DEI building in campus real estate and facility management |


Mainstreaming diversity, equity and inclusion across academic institutions is a long-term commitment

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Herman bulls

Herman bulls

By 2045, the majority of the American population will be Hispanic, black, Asian, or multiracial. This demographic shift will occur even sooner among college and university students, according to a Brookings Institute analysis.

Although these changes are well underway, women and minorities are not always represented in the decision-making and implementation of real estate projects on and off campus. Now is the time for business and other academic leaders to institutionalize DCI (diversity, equity and inclusion) in all operations.

Here are five steps institutions can take to integrate DCI principles into property and facilities management:

1. Make representation a priority: Too often, leadership in colleges and universities does not reflect the demographics of the campus community itself or the surrounding community at large. This lack of representation can undermine community confidence in the leadership of the institution, as well as overshadow various perspectives.

DEI begins with the representation. Academic leaders need to assess whether their real estate and community engagement teams are as diverse as the student body and communities surrounding campus.

As David Thomas, president of Morehouse College, said in a recent NACUBO webinar on DCI: “The college president or dean must also be the director of DCI.

2. Engage with the diverse communities around your campus: Successful community engagement is largely a matter of perspective: colleges and universities need to see themselves as part of the community and act accordingly, especially in disadvantaged urban or rural areas.

Yale professor and urban ethnographer Elijah Anderson refers to the “cosmopolitan canopy” as a setting where diverse peoples interact peacefully, even in the midst of areas where segregation has been the norm.

Drexel University in West Philadelphia has embraced the cosmopolitan canopy by blurring the lines between its campus and the surrounding community, creating more free and open space. Texas A&M San Antonio is partnering with local school districts to cooperate with K-12 schools, promote digital equity in schools, and ensure the delivery of high-quality education to students in the community.

“Talent is universal. The opportunity is not, ”said Texas A&M San Antonio president Cynthia Teniente-Matson. “We all try to create opportunities. “

3. Build flexible learning environments to serve diverse student populations: Diverse student populations may include students who must balance work and study; who already have college credits; or who have limited access to a physical campus.

Academic institutions need to expand access to these students and others who may not have a “traditional” academic background. This includes offering blended and online learning options, as well as cooperative education programs that place students in full-time paid jobs for part of the school year.

Real estate and facility projects should reflect the goals of enabling students to learn according to their needs and of making education accessible to a wider student body.

4. Work with various service providers, contractors and other suppliers: Colleges and universities where DCI is a high priority should commit to doing business with a variety of vendors and service providers for real estate and facility projects. Engaging with the community during development can help institutions ensure that their goals are aligned with the needs of the community, as well as help business managers and real estate teams identify various local entrepreneurs with whom to do business. .

Drexel recently recruited a community advisory group to help with a campus development project. In addition to helping set priorities and a plan, reviewing projects on site, and discussing design inclusion and neighborhood impacts, the advisory group helped Drexel connect with businesses. owned by minorities and women, many of whom employ residents of West Philadelphia.

“The talent is there,” says John Fry, president of Drexel University. “You have to go get it, especially from your project managers.

5. Structure public-private partnerships (P3) with DCI in mind: A joint venture between a college or university and a private sector developer to build, finance and maintain a facility is known as a public-private partnership, or PPP. These initiatives may include contractual terms to advance DCI’s goals, such as supplier diversity, fair wages and other relevant considerations.

PPPs can also be used to launch real estate projects that transform surrounding communities and provide better economic opportunities for residents.

The incorporation of DCI principles into academic institutions is a long-term commitment. Ensuring that real estate development and campus facilities management include underrepresented and marginalized communities is one of the many ways colleges and universities can work to build a more equitable future.

Herman Bulls is vice president and founder of the Public Institutions branch of JLL.

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