Creating a Knowledge Foundation

Equity Talk book coverThe Task Force on Racial Equity used the book, From Equity Walk to Equity Walk, to gain or increase knowledge on best practices to work toward transformative change in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at JMU and its greater community.

This part of the compilation of the Task Force’s work includes three sections: 
Description of The Book Reading Project
Summary of Book Discussion Participation
Pairing of Book Topics with Recommendations Developed by Task Force Working Groups


Equity Conversation promoThe book From Equity Talk to Equity Walk, recommended and co-authored by Dr. Tia Brown McNair, the Task Force on Racial Equity National Advisor, was shared with many leaders across JMU campus. It became the foundation for multiple events for the JMU community of task force working group members, staff, faculty, students, alumnae and Harrisonburg community leaders.

In addition to copies given to senior leaders at JMU, 66 books were distributed to the JMU community (staff, students, alumnae and Harrisonburg community leaders).

Equity Event zoomDiscussion among 34 participants (two separate dates) generated 79 unfiltered suggestions and comments for JMU based upon the book.

More than 100 participants were part of a conversation with two of the three authors, Tia McNair Brown and Estela Bensimon.

A review and affirmation of all points raised during the discussions and conversation with the authors was held to synthesize the many suggestions into 13 actions associated to chapters in the book and relevant to other task force recommendations.

The actions were incorporated into existing task force recommendations.


3/26/2021: Book Reading Event #1

Participation: 25         
Invitees: TFRE members including the LC and WG CC’s, members of the legacy committees.         
Purpose: To discuss the book and develop possible action items based on the content.

3/31/2021: Book Reading Event #2 Equity Conversation zoom v2

Participation: 15
Invitees: TFRE members including the LC and WG CC’s, members of the legacy committees.
Purpose:  To discuss the book and develop possible action items based on the content.

4/20/2021: Book Reading event with Tia McNair and Estella Bensimon

This event included Mr. Alger and was facilitated by Gail Napora.     
Participation: 90         
Invitees: The JMU Campus, 200 reservations received.
Purpose: To learn key elements in the text and hear the perspectives of the authors and Mr. Alger.

4/27/2021: Follow-up Meeting to consolidate and prioritize ideas that could be acted upon by JMU

Participation: 30
Invitees: All TFRE members including the LC and WG CC’s, members of the legacy committees. Some invitees had not read the book nor had they attended an earlier session. Other members of the campus community were invited.
Purpose: To further discuss the ideas generated/discussed in the first three meetings and to consolidate and prioritize them. 79 action items were consolidated to approximately 15.


Sixteen topics were identified by the book reading groups as a direct result of reading From Equity Talk to Equity Walk and the subsequent related discussions. These topics resulted in or influenced 11 TFRE recommendations and two actions taken by JMU (combining for 13 recommendations and actions).

Below find each topic and the TFRE recommendation or action that came as a result of discussing and studying the book or paired with a recommendation conceived by a working group.   

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #1

Diversity Position Statement: JMU should create a customized and profound statement noting where JMU stands on diversity and should write definitions related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging, and should make those definitions easy to locate.

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation:

Racial Equity Statement: To establish a public-facing, university-wide statement/stance, we recommend an inclusive process be undertaken to craft an equity statement including associated definitions and commitments.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #2

Define Equity Terms: JMU should precisely, publicly, and clearly define the terms related to racial equity so that all faculty, staff and students know specifically what JMU values and supports.

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation:

Glossary of Racial Equity Terms: The recommendation is for JMU to support a glossary of racial equity terms. The time is now for the university to endorse a glossary that empowers all units across campus to distribute written messages about race that are consistent, accurate and up to date.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #3

Outreach to First Gen BIPOC Prek-12 Students: JMU should increase its outreach to first generation, BIPOC, PreK-12 students and their families while identifying and changing processes grounded in whiteness to help create more equitable pathways to JMU for those students and their families. This should be done so that JMU can diversify the student population.

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation:

First Generation Strategy: JMU should utilize the National Association of University Personnel Administrators (NASPA) First Scholars Initiative to frame many, if not all, of the programmatic and structural changes to better support first-gen students.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #4

Ways to Welcome New Faculty & Staff: JMU faculty and staff should be made aware of their positionality and influence on the campus climate and should devise novel ways to welcome and enculturate newly hired staff and faculty so that JMU can create a new narrative and inclusive “way of being” as a JMU family that can trickle down to JMU students.

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation:

Staff Community Resource Connections: Part of the faculty onboarding process includes a routine welcome/orientation email from Human Resources (HR) listing campus community resources and information. This process can be paralleled with relatively minor adaptations to be applicable and impactful for new classified and wage employees.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #5

Policies and Procedure Review: JMU should review campus-wide and divisional policies and procedures, in the context of DEI to determine if any barriers to the use of, and access to them are evident. JMU should remove the barriers, enhance awareness of these resources, and make clear where they can be found. This should be done so that all may have access to policies and procedures and so that all can provide input to make policies and procedures accessible and equitable for everyone. (Note: The University Policy Committee (UPC) has developed an “Equity Lens” checklist through which all policies shall be reviewed prior to final publication.)

