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/Equity2030/blog/images/web_banner_equity2030_campusclimate.jpgsite://minnstate/Equity2030/blog/images/web_banner_equity2030_campusclimate.jpgminnstateweb_banner_equity2030_campusclimate.jpgweb_banner_equity2030_campusclimate.jpg1496491000456By Kang, Lindsey Jr., and PigeonLeveraging Campus Climate Assessments

Leveraging Campus Climate Assessments for Equity 2030

Instructors speaking to students

By Tarnjeet Kang, Director of Equity Assessment, Minnesota State
Trumanue Lindsey, Jr., Vice President of Equity and Inclusion, Minneapolis College
Jered Pigeon, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Minnesota State University Moorhead

March 20, 2024

Campus climate assessments serve as a vital tool for higher education institutions to assess their students’ and employees’ sense of belonging, inclusion, and safety. The experiences of students and employees in their campus learning and work environments directly link to their ability to succeed and thrive. By supporting and investing in the improvement of our students’ and employees’ sense of belonging, inclusion and safety, we aim to impact and improve Equity 2030-related metrics, such as student success and employee retention.

In 2022, the Office of Equity & Inclusion presented to the Minnesota State Board of Trustees a framework to coordinate a systemwide initiative to conduct campus climate assessments over a 3-year cycle. These assessments also form a key component of the “evidence-based” dimension of the Minnesota State Equity 2030 strategic vision. The framework was widely accepted and launched in fall semester of 2022 with 18 schools participating in the first cohort (completing either one or both of the employee and student surveys). The second cohort, which started in fall of 2023, has 15 schools participating, and the final cohort of schools will start in fall of 2024.

We are halfway through the first 3-year cycle and are beginning to obtain some key learnings from the first cohort of Minnesota State institutions that have completed their assessments. These institutions are leveraging their data to inform decision making related to campus climate and be responsive to the needs of their students and employees. Below, we highlight two examples of Minnesota State institutions conducting and leveraging their campus climate assessments:

Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM)

In Spring 2023 (March 22 to April 22, 2023) as part of the systemwide campus climate assessment work, MSUM administered the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey to undergraduate and graduate students. This was the first year MSUM used this instrument. Previously, MSUM administered the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) students. The change in approach followed the Minnesota State call for a more intentional assessment of campus climate compared to engagement surveys. The switch also came as our institution was moving towards developing a campus climate framework that centered Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), as well as aligning with our institutional priority of equity in experience and outcomes.  

The survey asked students about perceptions of MSUM’s climate, perceptions of how MSUM supports diversity and equity, and experiences with discrimination and harassment at MSUM. The key objectives of the survey are to help university leaders understand MSUM’s undergraduate and graduate students’ perceptions and experiences with campus climate, assess belonging, inclusion and safety, and inform decision making and planning efforts to improve the overall student experience.

Key findings from our survey were: 

  • 17.7% survey completion rate among students
  • 15.3% of respondents identified as domestic students of color 
  • Generally, students are satisfied with the campus climate at MSUM 
  • There is a need to increase students' sense of belonging 
  • There’s room for improvement regarding student-to-student interactions
  • Students want to see more visual diversity and their identities represented in the staff, programming, and curriculum   

These findings were reviewed by the University Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (UDEIC). This body serves as an advisory council to the president, provides leadership in developing and implementing the university’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. The committee reviews MSUM policies, programming, and practices through an equity lens and serves as a resource to students, staff, faculty, and other university groups for matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The committee is also responsible for making recommendations to achieve equitable outcomes for MSUM students and employees.   

Under the guidance of the Campus Diversity Officer (CDO), the UDEIC will be responsible for reviewing and reflecting on the campus climate data, hosting campus information-sharing meetings, aligning recommendations within various university structures, and setting intentions for proceeding with the data. Furthering the understanding of the data will require listening sessions and multiple opportunities for students to give feedback. This will help identify areas of focus to establish specific plans to make lasting improvements to climate. The qualitative individual responses in the survey will also be reviewed by the UDEIC, themed where possible, incorporated in the individual learning sessions, and provided to appropriate departments and committees across campus. The HEDS Diversity and Equity Campus Climate will be repeated in spring 2026. 

