Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Academic Innovations Group

Academic Innovations Group
Five-Year Equity-in-Action Plan


The Academic Innovations Group’s (AIG) five-year equity-in-action plan represents the shared efforts of AIG and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to center the teaching mission of the University of Mississippi in effecting long-term, systemic progress toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, outcomes. For the past two years, the units have worked in support of greater DEI at the university through the collaborative development of an inclusive teaching plan. This plan extends that work and offers three main efforts: internal plans to explore, articulate and develop the units’ engagement with DEI; external plans to strengthen and extend inclusive teaching for the entire university faculty, and external plans to engage administrative and student communities with inclusive teaching.

PATHWAYS TO EQUITY: University of Mississippi Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

The University of Mississippi continues its commitment to excellence and making a positive difference in society through higher education. Pathways to Equity stands as our institutional guidepost for addressing and advancing our institutional mission through centering on diversity, equity and inclusion. Our complex institutional history coupled with our rich culture of students, faculty and staff striving for inclusive change has led us to the solidification of this institutional plan. Pathways to Equity works in concert with the university’s strategic plan to leverage university-wide, college/school-level and departmental transformative initiatives that cultivate a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus.

With Pathways to Equity, the University of Mississippi aspires to achieve the following statements by the conclusion of this plan:

  1. The University of Mississippi consistently and comprehensively articulates diversity, equity and inclusion as essential in fulfilling the mission, vision and values of the institution.
  2. The University of Mississippi is organizationally and culturally equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to continue advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.
  3. A campus climate is fostered that ensures all individuals are valued and supported, and feel a sense of belonging at the University of Mississippi.
  4. The University of Mississippi demonstrates decreases in disparities across underrepresented groups in the enrollment, retention and graduation rate at undergraduate and graduate levels.
  5. The number of underrepresented groups employed at the University of Mississippi is increased to reflect a talented and diverse workforce at all organizational levels, especially tenure-track faculty, managerial positions and executive leadership positions.

Guiding Principles

The development of this plan requires us to address individual, social, organizational and systemic factors that create and sustain inequities that prevent all members of our community from fully participating and thriving at the University of Mississippi. As we embark on this journey together, we must commit to the following shared principles:

  1. Equity-mindedness[1] – We embrace the institutional responsibility and agency to actively address the challenges and disparate outcomes at all levels of our community. This requires us to be data informed and connect best and promising practices to generate high-impact change for underserved groups in our community.
  2. Institutional Accountability – We must ensure efforts outlined throughout Pathways to Equity are acknowledged in the established systems of recognition, performance and accountability. It is vital that we work to account for the advancement of these goals in our ideas of success, merit and reward. Further, we must account for, honor and recognize faculty, staff, administrators and students in their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  3. Transparency – In our execution of Pathways to Equity, our success is predicated on a highly accessible and collaborative process that actively involves university stakeholders to work as meaningful partners. To that end, we will consistently, publicly and broadly share our intended actions, goals and measurable impacts of this plan.
  4. Innovation – Actualizing diversity, equity and inclusion will require us to deeply examine and rethink our policies, practices and procedures at the University of Mississippi. Each unit and individual across campus is invited to offer thoughts, ideas and perspectives as we thoughtfully consider ways to make our institution more equitable and inclusive through an intersectional lens. This disposition of robust inquiry and evidence-based imagination will create a community of learning, growth and development as we collectively engage in this complex work.
  5. Alignment of Critical Resources – During this planning process, we have navigated a global health pandemic that has shown the vulnerabilities in our systems that disparately affect underserved and under-resourced communities. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we must not falter in our commitment to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community. We must recognize that our commitment to equity is more important than ever.


The following goals represent the University of Mississippi’s commitment to the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). These overarching goals represent interconnected priorities that are applicable to UM broadly, from our comprehensive divisions down to individual teams. We aim to have all units see meaningful alignment of these goals with their work. We will ensure UM embraces the transformative nature of diversity, equity and inclusion across all levels of the institution, addressing challenges to DEI at every corner of our institution by combining contextual understanding with internal and external expertise.

