SAN MARCOS — California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM) has received the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for the seventh year in a row for demonstrating its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
The national honor was awarded to CSUSM by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, one of the largest diversity-focused publications in higher education, along with 89 other recipients.
CSUSM, which boasts a student population of roughly than 14,000, more than 40% of which is Hispanic/Latino, is one of four CSU schools to win the HEED Award this year. The others are Fresno, Fullerton and Northridge.
“The principles of inclusive excellence have defined my career in my commitment to student social mobility, and I am proud to lead a campus community where these principles are at the forefront of everything we do,” said CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt in a statement. “Receiving the HEED Award for a seventh straight year is validation for the hard work our university has committed to inclusive excellence, and we will continue to work each day to maintain our focus on diversity, educational equity and social justice.”
The news comes as the university kicks off its first semester of requiring all incoming students to take two upper-division diversity and equity courses to graduate.
Ranjeeta Basu, CSUSM’s interim chief diversity officer, told The Coast News that faculty had been working on the new course requirements for the past few years and it officially went into effect this fall.
“As an educational institution, our role is to educate, transform and give our students the opportunity to be agents of change because they’re the next generation,” Basu said. “We hope this requirement will give them the knowledge and the skills to be those agents of change that we want to see in the world.”
Basu also highlighted the university’s new coaching model that is being implemented this year, which aims to provide each student with a coach who will check in on them and provide them with necessary resources.
“Especially in a virtual environment, it’s even more important to reach out and make sure that students don’t feel lost and isolated,” Basu said. “A lot of this model is about diversity and inclusion, making sure that those students who tend to be underserved and forgotten are not. We want to make a deliberate attempt to include them and find out what they need and get that to them.”
This model includes providing equipment loans to students and faculty who do not have computer or internet access in their homes.
The university has also begun an initiative that focuses on the inclusion of faculty and staff.
FACES, which stands for Faculty Advocacy Care Engagement Services, is an effort to make all of the university’s faculty feel included and supported, especially faculty of color and faculty who may not have as many resources.
CSUSM also has an overarching Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence, which is being implemented step by step with a completion goal of 2022.
“We have a lot of inequality, a lot of inequitable distribution of resources across our society, and one of the ways in which people can overcome that is through education,” Basu said. “Anyone who wants it should be able to come to a university where they feel welcome, where they feel at home, where they feel that we are here for them.”