Diversity, Inclusion, and Well-Being Summit

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

Imagine a community at Mason where we all feel valued and can thrive together. How can we build that kind of university? The Summit on Diversity, Inclusion, and Well-Being – happening Friday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Dewberry Hall on the Fairfax campus – is a powerful opportunity to be a part of envisioning that future and making it happen. Registration is full but there’s a waiting list, and if you can’t attend you can still let us know how you would like to see Mason grow in these vital areas. Learn more here.

“Our spirit and our values as an institution give us a strong foundation to build on for creating more diversity, inclusion, and well-being at Mason,” said Dr. Julian Williams, vice president of compliance, diversity and ethics. “People in our community care about that, and we want to have a conversation about how to create an environment that reflects those values more – a place where everyone knows that they matter and where everyone can thrive.”

Mason’s strategic plan mentions that diversity, inclusion, and well-being are important values for our community. The summit will empower us to make progress on how we incorporate those values fully into our university’s future. “This is a unique and terrific opportunity to be part of moving the trajectory forward of more cohesively aligning goals #7 (Well-Being) and #8 (Diversity & Inclusion),” said Dr. Pam Patterson, associate vice president, University Life. “This powerful approach builds on the strengths of the university’s strategic plan. Our goal is to have representation from as many different stakeholders as possible – to truly bring the whole system into the room to imagine what is possible and design the future.”

No matter how we each are connected to Mason, our voices and ideas are equally valuable in this university-wide conversation. “Our summit is designed to put the whole Mason system in the room – students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, donors, higher education associations, and employers of our graduates – as examples to dream together about what Mason could become when it embodies and successfully integrates inclusion, diversity, and well-being for our community and the world,” said Dr. Nance Lucas, executive director, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. “Our goal is to build on Mason’s strengths around diversity, inclusion, and well-being and amplify those with key strategic priorities that were shaped by the summit participants.”

The summit will approach the conversation using an appreciative inquiry process, which focuses on what’s working well and how to build on that. “The appreciative inquiry approach, used around the globe to develop solutions and build forward movement in response to pressing issues, will be applied to develop a vision for our campus, a vision focused on equity and well-being for all. This is not a typical approach and I am excited at what we might produce as a community,” said Rose Pascarell, vice president for University Life. Participants can ask questions, share their current experiences and hopes for the future, and collaborate to imagine future priorities that further embed diversity, inclusion, and well-being into Mason’s culture. Lunch will be provided. By the end the day, we will propose a set of recommendations that will be shared with Mason’s senior leaders.

“There is no predetermined outcome for this summit. It’s a day that can go in a ton of different directions, according to how our conversations go,” Williams said. “The really interesting and great part of the appreciative inquiry process is that it’s open and empowers people to discuss what’s important to them. We want everyone in the Mason community who participates to feel like they have a voice in this conversation, regardless of their role at Mason.”

A summit like this “is a powerful approach to uncovering the positive life-giving forces of an organization or system” Lucas said. As people listen to each other’s perspectives, the potential exists for all sorts of positive outcomes to emerge. Lucas added, “This is an opportunity to dream together, engage with a diverse range of people from our community and Mason’s external stakeholders, and provide your ideas on building an inclusive university for the world where you matter and thrive.”

Making time to participate in the summit is worthwhile because it’s a powerful opportunity to help shape Mason’s future, Williams said. “It’s worth the time to participate because we all spend a significant amount of our time at Mason and we can really make a positive impact on our community through this summit. This is a substantial opportunity to make a positive difference at Mason – to help create a community where everyone feels like they matter, and where everyone thrives.”