Diversity & Inclusion at the iSchool
The College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland was founded in the 1960s with an overtly activist mission.
The UMD iSchool is a notably welcoming and encouraging environment, with members of the college community representing a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
In the past few years, surveys taken of the College students, faculty, staff, and alumni have shown the College to have embraced diversity and inclusion as central to the mission of the school. The numbers of students in the MLS program who identify as LGBTQ or a person with a disability, for example, are far above the national averages. Many iSchool students at the University of Maryland – regardless of their educational focus – have listed the emphasis on diversity and inclusion as a main reason for choosing to enroll here.
College Climate Survey
In the spring semester of 2013, a Diversity Climate Assessment Survey about the College of Information Studies was made available for a period of six weeks. As part of the College’s ongoing efforts to ensure that diversity and inclusiveness are woven into all aspects of the College environment, the goal of the survey was to better understand how members of the College community perceive the current state of diversity and inclusion. The survey provided the opportunity to get not only a sense of perceptions of diversity and inclusion within the College, but also a detailed picture of the diversity within the members of the College community. Read about the survey results.
The faculty and staff of the iSchool engage in a wide range of scholarly, professional, community, and educational projects related to diversity and inclusion. With a broad focus on promoting access to and the ability to understand and effectively use information and information technologies, the iSchool has courses, centers, research tools, conferences, and resources devoted to promoting greater inclusion for individuals and communities in information.
This range of diversity and inclusion efforts at the iSchool includes:
- Improving health and technology literacy skills for socio-economically disadvantaged students;
- Mapping and demonstrating the century-long impacts of redlining of communities;
- Designing apps to promote STEM learning in low-income communities;
- Working to improve access to legal information for who cannot afford representation;
- Promoting equity and justice as key functions of archives; and
- Making the world accessible for people with disabilities, among much else.
The History of Activism at the iSchool
Every community owes its existence and strength to the generations before them, around the world, who contributed their hopes, dreams, and energy into making the history that led to this moment. Some were brought here against their will, some were drawn to migrate from their homes in hope of a better life, and some have lived on this land for more generations than can be counted. Truth and acknowledgment are critical in building mutual respect and connections across all barriers of heritage and difference.
At the College of Information Studies, we believe it is important to create dialogue to honor those that have been historically and systemically disenfranchised. So, we acknowledge the truth that is often buried: We are on the ancestral lands of the Piscataway People, who were among the first in the Western Hemisphere. We are on indigenous land that was stolen from the Piscataway People by European colonists. We pay respects to Piscataway elders and ancestors. Please take a moment to consider the many legacies of violence, displacement, migration, and settlement that bring us together here today.
In addition to teaching, service, and research, the iSchool has several positions and organizations specifically devoted to promoting and celebrating diversity and inclusion in the iSchool and connecting the iSchool to wider university, local, state, national, and international communities.
- Renee Hill, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Faculty Equity Administrator – Coordinates efforts related to diversity and inclusion in the iSchool, serves as the primary representative of the iSchool on campus-wide and broader community initiatives, and is primarily responsible for monitoring and evaluating diversity efforts at the iSchool.
- Kibbi Henderson, Associate Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Staff Equity Administrator – Ensures that considerations of diversity and inclusion are central to hiring and personnel decisions at the iSchool, coordinates diversity training for personnel, and identifies additional opportunities to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- The Diversity Committee – Collaborates to lead efforts related to the iSchool’s ability to inclusively engage and meet the needs of all faculty, staff, students, and partners. This includes, but is not limited to, promoting awareness of diversity issues within the College; facilitating efforts to increase the representation of underrepresented populations among the students, staff, faculty, and partners; arranging for the College to work with organizations and be represented at diversity events; and coordinating the James Partridge Award.
The iSchool also is home to iDiversity, an organization for iSchool graduate students interested in inclusion information practice and diversification of the information professions. iDiversity hosts a range of talks and events on these topics. The activities of the organization include providing information literacy tutoring at local educational institutions, helping local libraries with fundraising, building free libraries for communities with no local library access, and other advocacy projects. You can follow iDiversity on Twitter at @iDiversityUMD #iDiversity or email them at iDiversity.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any questions or suggestions about diversity and inclusion efforts at the College, please contact the iSchool’s Diversity Officers, listed above.