Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Number 4

Diversity Digest
Volume 7,
Number 4

Download our print issue (PDF)
Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Learning Through Evaluation: The James Irvine Foundation Campus Diversity Initiative (CDI) Project
James Irvine Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative
Diversity Climate Surveys:
Worth the Effort
Unleashing the Power of Metaphor: Pepperdine University
Implications of Prop 54
Faculty Involvement
Enhancing Diversity: University of Southern California
More than Bittersweet Success: University of the Pacific
Curricular Transformation
Institutionalizing Diversity: Occidental College
Educating for a Just Society: University of San Francisco
Making Diversity News
Media Watch
Teaching Students Media Skills
AAC&U Evaluation Resources
Irvine CDI Evaluation Resources
DATA: Capturing Hopes

The James Irvine Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative

By Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen, vice president, Office of Education and Institutional Renewal, AAC&U; Sharon Parker, senior rsearch associate; and Daryl G. Smith, professor of educationand psychology, both of Claremont Graduate University; all project co-principal investigators

This special issue of Diversity Digest focuses on the James Irvine Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative (CDI). The articles herein address the importance of campus evaluation efforts to improve college access and success for underrepresented students and the findings and lessons learned from these efforts.

For more than fifteen years, private colleges and universities in California have made good faith efforts to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented Californians in their undergraduate and graduate programs. The James Irvine Foundation has funded many of these efforts. Throughout the first decade of the Foundation’s diversity programs, campuses reported on a range of diversity-related projects and activities that, while meaningful, were not connected to larger institutional goals and usually had limited duration and effects. Missing from campus reports were answers to three important and inseparable questions:

  • How did the activities and projects relate to and advance the institution’s diversity goals?
  • What difference did the Foundation grants and campus efforts make to the campuses’ capacity to increase access and success in higher education for underrepresented students?
  • What have campuses learned that might ensure that they would improve and sustain their efforts over time?

These are important questions for at least two reasons. First, foundations are stewards of their endowments and gaining empirical knowledge of the larger impact of grant making on the communities they serve is one indication of good stewardship. Second, most foundations’ grant making is intended to provide startup capital rather than ongoing support for initiatives deemed important to the community.

As a program officer at another foundation put it, “ … [our] investments are intended to breathe life into good ideas and projects, not provide indefinite life support.” Thus, institutions need to learn what works and how to embed their initiatives institutionally as part of the college’s routine structure. Put another way, higher education institutions must become true learning organizations to better serve students.

To help California institutions become learning organizations, the James Irvine Foundation took bold steps to establish a new, multi-stage grant-making process. The process was designed to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of campus efforts to address college access and success for underrepresented students (see page 21). From the beginning, Foundation staff believed that the success of CDI efforts rested on each participating institution’s ability to evaluate, learn from its work, and use its evaluations to improve campus practice.

Yet, the Foundation recognized that not all campuses had the capacity to conduct robust evaluations. However, if valid information about the institution’s efforts could not be obtained, and if campus officials could not honestly reflect on their successes and failures, it would be difficult to know which elements of their initiatives to strengthen and which to eliminate. Designing such a feedback loop is a key element of a learning organization. The Foundation chose to build this capacity through the CDI Evaluation Project, a partnership between the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and Claremont Graduate University (CGU).

The CDI Evaluation Project

Higher education institutions must become true learning organizations to better
serve students.

The CDI Evaluation Project has five objectives:

1. To provide information about ongoing implementation of the CDI across campuses;
2. To build campus capacity to assess and learn from their own progress;
3. To provide opportunities for campuses to share their experiences;
4. To develop knowledge and theory about diversity in higher education;
5. To determine the degree of success of the Foundation’s overall CDI.

These objectives are designed to provide opportunities for individual campuses and the larger higher education community to: learn more about the evaluation approaches being used; understand the impact of these efforts on institutional improvement; and understand the success of a variety of efforts using multiple evaluation strategies and tools, both quantitative and qualitative. This issue of Diversity Digest focuses on the results and lessons learned from the project’s first component. In addition, AAC&U and CGU will publish several monographs in 2006 that focus on the overall CDI results.

As partners, CGU and AAC&U have taken on the role of the Evaluation Resource Team (ERT). The ERT consists of staff at both AAC&U and CGU and a network of colleagues who are recognized for their work in developing and evaluating diversity initiatives in higher education. The principal investigators, Alma Clayton-Pedersen, Sharon Parker, and Daryl G. Smith serve as liaisons to the campuses along with the network of colleagues. In this capacity, the ERT generally, and the liaisons specifically, assist campuses in evaluation design and provide advice on resources needed to implement their evaluation. By working with campuses, the ERT helps to build capacity for self-assessment, not only in terms of the outcomes of particular projects or strategies, but more significantly, in terms of larger institutional goals for change.

