Shortly after the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Binghamton University earned a Bronze level award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Diversity Recognition Program, the University has been awarded the 2021 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

The HEED Award is a national honor that recognizes colleges and universities that have demonstrated “an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion,” according to the INSIGHT Into Diversity website. As a recipient of the award, BU will be featured alongside 100 other institutions including the University at Albany, SUNY Old Westbury and Rockland Community College in the November 2021 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine — a diversity-focused publication in higher education.

In a Sept. 20 issue of BingUNews, BU President Stenger expressed the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and said BU strives to ensure a welcoming environment for all members of the campus community.

“We are dedicated to building on what we have in place so that every member of our campus community feels valued and heard,” Stenger said per BingUNews. “This award indicates that we are doing many things well and we will continue to work to create an equitable campus for all.”

Riya Bolander, a sophomore double-majoring in music and psychology, applauded the efforts specifically conducted by BU student organizations and said representation of all BU members within the academic environment is an important aspect of campus life.

“I appreciate the wide variety and vibrance of student organizations that revolve around culture and identity,” Bolander said. “I believe fostering a welcoming environment is essential to schooling because it allows students to focus on getting an education instead of worrying about whether or not they belong and are appreciated.”

The INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s selection process for the HEED Award includes a series of questions that relate to an institution’s level of achievement, intensity and commitment to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus. Past recipients of the award have showcased various initiatives, programs and outreach toward student recruitment, retention and completion as well as hiring practices for faculty and staff.

Karen Jones, BU vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, said the application is a lengthy process.

“[It requires] the input of many campus partners like the enrollment management, institutional research and disability services, to name a few,” Jones said.

According to INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, one of the major goals behind the application process is to help higher education institutions “assess their diversity efforts” to not only “build their success” but to “improve where necessary.”

Melanie Ibagon, the political correspondent of the Latin American Student Union and a sophomore double-majoring in linguistics and music, said BU should do more to protect minority populations and facilitate the voices of students who identify with these communities.

“The University, for starters, should look at the demographic of people in each of the specialized departments and ask themselves why there are such low numbers of Black and [Latinx] students ([for example] the science departments and music departments) and how they can make it a more encouraging environment for [Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)] people to stay in,” Ibagon wrote in an email. “There should be diversity committees in every department run by faculty members that are BIPOC, ready to sincerely hear feedback on how to make it a more inclusive space from the LGBTQ+ and racial/ethnic minorities on campus.”

According to Jones, many current and future initiatives will continue to provide resources to promote diversity and inclusion.

“BU is one of the few universities in the SUNY [system] with a division for diversity, academic and administrative officers, Harriet Tubman Center [for the Study of Freedom and Equity], Campus [Citizen] Review Board and the George Floyd Scholarship for Social [Change],” Jones wrote.

Jones said one of the major goals behind the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is to grow and improve the quality of representation for underrepresented members of the campus community.

“Our new initiatives will align with our Strategic Priorities (SP#3),” Jones wrote. “Which is to continue to focus on ways to increase the recruitment, hires [and] retention of historically [and] economically disadvantaged employees and students.”