An Update from Gannon’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee

The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Steering Committee chaired by Becky Perry and Dr. Lori Lindley was formed and set forth with the initial charge to create an institutional DEI action plan after an assessment and discernment process, identify ways to involve all colleagues and students interested in supporting this work, and coordinate ways to implement ideas for immediate action while formalizing the institutional plan.

View a video update below from the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, and visit their page on to learn more

Charmaine Wilson, director of the McNairs Scholar Program

            The Steering Committee began progressing on defining its mission, terms and an action plan while forming a Student Advisory Committee. In 2021, working groups were defined and began meeting regularly, while work began on a campus climate survey and bias reporting tool, two needs designated as immediate priorities.

The Institutional Plan committee collaborated with university President’s Leadership Team to identify three major target areas of enhancement at Gannon:

  • Sustain a welcoming and supportive environment for diverse students
  • Sustain a welcoming and supportive environment for diverse employees
  • Enhance communication from the university regarding diversity

The Institutional Plan working group led by Dr. Lori Lindley submitted a three-year plan to the Board of Trustees and President’s Leadership Team, and saw the proposals for the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion approved, slated to launch in the fall of 2022, as well as the approval of the position for a Director for Diversity and Inclusion, with the search led by Dean Paul Perrine. They’ll also work toward providing additional resources for faculty and staff development in DEI.

In terms of the Campus Climate and Assessment, this spring the survey was re-deployed, with responses were generally positive regarding a sense of belonging at Gannon, and perceptions of campus related to diversity – but there is more work to be done. Up next, plans are ongoing for a separate forum for an in-depth presentation of the results of the study, as well as plans for its next deployment.

            Dr. Megan Woller leads the Gender Identity and Language working group and its nine sub-groups. This spring they’ve worked on a restroom audit in Erie and Ruskin and drafted a proposal to convert signage on all single restrooms to all-gender. They are also working to create an educational resource hub and facilitate inclusive technology discussions across campus including the designation of preferred names and pronouns. Up next: goals include creating brief guides on inclusive classroom practices, email signatures, pronoun usage and more; building library resource pages on gender and sexuality, gathering information on affinity housing for LGBTQ+ students and other supportive practices (e.g., support for transitioning students, collaboration with the Queer Collective, reinstituting safe zone training and more).

            In Communications, led by Becky Perry, DEI internal and external websites are now live and can be found in the About section of the homepage, as well as the portal; plans for marketing and communications leadership and support for JEDI are enhanced and ongoing. Up next: the team is working to finalize plans for regular JEDI/DEI updates, website maintenance, and more, as well as developing a plan for ongoing student and employee forums and small group listening sessions.

            From Employee Recruitment, Retention and Professional Development led by Kathleen Gausman, this team researched best practices and worked to provide recommendations for requesting diversity statements from applicants, requiring implicit bias training for all new employees and search committees, and establishing a framework for regular professional development offerings. They’re collaborating with the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences to teach workshops and networking sessions and are incorporating DEI information into “Gannon Experience” onboarding. Up next, they’ll continue to work with HR, evaluating and implementing these recommendations, develop affinity groups with gatherings and a mentoring program and develop the diversity advocates program.

            Student Recruitment and Retention, led by Charmaine Wilson and Desi Herter, spent much of the spring semester collaborating with enrollment to review our current recruitment strategies and find opportunities to enhance our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our team reviewed touchpoints students have across divisions at the university, and worked on developing content for Gannon 101, with a new DEI section incorporated into the introductory course experience. We reviewed retention data, collaborated with Global Admissions, and are now set to look toward future goals of creating direct marketing and communications efforts geared toward a diverse student population. We also plan to develop student resources to support diversity while connecting campus life at Gannon with the city of Erie, and prioritizing DEI focuses among new hires in Undergraduate Admissions.

            Student Development, led by Charmaine Wilson, spent the spring of 2022 gathering student input with a desire to engage in difficult conversations, finding a need for a safe space to do so, and generating ideas about how to fill these gaps. Up next: the team will work to implement a monthly series called "ToKnights View" on topics such as equity vs. equality, critical race theory, socioeconomic diversity, and more. We look forward to collaborating on future planning with the new Director for Diversity and Inclusion as with clubs and organizations on campus. 

            Led by Paul Perrine, the Bias and Discrimination Reporting Form and Process group reviewed best practices and drafted the BIAS incident form. Up next, a draft of the form and processes will be shared with both the Steering and Student Advisory Committees, President’s Leadership Team and others; a group will be identified to review submissions and the form, published, as well as developing support for individuals reporting incidents of bias.

            Mary McDermott and the Resource Group collaborated with the CHESS Racial Justice Task Force and The Nash Library and Student Learning Commons to understand and expand existing resources, review internal and external websites, and assess content and launch the JEDI Educational Resource Page, available at Up Next, they’ll finalize short- and long-term goals for creation, maintenance and sustainability of resources while continuing to work with Nash Library and CETL.

            All in the Gannon community are welcome to join in the world of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University, and all working groups welcome input from across the Gannon family. Be on the lookout for more updates from the JEDI Steering Committee through the year.

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