One method of moving the campuses toward viewing the evaluation process from an institutional perspective is to ask leaders: How do your CDI and other diversity efforts fit into your institution’s strategic plan? Most often, an institution’s strategic plan lays out specific strategies, tasks to be undertaken as part of these strategies, the unit or person accountable for implementing the strategies, and how achievement of the goals will be assessed for their long-term viability. When diversity goals are absent from these plans, the message to the campus community is either that diversity goals are unimportant or that they are tangential to the institution’s mission.

The ERT helps campus leaders to communicate to the campus community how diversity goals fit into the institution’s overall strategies for success and to communicate that such inclusion is essential to increasing educational achievement for all students.

In addition to an assigned liaison, campuses are provided a number of tools to build their capacity to answer the question: How will we know that we are making progress toward our institutional goals? The Resource Section of this issue highlights the new tools developed by the ERT specifically for the Irvine CDI or other existing tools that can be adapted (see page 21).
The campus stories featured in this issue of Diversity Digest describe the evaluation efforts of six of the twenty-eight CDI campuses. Each of their stories reflects a journey toward greater understanding of the role that diversity plays in achieving an institution’s overall educational goals, and how robust evaluation is essential to these efforts. These stories also discuss the lessons they have learned and how evaluation informs campus practice and influences decision-making. Future CDI dissemination efforts will focus more attention on how these evaluations are integrated into institutional decision-making processes for organizational learning.

The Irvine Foundation’s Grant-Making Approach

The Foundation developed a new grant-making process after a ten-year review of its diversity grant-making. Daryl Smith (1997) had pointed out that the state of evaluation on campuses limited the degree to which larger conclusions and lessons could be drawn to serve campuses, broaden the knowledge base, or raise important research questions. The new process focused on requirements that would benefit the campuses and better serve underrepresented students.

In step one, campuses submitted to the Foundation a written institutional overview. Campuses reflected upon their past efforts to increase college access and success for underrepresented students and indicated where their next efforts might be directed. The concluding section of the overviews addressed what campus leaders felt were the next steps in achieving their institutional diversity goals. Selected colleges and universities were then provided assistance in order to refine their overviews and begin the process of becoming a learning organization.

Campuses whose strategies showed promise of achieving institutional diversity goals were invited to submit proposals. Like the previous process, campuses selected institution-specific strategies. The Foundation did not impose a cookie-cutter set of strategies. Successful campus proposals were granted significant funds* for a broad range of initiatives to improve college access and success for underrepresented students. Campus strategies ranged from transforming the curriculum, to improving efforts to recruit and retain students of color, to increasing the number of faculty of color. Many campuses combined several strategies to create comprehensive initiatives. Proposals also had to describe how movement toward achieving their goals might be evaluated.

Once funded, campuses were required to submit a formal evaluation plan within six months of receiving a grant. Regardless of the strategies used, campuses were expected to give serious attention to evaluating the impact of their strategies on achieving the institution’s overall educational goals. Helping campuses develop the means to do this is the substance of the work of the CDI Evaluation Project.

* The twenty-eight, 3-year grants ranged from $350,000 to $3.6

The Future of Irvine’s Diversity and Evaluation Work

As a result of a new strategic plan developed over the past year, the Foundation has developed a new mission and greater strategic focus for its grant making. Through its work in CDI, the Foundation developed a clear understanding that unequal opportunity shapes the patterns of access and success for youth in postsecondary education. The Foundation, therefore, is maintaining a focus on equity in education in its grant making but will address opportunity earlier in the pipeline and take a broader view of postsecondary opportunities. Although the Foundation has decided to change the focus of how it supports achieving educational equity for underrepresented Californians, it maintains its commitment to this long-standing goal.

In fact, even though the Foundation decided in fall 2002 to discontinue its higher education division, the CDI is funded as originally designed over a five-year timeframe from 2000-05 and includes a cohort of twenty-eight colleges and universities. The Foundation also remains committed to including a strong evaluation component in its grant making process. The objective is to help California’s non-profit institutions to collect accurate data about the effects of their work, to reflect on their efforts in light of the data to determine how they might refine their work, and to use the information gathered from evaluation and reflection for continual improvement.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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