Adelphi recently changed the name of its Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). Find out why this change is so important on college campuses and learn about new ways the office is working to increase the sense of belonging among students and staff.

Can adding a word to a name and a letter to an acronym make a difference? It can if those changes reflect a new perspective and focus.

The office that works to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion at Adelphi has now added the word “belonging” to its name. And with good reason.

“It really is a point of view shift, from ‘We will include you into who we already are’ to ‘We’ll make sure that every person here feels valued, respected and an integral part of our community,” said Jacqueline Jones LaMon, JD, vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) at Adelphi. “We all arrive on campus with a host of experiences that are unique to us and our upbringings, and that’s what makes us rich. That’s what makes the University thrive.”

Adelphi has been nationally recognized for its commitment to diversity and inclusion. We recently won our fifth consecutive Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest publication focused on diversity in higher education. We earned a perfect score on the Campus Pride Index for fostering an LGBTQIA+-inclusive campus. And we’ve been honored as a College of Distinction for efforts in equity and inclusion, as well as support for veterans.

Creating a stronger sense of belonging is just the next step in an ongoing process of building a more supportive and diverse community.

An expanding mission

This is not the first time that Adelphi’s diversity office has added to its name and expanded its mission. When LaMon was appointed vice president in 2019 after 13 years as a member of the faculty, the office title only included “diversity” and “inclusion.” She quickly suggested adding “equity.”

“We were focusing our attention on the notion that everyone at Adelphi receives what they need in order to succeed,” she said. “Not that everyone gets the same experiences or resources, but that everyone gets what they need for their own individual journey, either as a student, faculty or staff member.”

Now, the office has evolved to focus on the importance of belonging.

“‘Inclusion’ is really positioned from the point of view of the established community—that we will embrace those who come into our fold,” LaMon said. “But we need to recognize that, whenever an individual joins our community, they create a new Adelphi. They shift the entire dynamic of the University.”

By emphasizing belonging, Adelphi can help individuals feel like an integral part of their community—not just an addition to a static, existing environment.

Putting words into action

Adelphi has many new and existing initiatives to enhance belonging, including a state-of-the-art Multicultural Center for cross-cultural interaction and an in-depth mentoring program designed to support all students, but in particular, first-year students and those from underrepresented backgrounds.

The DEIB office has been working with the Interfaith Center to create a comprehensive religious observance calendar. “The calendar will identify any activity or engagement restrictions that may be placed upon someone of a certain faith on a certain day, so that our community is aware during the planning process,” LaMon said.

The DEIB office also launched initiatives based on direct feedback provided by town halls for Adelphi’s new Momentum 2 strategic plan.

“One change was very simple but impactful. A student said, ‘When I walk into the University Center, I don’t hear music that reflects my identity; I don’t hear music that I would play at home,’” LaMon noted. “So auxiliary services worked with students to create a different rotation of music, and that went a long way to increasing a sense of belonging.”

This semester, LaMon looks forward to rolling out a new program based on direct feedback: community interest groups. They’ll start with five pilot groups for employees of color, LGBTQIA+ employees, employees who serve as caregivers, employees who are new to Adelphi, and employees who are also students. The groups will meet virtually and in person each month, helping people connect with one another and deepen a sense of belonging.

“As for the DEIB office, we want to remain open and responsive to the needs of our community,” LaMon said. “And we hope to continue growing in order to meet those needs.”

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