UWO forms workforce development council

Sophia Voight, News Reporter

The UW Oshkosh Office of Human Resources, Equal Opportunity, Equity and Affirmative Action has formed the Workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council to improve inclusivity and embrace diversity.

Associate Vice Chancellor of EOEAA Shawna Kuether, who is leading the advisory council, said bringing together experts on diversity, equity and inclusion allows the council to lead the campus toward meaningful change.

“By having open [and] honest conversations and collaborating across units and employment classifications to break down any current barriers, [the council] will effectively create lasting, comprehensive and supported change,” Kuether said.

The formation of the Workplace DEI Advisory Council came as a response to students demanding the campus take action to address issues of diversity around its staff and faculty, Kuether said.

The goal of the office of EOEAA is to build an inclusive and supportive institutional environment, free of any form of discrimination. The mission of the Workplace DEI Advisory Council is to ensure those principles are maintained for UWO employees.

With students’ demand that the university addresses its diversity issues, Kuether said some of the goals of the new council will be to “acknowledge and dismantle any barriers creating inequities within our policies, programs and services, and explore and address potential assumptions that interfere with inclusivity.”

The Workplace DEI Advisory Council will also be addressing issues of recruitment and retention of a diverse staff, Kuether said.

“The council will work toward developing a system to be intentional and conscious of bias during the hiring, promotion and evaluation process,” Kuether said.

Senior Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist Patricia Schrader said that embracing individual differences is what makes our university thrive.

“It is important to us to create an environment that supports everyone,” Schrader said. “Each individual’s unique abilities, talents, culture, identity and life experiences contribute to the foundation of our success as an institution and as a community.” 

Not only does increasing equity, diversity and inclusion for staff and faculty at UWO improve their environment, Kuether said, but it also positively affects the university’s students.

“It is one of the many ways we are hoping to improve the quality of the educational experience we are providing for our students,” Kuether said.

UWO senior Braini McKenzie, who is a student representative for the Workplace DEI Advisory Council, said support for diversity and inclusion is mostly focused on students but it’s important to ensure the same for staff at UWO.

“The staff at UW Oshkosh contribute greatly to our experiences on campus,” McKenzie said. “Their experiences here matter and they deserve an equitable workplace environment.”

The council will focus on improving equitable and inclusive leadership and knowledge of diversity, according to Schrader, which will help UW Oshkosh achieve inclusive excellence.

“It enhances our efforts to be an inviting and welcoming environment for current and future employees,” Schrader said. “Additionally, it creates an environment to help all of our students succeed.”

McKenzie said a diverse and equitable workplace is really important to have at UW Oshkosh.

“This advisory council is important because as a university we need to be extremely intentional in our efforts in regards to ensuring we are doing everything we possibly can to make UW Oshkosh the best it can be,” she said. “This includes being aware and proactive in the way we recruit, hire and support the staff at UWO.”