Learning Through Evaluation:
The James Irvine Foundation Campus Diversity Initiative
By Heather D. Wathington, editor, Diversity
and director of programs, Office of Diversity, Equity
and Global Initiatives*
Over the last decade, AAC&U has sponsored many
diversity initiatives and has stressed the importance
of assessing those initiatives so that practitioners
have a better idea of what works and can communicate
effectively about their impact. Evaluation and assessment
are critical to amassing evidence about the value of
diversity work and demonstrating the efficacy of transformative
diversity initiatives. But, evaluation can do much more
than prove the worth and value of an innovation. Evaluation
is vital to improving programs, achieving larger institutional
goals, and providing concrete evidence about the links
between diversity and student learning.
Colleges and universities have implemented all types
of diversity initiatives to make a difference in the
lives of students, staff, and faculty, and to demonstrate
that diversity is deeply valued and important to institutional
mission. So many innovative diversity initiatives have
sprung up across campuses that the dilemma today is
coordinating them and structuring them in complementary
ways. In addition, while institutions may know what
was gained from individual initiatives, they often have
little time to ascertain what the institution can learn
collectively from implementing multiple diversity initiatives.
Evaluation can answer these questions. The campuses
featured here can attest to the multiple virtues of
evaluation. This issue illustrates how evaluation promotes
organizational learning and change.
Funded by the generous support of the James Irvine
Foundation, this issue of Diversity Digest
describes the emerging results of a dynamic, multi-institution
project, the Irvine Campus Diversity Initiative (CDI).
As part of the CDI project, institutions have been engaged
in diversity evaluation, first as a way to monitor progress
in underrepresented students’ success, and as
a way to bring about organizational change. Six of the
thirty-four CDI institutions are highlighted: the University
of Southern California, Mount St. Mary’s College,
Occidental College, Pepperdine University, the University
of San Francisco, and the University of the Pacific.
We hope that you will find this issue to be useful
and engaging. The work represented here makes a compelling
case that evaluation is much more than an afterthought
or a perfunctory, mandatory program report. Rather when
thoughtfully designed and implemented, and the results
used for decision-making, evaluation can be a powerful
impetus for organizational change and creatively rethinking
the ways in which we educate today’s students.
We thank the James Irvine Foundation for its generous
support for this issue.