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Reaching Diversity Goals

As part of a college-wide initiative launched in 2004, I was hired in April 2006 as Berklee's first vice president for cultural diversity. The college earmarked $1 million annually to build diversity. In a true measure of the college's support for this work, this position reports directly to President Roger Brown, and includes a seat on his cabinet.

During my first year and a half in this role, we've made a great deal of progress. I feel fortunate to be at the college during such a pivotal moment in its history when we are addressing a host of areas, such as curriculum development and review, student, faculty, and staff recruitment and retention, training and development for faculty and staff on diversity, and community building.

One of our first tasks was the creation of a diversity initiative advisory board, appointed by the Office of the President to support this work and to represent a cross-section of student, faculty, and staff perspectives. This 24-member group plays an invaluable role in building a collaborative vision and strategy for Berklee's work in creating diversity.

In 2006, Berklee revised its mission statement to reflect the importance of diversity to our academic mission. The updated statement now reads: "Founded on jazz and popular music rooted in the African cultural diaspora, our comprehensive curriculum is distinctly contemporary in its content and approach and embraces the principal musical movements of our time." The college went through a long process that involved many members of the Berklee community in the dialog including students, staff, faculty, and trustees. It is an important change that many felt was long overdue.

Over the past three years, Berklee has also made great strides toward enrolling a more diverse group of students. Comparing statistics from 1999 with those of 2006 reveals that we have increased the percentage of entering African American students from five to 15 percent, which is a 200 percent increase. Likewise, domestic Latino students have increased during this time from two percent to 14 percent. The percentage of women in the entering class has risen from 16 to 35 percent of over the same period. Last year 20 percent of our entering students were international and half of that number were Asian. These marked increases in enrollment of diverse students indicate the college's progress in diversifying the student population. Another important development has been the creation of a values statement for the college's diversity strategy. "Cultural diversity is integral to the mission of Berklee College of Music simply because diversity is integral to music itself," the statement reads. The definition of diversity is holistic and includes many dimensions. We acknowledge that creating a welcoming and accessible environment for all members of this community is extremely important.

Today, we are striving to build diversity into every area of the college. The diversity strategy was developed collaboratively and aligns with the areas of the college's strategic initiatives for enrollment, faculty and curriculum, facilities, resources, and community. We've developed specific diversity goals for each area and have also designated staff members in each area who are responsible for goal progress. Because of the strong commitment from the highest levels of the college, there is a great deal of excitement about these new developments. It is also my hope that as the diversity initiative evolves, you, our alumni community, will become involved. For more information, visit www.berklee.edu/diversity.