A Place for Peace

A Place for Peace

 Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson 

New Interfaith Meditation and Prayer Room invites students, faculty and staff to pray, meditate and reflect

The University of Delaware’s Trabant University Center is typically a hive of activity, buzzing with students grabbing lunch or coffee or attending an event or movie.

But it will now also offer a place for prayer, meditation and reflection.

On Wednesday, Dec. 8, students and staff celebrated the opening of The Interfaith Meditation and Prayer Room, located in Trabant room 223.

The new space means so much to students like Vivek Raman, who lives in an interfaith home: he is Hindu, and his wife is Muslim. He said it helps spread an understanding and oneness across faiths. “Faith should not be the measure or an association to evaluate a fellow human’s behavior,” said Raman, who is pursuing his master’s degree in business analytics and information management.

The space was secured with the support of the Division of Student Life and the Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and University Student Centers. There is an existing spot, The Reflection Space in Morris Library room 233, but the new location had been on students’ wish lists for years.

Fatimah Conley, vice president of institutional equity and chief diversity officer, shared that she grew up simultaneously practicing Christianity and Islam, and studying Judaisim.

“My family practiced many different faiths, and my father ensured that I understood the similarities in religious and worship practices, rather than focusing on where they diverged,” she said. “I do applaud the students for coming together and helping to send the message that whatever belief you hold, there’s a space for everyone.”

Fatimah Conley, UD’s vice president of institutional equity and chief diversity officer, praised the graduate students who led the effort that resulted in the creation of the new Interfaith Meditation and Prayer Room in Trabant University Center. “Whatever belief you hold, there’s a space for everyone.”

Among the students who led the charge to make the interfaith space a reality were Safiyah Mansoori, a member of the graduate Muslim Student Association, and Ioannis Chremos, vice president of student affairs of the Graduate Student Government (GSG).

Mansoori, who is pursuing her doctorate in medical sciences, remembers having no such space when she was an undergraduate at UD.

“This was a shared reality for many Muslim students and students of other faiths on campus who desired a quiet praying area,” she said.

In 2016, when UD created a reflection room in Morris Library, Mansoori and her friends were elated.

“This new interfaith space clearly shows me that big positive changes can be realized on our campus when students work together,” Mansoori said.

“The idea of having a special location where we slow down and reflect is really important,” said Louis Rossi, dean of the Graduate College and vice provost for graduate and professional Education.

Chremos said he became involved because he wanted to follow through on a campaign promise he made when running for his current position with GSG:  “to work diligently … towards a more inclusive, green campus that works for all.”

“That’s why I felt a strong duty to advocate for interfaith spaces, as it impacts so many of my fellow students, classmates and colleagues,” said Chremos, who is currently pursuing his doctorate in mechanical engineering. “All members of the GSG are seeking to create a graduate experience inclusive of all the diverse voices of a 21st century community. Our goal is to lead and build a thriving community of support, inclusion and interconnectedness for students of all backgrounds and experiences from all around the globe.”

In addition to providing a connection to faith, Stephanie Chang, director of student diversity and inclusion, said she hopes the new center will encourage students, faculty and staff to take a few moments to take a mental breather.

“The campus environment and our personal lives are busy, and it is exciting to see that we are adding to spaces on campus where we can take a moment to slow down and recenter ourselves,” Chang said.

Kim Zitzner, the liaison to the Division of Student Life for Religious and Spiritual Life, was instrumental in the process. The former long-time director of Catholic Campus Ministry drew from her massive network of campus religious leaders to help make the center a reality.

“Creating space to meet the spiritual and holistic needs of our community speaks volumes; it promotes equity as we move one step closer toward answering the needs of a vast population,” Zitzner said. “My hope is that this moves us closer toward a harmonious, all-inclusive diverse campus that meets the needs of all of its members.”

The room is featured on a new website created to help identify interfaith related resources on campus.

The ‘Global We’ at UD

The ‘Global We’ at UD

 Photo courtesy of Daniella DiMatteo 

UD’s new Internationalization Lab Report aims to shape the next generation of international education

To shape the next generation of international education, the University of Delaware will work to cultivate a sense of a “Global We,” develop globally engaged leaders, reimagine study-abroad programs, recruit students and faculty to advance global diversity, and position the institution as a global knowledge hub.

Those are the goals in UD’s new Internationalization Lab Report, which is the result of an intensive two-year effort involving experts from the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Internationalization Laboratory who worked with leaders, faculty, staff and students from throughout the University.

“As the University embarks on its second century as an innovative leader of global education, this report will be an instrumental asset to advance meaningful progress and achieve critical goals for greater internationalization,” said UD President Dennis Assanis. “I want to sincerely thank everyone who committed their time, experience and insights throughout this process to articulate a bold vision and plan that will benefit students and faculty throughout the University today and for generations to come.”