  1. Advance Institutional Capacity for Equity
    Infrastructure, Information, Systems, Education and Processes
  2. Cultivate a Diverse and Equitable Community
    Recruiting, Retaining, Advancing and Succeeding
  3. Foster an Inclusive Campus Climate
    Support, Value and Belonging



From spring 2019, representatives from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning have partnered with the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement to collaborate with faculty from a wide range of disciplines and envision ways to support inclusive teaching practices. Forming the Teaching for Inclusion Workshop Planning Committee in May 2019, the group continued to meet throughout the initial phases of the pandemic to envision a workshop and, subsequently, a faculty grant program for the development, application and assessment of inclusive teaching practices across campus. In addition, the committee envisioned multiple faculty programming events beginning in January 2021, which have served to orient the faculty and administrative community to some of the key concepts in DEI, including an asset-minded philosophy, stereotype threat, implicit bias and a data-engaged assessment practice. The work to envision, fund and bring together an inclusive teaching practice continues at the time of writing and, depending upon available funding, will extend through the upcoming academic year.

However, by prioritizing the teaching for inclusion work, articulating our participation in Pathways to Equity was also delayed for too long. In April 2021, the individuals below met and engaged in the topics laid out in the Pathways to Equity discussion guide. The following plan is a result of those collaborative discussions.


  • Robert E. Cummings, Academic Innovations Group, executive director of academic innovation, associate professor of writing and rhetoric, director of the interdisciplinary minor in digital media studies
  • Josh Eyler, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, director of faculty development and lecturer of writing and rhetoric
  • Patricia O’Sullivan, Academic Innovations Group, project coordinator – APLU PLC and instructor in pharmacy
  • Nancy Wiggers, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, associate director of instructional support
  • Melissa Wilson, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, staff assistant II


The Academic Innovations Group and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning were created to support the teaching practice of the university’s faculty. As such, its strategic activities to promote diversity, equity and inclusion center on how the enhancement of faculty teaching abilities can advance goals of increasing DEI as outlined in Pathways to Equity. The central emphasis of the AIG-CETL over the next five years is located in our commitment to helping faculty and departments engage in teaching practices that promote inclusion at the level of students, faculty, programs and departments. In order to improve ability of teaching for inclusion programs, we will develop explicit faculty programming for inclusive teaching each year. This programming will be structured to serve faculty at all levels of engagement with DEI concepts, from beginners who are first exploring the concepts of teaching for inclusion, to expert practitioners who have been championing efforts toward a more inclusive campus for years. We will also invest in developing our internal capacities for implementing the best practices toward greater DEI, as articulated by the international professional organizations of the teaching and learning community. Therefore, the following three strategic activities are organized around both the faculty communities we support and our capacity to support them.

STRATEGIC ACTIVITY 1: Build expertise, practices and policies within AIG-CETL to model best practices for CTLs in engaging, articulating and promoting UM values for DEI as articulated in Pathways to Equity.

The Academic Innovations Group and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning will

  1. develop policies to promote diverse representation in our selection of external speakers and consultants;
  2. create training and professional development opportunities around DEI for our staff;
  3. draft and publish a DEI statement for AIG-CETL that captures our values and frames our efforts to fulfill the university’s goals in Pathways to Equity;
  4. conduct an accessibility audit of all AIG-CETL programming and practices; and
  5. develop practices that further build our capacity for supporting Pathways to Equity.

Area(s) Responsible: executive director of academic innovation

Resources Statement: Items (1) and (2) above will require additional financial resources and possibly external expertise. All other items can be accomplished with existing resources and staff.

