2020-22 Quality Initiative

Equity and Inclusion at St. Olaf College:

Assessing, Enhancing, and Sustaining the Vision

June 2020 – May 2022


Executive Summary

Full Report to the Higher Learning Commission

HLC Peer Reviewers’ Evaluation of the Initiative

As part of the Higher Learning Commission’s ten-year accreditation cycle, institutions are required to design and carry out a Quality Initiative, a significant improvement effort structured either as a self-contained project or as an important milestone in a longer-term endeavor. The process begins with the submission of a proposal to the HLC, subsequently peer-reviewed by an HLC-appointed team, and concludes with a final report which is also peer-reviewed.

St. Olaf’s June 2020 proposal for a two-year initiative, Equity and Inclusion at St. Olaf College: Assessing, Enhancing, and Sustaining the Vision, was focused on implementing Goal 5 of the college’s 2019 Equity and Inclusion Plan:  “Hold ourselves accountable for the success of the plan through assessment, reporting, action, and celebration.” Our final report was submitted in May 2022, and our peer reviewers’ report was received in June 2022.

The milestones achieved in the course of the initiative included:

  • The development of the college’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Theory of Transformation, which defines our DEI aspirations and describes the actions we are taking to achieve them
  • The development and ongoing implementation of the Co-Creating an Inclusive Community model of DEI institutional change, in which students, faculty, staff, and leadership work together to envision and create a campus community where people of all identities experience belonging, connection, and agency
  • The launch of the college’s interactive DEI Dashboards and Additional Data website keyed to the aspirations identified in our Theory of Transformation and incorporating a wide variety of institutional research and assessment data
  • The inauguration of the St. Olaf Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium, featuring the DEI work of more than 60 St. Olaf students, staff, faculty, and alumni, and involving more than 300 participants from across the college community

The peer reviewers assigned by the Higher Learning Commission determined that the Quality Initiative met all the requirements for a successful initiative, including seriousness of effort, scope and impact of the work, community commitment and engagement, and resource provision.  Their report concluded:

“The community of St. Olaf College has demonstrated a clear commitment to planning, executing, and deploying the Quality Initiative (QI) entitled Equity and Inclusion at St. Olaf College: Assessing, Enhancing, and Sustaining the Vision. Inclusivity is not only in the name of the QI, it describes the approach that St. Olaf has taken in developing the initiative, by involving constituents throughout the institution, and also by examining how diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are multidimensional concepts that require a multifaceted approach in application.”

The leadership team overseeing the Initiative included:

Jo Beld, Vice President for Mission and St. Olaf Accreditation Liaison Officer (convener)

María C Pabón Gautier, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion

Susan Canon, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment

Mary Carlsen, Professor of Social Work and Family Studies and Project Director, To Include is To Excel (2017-21) (development and launch phase)

Leslie Moore, Vice President for Human Resources (implementation phase)