Bahira Trask, co-chair of the project’s steering committee, is professor and chairperson of the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences in the College of Education and Human Development. She has participated in United Nations and other international programs to promote global education.

“This renewed global vision will help the University position itself as an international university amid constantly changing conditions, both locally and globally,” Trask said. “The renewed commitment to international education and research sets the stage to amplify UD’s impact as an international university with an optimized foundation for dynamic administration, education and programming.”

Provost Robin Morgan said that the report demonstrates that “UD is a truly global university, a global hub where people and ideas convene to solve the world’s most challenging problems through the lens of UD’s scholarship, research and community engagement. This comprehensive internationalization strategic plan serves as a roadmap for infusing international perspectives throughout the curriculum so that all UD students become part of the Global We that is UD.”

In 2019, the University joined the ACE Internationalization Laboratory, becoming one of only 177 globally focused institutions around the world who have completed the lab.

The ACE senior associate assigned to UD, Ross Lewin, associate vice president for international affairs at the University of Maryland, was joined by two senior international officers from other public universities well known for successful internationalization on their own campuses: Josh Davis, associate vice chancellor for global affairs at the University of Nebraska, and Penelope Pynes, recently retired as associate provost of international programs at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. The ACE team conducted a virtual peer site visit with UD representatives in October 2021 to discuss UD’s report and help solidify the University’s commitment to implementation. They met the provost and deputy provost, college deans and the academic leadership team, staff from the Center for Global Programs and Services, student leaders and members of the UD International Lab committee.

“UD should be extremely proud of the work it has already done to advance internationalization,” Lewin said. “Any successful internationalization plan must have buy-in from leadership, and clearly UD has that. The Center for Global Programs and Services has an outstanding reputation for its collaborative spirit, ingenuity, responsiveness and thoughtfulness, which is also a critical ingredient for leading the implementation of internationalization strategies on campus.”

The ACE report cited UD’s commitment to humanitarianism and addressing grand challenges [that] will facilitate deeper global partnerships and energize both faculty and students.

Throughout the self-study, which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the immediate priorities became restructuring the organization of the main units that provide global programming and support services at UD. Created in February 2021, the Center for Global Programs and Services (CGPS) now serves as one globally focused unit on campus and helps strengthen campus internationalization efforts by bringing together staff, resources and expertise focused on shared goals.The center is home to the operations of Study Abroad International Student and Scholar ServicesWorld Scholars Program and Global Outreach and Partnerships. Focused on a student-centered approach, CGPS provides expert advising and a wealth of engagement opportunities to the UD campus community.

Many of the ACE recommendations will be led by CGPS with the continued support and collaboration of many partner offices and departments on campus. As defined by ACE, comprehensive internationalization is “a strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate policies, programs and initiatives to position colleges and universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected.”

According to Ravi Ammigan, associate provost for international programs and co-chair of the Internationalization Lab, with the guidance from experts from the ACE Lab that are rooted in standards of best practice in international education, the University has a strong platform to continue developing its comprehensive internationalization strategic plan. The internationalization process includes goals for a strengthened approach to articulated administrative leadership, structure and staffing; internationalized curriculum, co-curriculum and learning outcomes; faculty policies and practices; as well as innovations to enhance global student mobility, collaboration and partnerships.

“Importantly, policies, practices and initiatives will continue to develop through the lenses of diversity, equity and inclusion; agility and transformation; and data-informed decision-making,” Ammigan said. “Together with our campus partners and with the support of University leadership, we are eager to continue our work on the implementation of the Lab report.”

The full report is available on the Center for Global Programs and Services website. Questions can be directed to go-global@udel.edu.

About the ACE Internationalization Laboratory at UD

The Internationalization Laboratory is led by a team of experts with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences to assist institutions in developing internationalization goals and strategies for achieving them. These educators, researchers and administrators worked with the UD internationalization committee to conduct a self-study of the University’s assets for global activity and curriculum development. Recommendations from this report will support the University’s strategic goals, specifically its priority to strengthen its interdisciplinary and global programs.

Global Growth

Global Growth

 Photo courtesy of Leaders of Free World 

Leadership program for young Black men comes to UD

It took a little bit of both to bring Leaders of The Free World (LFW), a leadership program for young Black men, into existence and, eventually, to the University of Delaware.

Co-founders Ruby Maddox and Lavar Thomas each had put in work and gained experience that formed the building blocks for such a program. Then chance stepped in when someone tagged Maddox and Thomas in the comments section of a Facebook post. The two connected and began sharing their ideas for a program that centered around an international experience for a demographic that did not have access to those opportunities.

