Student Life DEI Action Team: A Year in Review

With national calls for anti-racism and social justice last summer, the Division of Student Life launched a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) action team to develop, guide, and advance DEI efforts in the division. The team spent the 2020-21 academic year developing and beginning to implement an action plan for the division. The plan includes goals, responsible parties, timelines, and measurable outcomes and is published on the DEI action team website.

The team is co-chaired by Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Kimberly Moore, and Associate Director of Student Diversity & Inclusion Dasha Harris. Early in the process, the team developed four subcommittees: 

  • Training and education
  • Systems
  • Communication
  • Resources

Goal Setting and Priorities

The action team started the year by listening. During early team meetings, members reviewed experiences posted on the @DearMiamiU Instagram page. They also shared their own experiences and reviewed responses from a divisional staff survey on DEI initiatives. 

"The first initial meetings of the core team were crucial in guiding our conversations as a subcommittee," said Gabby Dralle, associate dean of students and co-chair of the systems subcommittee. 

After brainstorming as the full DEI action team, subcommittees set their own goals and priorities to guide their work for the year. They broke down goals with tasks, responsible parties, deadlines, and priority statuses. Transparency was a key priority, and the entire action plan was published on a new DEI action team website. 

The education and training subcommittee aimed to balance their ideas for large, impactful changes with what the Division of Student Life has the ability and resources to implement. "DEI education and training is a collective responsibility. Some of the ideas involved people all across campus," said Dan Darkow, assistant director for the Miller Center for Student Disability Services and chair of the education and training subcommittee. "We honed our goals to focus on the division and what we can control."

The communication subcommittee chose to develop goals with a range of timelines. "We focused on both long-term and short-term goals so we could see immediate impact but also work toward bigger picture projects," said Tiffany Harrison, chair of the communication subcommittee and associate director of the Center for Student Engagement, Activities and Leadership. 


The team has encountered challenges throughout the year, ranging from complex coordination to membership changes.

"One challenge for the systems subcommittee is the complexities of systems. It requires a high level of coordination between various departments within the division and externally," said Dralle. "With that being said, we have been met with a tremendous amount of support."

The communication subcommittee found it difficult to keep communication clear and concise with so many voices participating in content creation. "There is so much to say and to do that it is difficult to share it in bite-sized pieces that will gain the attention of our students," said Harrison.

The resources subcommittee experienced a change in leadership in the middle of the year. Ann James, director of the office of community standards, became chair of the committee in January. She admits it was challenging to come in as the new person. "I [was] not aware of what group dynamics may have been at play in the fall," she said.

The leadership change was an opportunity, however, to reevaluate goals from the fall semester. "We took a look at the goals that had been set in the fall and each member voted on which ones to keep working on and which ones to sunset," said James. "We came up with some additional tasks as well."

Taking Action

Despite challenges, the DEI action team has made significant strides in enacting the action plan. 

laptop open to the Bias Response webpageSystems

The systems subcommittee worked to improve the bias response process at Miami. Accomplishments include: 

  • Benchmarking peer institutions' bias response efforts.
  • Improving the dean of students bias response webpage. The page now includes additional resourcing options. 
  • Developing the Division of Student Life bias education & support team (BEST). The team of trained professionals will provide guidance and emotional support to students affected by bias. The team, expected to launch in Fall 2021, will also provide education and training related to incidents of bias. 

Additionally, the subcommittee explored how the division onboards and trains staff on DEI issues. They developed a new certification/professional development plan for the division, which starts with onboarding new staff members and extends through three levels of further development. The proposal currently includes:

  • Developing a Canvas course for student life staff to engage with and track their progress through DEI training.
  • Connecting with other university entities tasked with DEI training and development to compare and streamline processes.
  • Collaborating with other subcommittees on the development of content and DEI related professional development opportunities.


The resources subcommittee focused on DEI assessment and spending within student life. Accomplishments include: 

  • Adding a DEI budget code for units to use in the next fiscal year. The code will provide an additional metric to track financial resources spent on DEI efforts. 
  • Adding divisional key performance indicators (KPIs) to track other types of resources (time, human resources, etc.) allocated to DEI work. 

Photo of international students surrounding a globe with text over that reads Listen. Learn. Act.Communication

The communication subcommittee aimed to make students feel supported and to connect them with resources. Accomplishments include:

  • Creating a new Instagram series called "Listen. Learn. Act." on student life’s Instagram account (@MiamiOH_StudentLife) that shares resources across multiple learning platforms to engage students in DEI topics.
  • Developing a plan to audit departmental websites for gendered language, inaccessible information, etc. 

Education and Training

The education and training subcommittee focused on impactful projects that could be sustained over time. Accomplishments include: 

  • Proposing a peer-based education program, the Nelly Scholars Program. This peer-to-peer training program would create an infrastructure for DEI training in the Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion. 
  • Centering the division's work around a shared DEI values and goal statement, now published on the division's website.
  • Collaborating with the divisional professional development committee to implement recurring DEI training for staff. The team uses the existing monthly DEI forum for introductory training into various topics, with follow up sessions each month. Sample topics include deafness and deaf culture and historical contexts and current day xenophobia.

A Rewarding Experience

It's been rewarding for action team members to see their work come to fruition. 

"I value that our team is action oriented," said Dralle. "We take in the insights that we receive from one another and the campus community with passion and urgency [and turn them] into actionable steps to improve our work and students’ experience at Miami."

The process itself has also been rewarding for team members. "We are a group that doesn't get to work together very much otherwise, and we really have great conversations," said James. "There have been several times when someone makes a point that would not have occurred to me. I'm so grateful that we're able to do that."