right time to host a diversity recruitment fair and provide equitable employment opportunities to the educators of Colorado. We believe in making decisions and championing initiatives that best support the success of every student in the Colorado Community College System. Not only is this the right thing to do, we believe the research demonstrating that diversity increases creativity and innovation, promotes higher quality decisions and enhances economic growth.
Increasing the diversity throughout our system will support us in achieving equitable educational experiences for all students and will help us develop a culture that supports the courageous conversations and actions necessary to achieve excellence in diversity, equity and inclusion across our campuses."
CB: WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO CHANCELLOR JOE GARCIA AND THE SYSTEM AT LARGE?
Joe Garcia: "We are committed to student success. Our student population is diverse and the 13 colleges in our system educate nearly half of Colorado’s undergraduate students of color.
Successfully earning a college-level credential is not only important on the basis of individual students – it is imperative for Colorado’s economic growth. The benefits of diversity have long been recognized in increasing success outcomes in higher education. When students see themselves reflected in the make-up of our faculty, they are more likely to enroll, compete, and succeed. By creating a diverse faculty, we will increase student engagement and retention, which will drive success among groups of students who traditionally have been underrepresented on campuses."
CB: WHAT PERCENTAGE UPTICK IN DIVERSITY IS THE SYSTEM HOPING TO ACHIEVE IN THE SHORT- AND LONG-TERM?
Christina Cecil: "CCCS has a strategic goal to create a workforce that is reflective of our student population, which is ever-changing. We recognize that progress in faculty diversity has not kept pace with student diversity and, while we cannot change this in an instant, we will be intentional in addressing it.
The percentage uptick in diversity we are able to achieve is dependent on several factors, including the rate of turnover among our positions. We are fortunate that our employees tend to stay in their positions longer than what is reported nationally. A large contributor to this is the level of engagement and satisfaction reported by our employees.
Initiatives such as the diversity recruitment fair demonstrate our commitment toward the goal of creating a workforce that is reflective of our student population and that, when we do have vacancies, we are being intentional about our hiring practices."
CB: WHAT PARTS OF THE STATE STRUGGLE MOST – WITHIN THE 40 LOCATIONS OF THE SYSTEM – WITH ACTIONABLY TACKLING THE IDEA OF DIVERSITY?
Christina Cecil: "There are rural areas of Colorado where the surrounding populations are lower in number and less diverse than what we see in the Denver-metro area. Recruitment efforts for colleges in these areas have to reach farther and often require relocating new employees to their area. These colleges then have the additional challenge of acclimating employees to not only their college, but also the surrounding area. In many cases, this represents an opportunity for a college to impact the culture of the service area and showcase the positive impact diversity has on an institution and a community."
CB: HOW DOES COLORADO COMPARE TO OTHER STATES IN ITS DIVERSITY EFFORTS AND SHORTFALLS?
Christina Cecil: "CCCS is not alone in its efforts to diversify its workforce. After recognizing the positive impact of employee diversity on innovation, employee satisfaction, and ultimately a business’ bottom line, organizations across the nation are expressing their interests in workforce diversification. You can see this on job announcements across industries. But just as there are differences within Colorado, there are vast differences across the nation and across industries."
CB: ONCE HIRED, WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT AREAS TO FOCUS ON TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS AND CREATE A SINGLE SYSTEM COMMUNITY?
Ryan Ross: "The diversity, equity, and inclusion concerns in higher education aren’t exclusively limited to increasing the demographics, although increased numbers and greater diversity in people is an important goal. Diversity must be coupled with cultural responsiveness, intentional retention practices, and, most importantly, an environment that understands that everyone is a part of diversity.
Our focus centers on these areas and reaching a culture of real equity across the system through conversation, collaboration, and intentional commitment and support from every employee starting with the Chancellor of our system. We are not in the business of only enrolling students. We are in the business of doing what is necessary to serve every student on every campus within our system."