“I thought, ‘Wow, you’re doing the idea,’ ” Thomas said. “We had a similar vision.”

They finally met in person at the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana, where Maddox would be arriving with a group of students and Thomas would be landing after his time in the Peace Corps in Rwanda had come to an end.

A world-changing idea was officially hatched amid a swarm of travellers and overpriced duty-free airport shops.

The LFW program will begin this year at UD by opening three slots to qualifying UD students. The application process began Nov. 8 and information can be found here.

LFW combines tactics proven to assist in the academic success and retention of Black men (mentorship, positive peer group affiliation, focus on self-efficacy and college/career advising) with an international experience that incorporates an identity specific curriculum and addresses the lived experiences of Black men. It works to address the lack of diversity in the social, philanthropic, public and for-profit sectors (particularly in advanced leadership positions) and to overcome the social and psychological barriers to academic and professional success perpetuated by systems of inequality. Mentorship, intercultural learning and leadership training are critical components to the program’s goal of shaping the next generation of leaders and social change-makers, who grow into involved alumni.

Thomas said he was happy to see UD step forward to make a lasting change.

“They’re putting money behind their intentions,” Thomas said. “The support that we’re receiving from leadership and the institution shows that they’re really serious about creating long-term impact and not just checking boxes off. I think the global leadership pipeline is so important, because we’re more than just a trip.”

But why Ghana?

Maddox said the country’s connection to Black history helps participants unpack their own identities. In America, Black men grow up with a set of cultural norms that dictate who gets a seat at the proverbial table and who does not. In Ghana, that is not the case.

“When you’re able to step outside of that paradigm, that context, both geographically and mentally, then you realize that’s just a construct of one particular country,” said Maddox, who co-founded a Black-led food security and environmental justice organization called Gardening the Community in Springfield, Mass. “That changes everything – you realize the world is bigger than America, and that you yourself are bigger than the construct that has been made for you. It changes the game on what you feel is possible for your life, including the career paths you might take and the opportunities you might take advantage of.”

LFW did not go abroad the past two years due to the pandemic, but the LFW In-Person Model will return in 2022 with a cohort of about 12-14 participants. The nine-month program works in three phases: a 10-week virtual pre-departure program that includes group discussions, guest speakers, lectures and assignments; a two-week international experience in Ghana where the cohort explores themes in leadership through lectures, workshops and site visits; and an eight-week re-entry program that links the experience to academic goals and campus resources through group discussions and goal-mapping.

For Thomas, it’s a concept that comes from personal experience through his trips abroad. He originally came to UD through the Coverdell Fellowship, a graduate school program for returning Peace Corps volunteers. Thomas saw an opportunity for LFW to make a change at UD, so he planted the seed with his adviser, Professor Jennifer Gregan, and began making connections around campus.

“We wanted to look at ways that LFW could support the institution and its efforts to target an underserved population,” said Thomas, an environmental justice coordinator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who is pursuing his master’s degree in International Business at UD.

Gregan said she immediately connected with Lavar and Ruby’s vision of transformation through international travel.

“As a UD study abroad faculty director, I’ve had the privilege of seeing firsthand the power of immersive cultural experiences. It is truly life changing,” she said. “By forging a partnership between LFW and UD, Lavar and Ruby are opening a door to the world for a segment of our student population who might otherwise think that study abroad isn’t for them; they’re breaking through barriers that might keep these students from realizing their leadership potential.”

“This was a perfect partnership for the University to cultivate,” said Michael Vaughan, vice provost for diversity and inclusion. “Our new Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is providing seed money to this effort to support student participants. This support provides tangible evidence of our core campus belief in promoting an environment in which all people are inspired to learn while encouraging intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, free inquiry, and respect for the views and values of an increasingly diverse global community. We look forward to our continued relationship with the Leaders of the Free World organization.”

There are numerous success stories that have come out of LFW, ranging from individuals who have simply emerged as better, more engaged leaders to others who have started their own businesses. Thomas recalls one graduate who was apprehensive and quiet before the program who eventually launched a local cooperative called New Movement that supported artists, musicians and poets back in Connecticut, while raising money for a school in Ghana.

“We watched him go from a young person unclear about his desired impact, to this leader in his community,” Thomas said. “Going to Ghana was life changing for him, because he was not only able to be part of a brotherhood that was going through a similar experience, but it got him thinking about how he could lead on a larger level, beyond his campus and beyond his community.”

Maddox and Thomas said they plan to explore expansion of the program, with LFW potentially taking multiple trips each year as well as adding experiences in Rwanda and other African countries.