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation:

Policies and Procedures Review: Develop a DEI checklist and worksheet similar to or the same as the one used by The University Policy Committee. The DEI checklist and worksheet could then be distributed to or widely made available to university entities that engage in any level of internal policy or procedure writing or review for their respective department, group, organization etc.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #6

Ally Training: JMU should create and make available learning, development, and supervisor coaching focused on how white people can become empowered to be vocal allies in the fight for racial equity. The training should include how to recognize inequities, how to address challenges, and how to have difficult conversations so that some of the burden of advocating for racial equity can be reduced for the minoritized faculty and staff who have been personally experiencing and carrying the burden for equity and fairness for years.

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation:

Allies for Racial Equity Training: We recommend that training and other resources be developed and administered that will provide ways the JMU community can become empowered to be vocal allies in the fight for racial equity.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #7

Financial Aid and Scholarships: JMU must provide clear and robust scholarship opportunities, and financial aid for those who are Black and Latinx to such a degree that undergraduate students do not have to hold jobs earning money while conducting undergraduate research.

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation: 

Student Scholarship Audit: JMU financial aid and scholarship should audit its scholarship process to focus on the realities of how BIPOC students may not have the same GPAs as non-BIPOC students. The scholarships and foundation office should revise and reconsider what is determined to be progress toward degree. In addition, they should consider an extension of scholarships into the summer and for two additional semesters in order to guarantee student completion in majors that require more time at JMU for completion.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #8

Faculty and Staff Professional Development: JMU must expand professional development opportunities and make training available for faculty and staff so that faculty and staff understand, emulate, and commit to racial equity. (JMU should consider accomplishing these opportunities by offering training for supervisors, expanding the existing training related to racism, access, culture shift in language at the department level, enhancement of supervisor training for directors and unit heads, enhanced AVP/Dean-level training and the creation of workshops for Cabinet-level administrators and VP’s.)

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation: 

Academic Unit Head Leadership Development: Academic Affairs should coordinate mechanisms for AUH professional development that bring to the fore racial equity and justice.

Strategic Approach to DEI Learning Sessions for Faculty and Staff: JMU should conduct a comprehensive DEI training needs analyses that is campus-wide in scope to determine campus-wide training needs, modalities, specific target audiences, sources of content, budget, standards, and expectations in the context of enhancing JMU’s diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #9, 10 and 11

Data Inventory: JMU should take an inventory of the types of data it currently has to meet its goals, and to determine who has access to the data, who needs the data, how to maintain transparency of the data, and how to use it to identify and close equity gaps for students, faculty and staff.

Access to Data: JMU should provide easy access to data and in so doing, should include the voices of minoritized students as part of the data. Based on the data and at specific and intentional check-in points, minoritized students’ progress should be reviewed academically and socially (co-curricular growth) throughout the year. Then, after each review, JMU should identify equity gaps, mitigate related problems, empower collaborative partnerships within JMU, and celebrate related successes on an ongoing and sustainable basis well into the future. This should be done to enhance the success of minoritized students.

Use Data to Define Equity Gaps: JMU should use its data to determine why there are equity gaps so that we can take concrete actions to close those gaps.

Related Action Take by JMU:

Data Dashboard:  As campus and community conversations ensued, the Board of Visitors requested a compilation of relevant data and the university created a dashboard to report and follow these data. Key Performance Metrics - JMU

Corresponding TFRE Recommendation: 

Data as a Tool to Enhance the Success of Minoritized Students: JMU should take an inventory of the data it currently has to meet its goals, determine who needs the data, expand access to the data, maintain transparency of the data, and provide information about how to use it to identify and close equity gaps for students, faculty, and staff. Based on the data, minoritized students’ progress should be reviewed academically and socially at specific intervals throughout the year to inform action and mitigate problems.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #12

Climate Survey Student Input: JMU should ensure that the completion of the upcoming climate survey process does not represent an end point for climate improvement. JMU should consider students as partners in the 2021 Climate Study work. This is so that the JMU climate will continue to improve long into the future.

Related Action Take by JMU:

JMU Climate Study: The climate study has been conducted and results are being processed during the summer of 2022.

Book Reading Group Topic - Recommendation #13

Centralized DEI Office: JMU should create a centralized office (including the appropriate funding) for the now and future sustainability of diversity, equity and inclusion work which seeks to address and educate the university, the immediate community, and the Commonwealth at large on WHY Diversity is needed and should be BOLD ABOUT THE CHANGE/S that are NEEDED. (The head of this office could identify a specific champion for community engagement to foster connections across campus and track accountability to achieve a more effective and equitable way to build community around and beyond JMU, specifically among black and brown residents and the immigrant community.) This is so that the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion can continue to be infused into the JMU culture now and into the future.

Related Action Take by JMU:

Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – A new vice-presidential position has been established by President Alger and the position was filled in June 2022.  The new vice-president will report in August 2022.

Back to Top