Dear Members of the Saint Joseph’s College Community,

Three years ago, in my Call to Action Against Racism, I announced that “it is time that we undertake serious and meaningful action to begin undoing structural racism and its presence within – and impact on – our community.” Several initiatives, programs, and processes followed, including the hiring of our first Associate Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Mouhamadou B. Diagne.

Additionally, our refreshed strategic plan promises that “Saint Joseph’s will be a diverse multigenerational learning community recognized for our commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” This means that our college welcomes everyone–people of color, people with disabilities, people of all genders and sexual orientations, people of all religious preferences, immigrants and refugees regardless of national origin, ethnicity, or social class–as an expression of our core values, especially our new core value of inclusion. In the words of Catherine McAuley, our community should be characterized by “a true, sincere, and heartfelt affection for all.”

Over the past year, we have seen tangible results stemming from this commitment. Our applications, offers of admission, and deposits from prospective Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) have increased significantly allowing us to move toward more sustainable enrollment results. These results affirm that prioritizing JEDI is essential for Saint Joseph’s success, relevance, and competitiveness as an institution of higher learning in the state of Maine.

Over the past year, Mouhamadou, working with members of the JEDI Task Force and others, has:

  • Partnered with the Learning Division of Academic Affairs to finish revising the core curriculum components, including the language requirement;
  • Developed numerous professional development opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to understand and identify bias, microaggressions, and how structural inequities that permeate our culture impact teaching, learning, and belonging at Saint Joseph’s.
    • Led over two dozen training sessions in classes, during RA training, with coaches and athletic trainers, and with other departments.
  • Partnered with ACE to lay a structure and foundation of support for the inaugural cohort of Talbot Scholars, who boast a first-year retention rate of 96% and eight students (a third of our cohort) on the Dean’s List;
  • Partnered with Human Resources to expand our professional recruiting efforts for a more diverse pool of faculty and staff candidates in our job searches; offered training to hiring managers on how to attract, hire, and retain staff from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Provided guidance and support for the launch of our innovative Integrated Studies Program, which will enroll and support students with intellectual disabilities in a pilot program this fall.

The JEDI Task Force was created six years ago to advise the President on matters related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and this group’s work paved the way for much of what the College has accomplished in this area. As another sign of the College’s institutional commitment to this work, we will introduce a fifth All-College Committee on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the 2023-24 academic year. The establishment of this newest All-College Committee puts this work into active dialogue with the institution-wide concerns of the other Committees.

The central concern of this committee will be related to our Strategic Goal of being a diverse, multi-generational learning community recognized for our commitment to the values of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Among its activities, the committee will:

  • Examine the structures, policies, and practices at the college and recommend changes or revisions as needed towards meeting our goals of promoting greater equity, inclusion, and justice to all who call Saint Joseph’s home.
  • Develop and track meaningful metrics and create benchmarks to fully embody Saint Joe’s Mission, Core Values, and Catholic Social Teaching as they intersect with JEDI.
  • Ensure that Saint Joseph’s College is a place that values, supports, and celebrates all aspects of JEDI as vital and necessary assets of the life of the college, rather than as external or supplemental entities.

Additionally, as every department, student organization, and the Board of Trustees undertakes its responsibilities for advancing JEDI at all levels of the College, I invite each of us to reflect on the following questions to guide our commitment to prioritize JEDI in our work.

  • How evident are our mission, core values, and the Sisters’ critical concerns embodied in every facet of my respective area?
  • How seriously do we take our core value of justice, which challenges us to “seek to address instances of injustice both within and outside our College community from a stance of informed advocacy?”
  • Are we willing to do what is necessary and embrace the discomfort that may result from enacting anti-racist practices, to ensure that we “hold ourselves accountable to each other?”

This work cannot be done in siloes or isolation. Members of the JEDI All-College Committee will work alongside all of you to reach this vision for Saint Joseph’s. A public page outlining the mission of the JEDI All-College Committee, a list of its members, and resources for advancing equity, will be available in the coming weeks.

While becoming a member of this JEDI All-College Committee is by nomination or invitation only, all of you are invited to make suggestions or recommendations on matters related to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in this form, which will be public on the forthcoming JEDI webpage.

I am grateful for all that Mouhamadou and the JEDI Workgroup have accomplished so far and am excited for how this work will continue to transform the college as an All-College Committee under Saint Joseph’s next president.

Jim Dlugos