Update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at RWU


Chloe Noyes

Outside the entrance to the Intercultural Center, a hot spot for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

During the last school year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) was a major priority for Roger Williams University with several initiatives launched and policy changes made. This school year Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Stephanie Akunvabey said many of those initiatives will continue and new ones will be implemented as well.

“We have a lot of great things in the works,” said Akunvabey. “One of the major things we’ve heard from students and that I also think is really important is the way in which we think about accessibility as part of diversity so we have been working to strengthen our partnerships with Student Accessibility Services (SAS).”

Working closer with faculty on DEI matters is another priority for the university.

“We’re really starting to have the opportunity to work more intentionally with faculty to really think about what it means to make equitable classroom spaces and what diversity in RWU curriculum will look like,” said Akunvabey.

Vice President for Student Life John King said admissions has also undertaken some DEI initiatives.

“Admissions has expanded outreach to diverse students and Advancement is actively working with RWU alumni who can provide networking and mentoring opportunities,” said King. “In addition, there is intentional commitment across the University to recruit talented students with diverse lived experiences for leadership training and mentoring positions on campus.”

The communications department has been working with Akunvabey to develop what’s called the Roger Pledge that’s inspired by the Birmingham pledge.

“That pledge will essentially be an opportunity for every member of the RWU community to think about and reflect on their pledges to make sure our campus is an inclusive and respectful place, especially for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) members of our community,” said Akunvabey.

An initiative from last year that will continue is the anti-racism campaign. Akunvabey said the focal point of the campaign right now is how RWU engages students with the campaign.

Over the summer RWU made an effort to introduce the Class of 2026 to the campaign and Akunvabey hopes to continue that momentum with the full student body this year. King said part of the campaign helps to address bias incidents as well.

“Our Orientation programs address DEI with entering students and every community member has a responsibility to both prevent and report bias incidents.”

Last year, RWU had its inaugural First Generation Day celebration and it will happen again on Nov. eight.

A piece of data from DEI initiatives taken last school year King shared was that for the EVERFI module juniors had to take called Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Tools for Allyship there was a 97% completion rate.

Next month on Oct 19 at 3 p.m. Akunvabey said she will be sharing data from the DEI initiatives the university has undertaken and provide an update on the anti-racism campaign at an event with students and the campus community.

Akunvabey said she wants to hear from students on DEI at RWU.

“I’m encouraging students to continue to engage and continue to provide feedback because it really is a communal effort,” said Akunvabey. “I’m excited about the progress we made and the year ahead.”