Under the leadership of the CDO, we have begun to center the climate results in planning committees such as our Bias Inclusion Response Team, our DEI committee, Academic and Student Affairs Council and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. We have also incorporated the data to organize our inclusion and belonging messaging while leveraging the data to inform our strategic planning efforts. The results will inform programming topics for our student life areas for the foreseeable future.   

Understanding our students’ experiences is paramount to this work. Standard 11 of the professional practices for CDOs, according to the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, states that “diversity officers work to ensure that institutions conduct periodic campus climate assessments to illuminate strengths, challenges, and gaps in the development and advancement of an equitable, inclusive climate for diversity.” By building a campus environment that centers data and the student voice, we will ensure that our programs and services are meeting the unique needs of students.  

Minneapolis College

In the spring semester of 2023, Minneapolis College was one of several campuses to initiate the systemwide effort to administer the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Campus Climate survey on campus. Under the leadership of the Equity & Inclusion Division, the survey was administered to Minneapolis College students and employees, with the intent of gauging our campus climate to help inform the development of the new campus Equity and Inclusion plan.

Partnering with our Office of Institutional Effectiveness, survey results provided Minneapolis College with a variety of insights. An initial finding showed that students expressed overall satisfaction with the campus climate. However, survey participation was not proportionately representative of several student groups (Black, Latine, male, part-time, and adults under 25 years old) to overall enrollment. To ensure that the experience of all our student demographics inform our work, Minneapolis College conducted student focus groups and a variety of satisfaction-based surveys to collect this information. These additional feedback loops reflected overall satisfaction and a high sense of belonging. Also, results also highlighted the students’ desire to see improvements in the delivery of support services as well as representation in curriculum/course materials.

Survey results also communicated low levels of campus satisfaction for employees compared to national norms, especially for staff. Further analysis made apparent what contributed to the low levels of satisfaction for employees. Survey responses were consistent with employee feedback received since returning to campus post-COVID. These insights helped to identify two immediate priorities:

  • Improving the sense of community and belonging for employees
    • Lowest ratings among minoritized staff (Black, Latine, Women, LGBTQ)
  • Recruitment and retention of BIPOC employees

These insights were solidified during the August all-college meeting campus climate reporting breakout session when a staff member shared the following statement, “we are putting in all our efforts to ensure students have a great experience, but at the cost of our employees having the same enjoyable experiences.”

In response, the Equity & Inclusion Division has partnered with Student Affairs to facilitate a series of culturally relevant customer service trainings as part of their continuous process improvement work. Additionally, the Human Resources Division has worked to redevelop and launch our new employee onboarding program. The onboarding program incorporates a series of critical touchpoints throughout the first 90-days at the college. The desired outcome is to provide adequate resources and connections to build sustaining professional relationships for new employees. In addition, Minneapolis College has been intentional in creating community-building opportunities outside of devoted work time. The intent is to build an ongoing culture of care for both students and employees. Various engagement and activities have ranged from our monthly President’s Book Club to offerings through our employee engagement program.

One highlight of the fall 2023 semester was re-introducing the student vs staff basketball game. The gathering of students, faculty, staff, and alumni created an opportunity to bring the Minneapolis College community together in a way that is opposite of business-as-usual. Many still talk about how refreshing it was to be in that environment and the desire for more community building engagements.

Regular ongoing assessment of campus climate is integral in advancing the work of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-racist initiatives at Minneapolis College. This feedback mechanism plays a vital role in creating a sense of belonging, promoting a positive and inclusive work and learning environment, informing decision-making, and fostering continuous improvement efforts on the campus.