Already on the schedule is the Global Leadership Summit: A Career Conference for Black Male College Students that takes place Feb. 25, 2022.

AAU New Principles

AAU New Principles

The Association of American Universities announced Tuesday that it was adopting “groundbreaking” new principles for preventing sexual harassment in academe.

By Maria Carrasco | October 27, 2021

The presidents and chancellors of the AAU, an organization composed of 66 research universities across the U.S., voted during their fall meeting this week to adopt the eight new principles, which include fostering a climate and culture where sexual misconduct is unacceptable; sharing findings of sexual misconduct with prospective employers when requested; requiring job applicants to provide personnel information from their prior employers about sexual misconduct; holding students, faculty, administrators and staff accountable for violations; and completing all investigations into sexual misconduct.

“We know that this continues to be an issue on college campuses,” said Barbara Snyder, president of AAU. “And for that reason, we wanted collectively to speak to our members but also to say broadly to the higher ed community, obviously we think this is important. And we collectively believe that these principles will help guide our campuses.”

Read full article >>

New Senior Leadership Position in Equity and Diversity

New Senior Leadership Position in Equity and Diversity


Fatimah Conley to serve as vice president of institutional equity and chief diversity officer

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis today announced the creation of a new vice presidential position in the University’s senior administration to advance the institution’s strategic priority of enhancing our institutional equity efforts to support a diverse, inclusive and intercultural campus.

The new position – vice president of institutional equity and chief diversity officer – reports directly to the president and works closely with the provost, the executive vice president and chief operating officer and other senior leaders. With dedicated focus on advancing UD’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), responsibilities will encompass strategic leadership, oversight and visionary activation of a range of services, programs, policies and procedures for faculty, staff and students.

“The elevated role and accompanying responsibilities, authority and accountability of this new post reflect the importance we place on advancing an inclusive culture here at the University of Delaware,” Assanis said. “Our vision and priorities for the University often reference new programs and initiatives— but at the heart of all these efforts are our people. As ideals and values of society continue to evolve, UD is reaffirming its commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging at the center of everything we do.”

After a nationwide search, Assanis said Fatimah Conley, who has served as the University’s acting chief diversity officer since Oct. 16, 2020, will take on the new role, effective immediately.

“Fatimah Conley’s deep knowledge of the University of Delaware community and culture, as well as her experiences over the past year as interim chief diversity officer, make her the ideal person to take on this new role,” he said. “With several initiatives underway on these critical issues, I am confident that Fatimah has the insights, experience, dedication, empathy and leadership ability we need in this critical area to help the University move forward.”

In this role, Conley will be a leader, adviser, advocate and catalyst for change, Assanis said. She will lead the Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion that was created last year to consolidate and coordinate all campus units primarily responsible for all DEI initiatives at the University. Included in this office are the vice provost for diversity, Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Center for Black Culture, the Office of Disability Support Services and the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

“I am elated and thankful to be able to serve as UD’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer,” said Conley. “Working closely with President Assanis over the past year, I have learned that with his commitment to social justice principles and diversity comes the expectation for transformational and sustainable change. As the CDO, I look forward to continuing to work with the Office of Institutional Equity team, the faculty, staff and students who have long been devoted to this work, and the entire UD community to continue progress toward becoming a more equitable and diverse campus, where every Blue Hen knows that they belong.”

During Conley’s tenure at interim chief diversity officer, there have been a number of important developments, including the formation of the Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, expansion of the Center for Black Culture’s Each One Reach One Mentoring program, and multiple town halls on a range of topics in response to calls for change.  As part of the University’s strategic planning process, Conley has served as co-chair of the subcommittee exploring “Building a Social Justice Foundation to Support a Diverse, Inclusive and Intercultural Campus,” and she also has worked closely with campus colleagues on a number of impactful projects, such as the Anti-Racism Institute, the historical naming task force and the initiative to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at UD athletic events.

About Fatimah Conley

A staff member in the Office of the General Counsel at UD since 2015, Conley also served from 2017-20 as senior counsel to the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), headquartered at UD and funded by the federal government to advance U.S. competitiveness in advanced manufacturing innovation.

While at UD, Conley has worked directly with the Office of Equity and Inclusion, serving as interim director and Title IX coordinator from May 2018 to December 2019 and as senior associate director of the office from 2015-16.

Before joining the University, she was an attorney at a law firm in New Orleans, handling all aspects of commercial transactions, and spent two years as a human resources consultant in higher education.

Conley is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and the National Association of College and University Attorneys. She earned her undergraduate degree at Fairleigh-Dickinson University and a law degree from Tulane Law School. Currently she is pursuing her MBA in UD’s Lerner College of Business and Economics.