Institutional Capacity

  • Number of AIG and CETL individuals participating in DEI professional development opportunities during this five-year plan (Baseline: 0)
  • Number of policies reviewed and/or revised to reflect inclusive practices during this five-year plan (Baseline: 0)
  • Number of policies reviewed and/or revised to reflect accessible practices during this five-year plan (Baseline: 0)

Diverse and Equitable Community

  • Number of external speakers from underrepresented identities offered engagements during this five-year plan (Baseline: 0)

STRATEGIC ACTIVITY 2: Promote, Develop and Expand Faculty Capacity for Inclusive Teaching

The Academic Innovations Group and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning will continue to research and expand faculty knowledge and capacity for inclusive teaching through consistent programming designed to promote an understanding of inclusive teaching at all levels. The main responsibility of AIG and CETL is the support and enhancement of teaching practices, at all levels in the university community; therefore, the salient opportunity for us to support Pathways to Equity is located in the definition, engagement and expansion of inclusive teaching practices for all university teachers. This is systemic change and will require sustained focus and effort. Further, these efforts are in addition to our current commitments, which cannot be reduced permanently. Therefore, to support sustained inclusive teaching practices and faculty development, we will

  1. offer consultative services for individual and groups of faculty engaging with inclusive teaching practices;
  2. arrange faculty learning communities designed to sustain faculty engagement with inclusive teaching and build connections with one another;
  3. design, promote, administer and assess grant programs to combat invisible labor and provide faculty the reflection and time needed for building inclusive teaching practices;
  4. hire an assistant director of faculty development to manage and direct inclusive teaching programming;
  5. In conjunction with the Faculty Senate, ASB, DCE and CICCE, establish an advisory panel to monitor and guide the effectiveness of inclusive teaching practices;
  6. provide consultative services to other units as they position teaching practices within their DEI goals.

Area(s) Responsible: assistant director of faculty development, executive director of academic innovation and all staff of AIG

Resources Statement: Inclusive teaching programming, faculty grants and a new assistant director for faculty development position will require additional funding.

Institutional Capacity

  • Number of full-time positions dedicated to the promotion of inclusive teaching practices (Baseline: 0)
  • Number of faculty grants funded, administered and assessed to increase inclusive teaching practices (Baseline: 0)
  • Number of faculty/student/administrator programming sessions delivered by CETL, AIG and other units, to identify and improve issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (Baseline: 10)

Diverse and Equitable Community

  • Percentage of undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds (Baseline: TBD)
  • Six-year graduate rates of students from underrepresented backgrounds (Baseline: TBD)
  • Number of majors with students from underrepresented backgrounds (Baseline: TBD)

Inclusive Campus Climate

  • Number of inclusive teaching faculty grants awarded (Baseline: 0)
  • Number of courses with inclusive teaching practices explicitly introduced (Baseline: 0)
  • Number of courses with inclusive teaching practices assessment plans published (Baseline: 0)
  • Number of courses with documented positive increases in student learning outcomes (e.g., DWF rates) for students from underrepresented backgrounds (Baseline: 0)
  • Improvement of student evaluations of teaching scores indicating inclusion (Baseline: 0)

STRATEGIC ACTIVITY 3: Promote, Develop and Expand Administrative and Student Capacities for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Academic Innovations Group and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning will continue to partner with other units (including the Office of the Provost, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement) to (1) promote chair and other administrative staff capacity to foster cultures of teaching excellence through programmatic investment in inclusive teaching, and (2) support student services where possible to further DEI and student belonging.

Area(s) Responsible: Academic Innovations Group and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Resources Statement: Current resources are sufficient to meet needs. No additional resources requested.

Institutional Capacity

  • Number of chair and administrator outreach sessions promoting inclusive teaching delivered per year (Baseline: 2)

Inclusive Campus Climate

  • Number of student outreach sessions promoting an inclusive campus environment delivered per year (Baseline: 0)


[1] Bensimon, E.M., Dowd, A.C., Witham, K. (2016). Five principles for enacting equity by design. Diversity and Democracy, The Equity Imperative. Winter 2016, Volume 19, No. 1.