2019–20 Annual Report - University of Houston
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Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion are integral values within the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, reflecting the UH campus culture of being a sanctuary of learning for all races, genders, sexual preferences, cultures and identities.

Our mission is to foster an inclusive university community by providing services, programs, and support that will engage, empower, and educate our highly diverse student population and campus partners.

International Student and Scholar Services Office joins DSAES


The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services grew a little larger last year. The International Student and Scholar Services Office, previously housed in the Office of the Provost in the Division of Academic Affairs, moved into the division in October 2019.

The Global Studies and Strategies area in the Office of the Provost reorganized, said Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Daniel Maxwell. “The opportunity to bring ISSSO into our division made perfect sense with our concurrent priority of supporting student success through programs, services and activites,” he said.

ISSSO offers a number of support services to international students, including pre-arrival assistance, new student check-in and orientation. ISSSO also hosts comprehensive workshops and information sessions, and organizes cultural events and programs. In addition, the staff assists with maintaining visa status and U.S. regulation compliance, provides counseling and advocacy services, and advises on requests for specialized needs and circumstances.

ISSSO also supports the International Friendship Program, which arranges airport pick-ups, coordinates temporary housing, connects new students and scholars with local host families, and plans off-campus outings and events.

Ideally, staff and student leaders organize cultural events and programs to assist international students with transitioning to the American and UH culture. Having ISSSO as a part of the large and diverse portfolio of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, there will be greater opportunities for collaborations and partnerships with existing programs and activities along with strengthening existing services and creating new initiatives.

“We are very pleased to return to the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services that oversees many of our campus partners with whom we work closely, including Campus Solutions, Registrar, Admissions, Career Services, Campus Recreation and Wellness, just to name a few,” said ISSSO Director Jin Zhang. “Embraced with a warm welcome and the great support from Dr. Richard Walker, Dr. Maxwell and the entire DSAES team, our transition went so smoothly and we feel right at home. We will continue to provide excellent services to our international students, visiting scholars and our campus community under the great division leadership and support.”

ISSSO initially reported to Maxwell for the first six months and then transitioned to the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students portfolio. This final move took place following the arrival of Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Donell Young, who joined UH on August 3, 2020.

“Although I have only been at UH for a short period of time, I have quickly realized that ISSSO’s commitment to student success is second to none,” Young said. “I am thrilled to work with such a dedicated group of individuals that work tirelessly to provide holistic services for international students. I look forward to working with them to enhance and develop student success programs and workshops to help international students reach their individual goals.”

Diversity and Inclusion Committee launches priorities and new charge


Two years ago, the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services decided to take a good look at itself and evaluate how well it was achieving one of its key values: diversity and inclusion.

Defined as “celebrating the diversity and embracing the intentional inclusion of all experiences and cultures while fostering and welcoming and open community,” administrators wanted to make sure “we were living up to this value,” said Keith Kowalka, assistant vice president for student affairs.

So in the fall of 2018, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was formed, and tasked with the following:

  • Evaluate the division’s current standing with diversity and inclusion through our collective departments and division efforts.
  • Conduct a Division Audit Based on the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmark categories, determining DSAES’s current level of action related to each of the benchmarks, and include an Executive Summary and Recommendations.
  • Involve staff members to gauge awareness and collect qualitative data to address outstanding needs for the project.
  • Specifically, provide recommendations for the future role for the DSAES Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

The committee completed this assessment and presented its findings this past year. This summer, the committee used feedback from DSAES leadership to set a number of priorities for the next two academic years.

This work is even more important now, Kowalka said.

“As we all know, there is now an additional heightened awareness to diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice due to the recent deaths of black and brown men and women involving the police,” he said. “We recognize that when the Diversity and Inclusion work was originally done, this topic was not identified in the assessment work, nor was there the current national dialogue happening around this matter. Consequently, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is reviewing ways to improve the working environment for our black and brown colleagues within the division as a priority.”

To complete the evaluation, the committee did an in-depth review of association policies, processes, training material for both volunteers and staff, meeting minutes, program goals and evaluations, and communications. Additionally, the group sought feedback through the following methods:

  • A review of documents from the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services.
  • Focus Groups with UH students, DSAES leadership staff members and front-line and mid-level staff members from the Division.
  • A Division-wide survey to 426 individuals was sent May 1, 2019. The last of 191 total responses was received May 24, 2019, for a 45% response rate.
  • DSAES Department information gathering of the following: policies; training materials and guides; recruitment and personnel processes; marketing and communication examples.
  • DSAES Department Self-Assessment questionnaire on Diversity and Inclusion areas of focus.
  • DSAES Department Self-Assessment of performance in relation to the ten (10) categories we were evaluating within the Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmark, which also included narrative responses for their reasoning for their self-assessment level.

In addition to the priorities, the committee also has a new charge and is moving into Phase 2.

The new charge, the priorities, as well as the Executive Summary from the Self-Assessment report is available on the DSAES website.

“The priorities from the Self-Assessment Report were a significant step toward improving our commitment to embracing our value of diversity and inclusion for our students, campus colleagues, and each other,” Kowalka said. 

The Committee has also developed four working groups to tackle the significant list of priorities for the 2020-21 academic year:

  • Improving the working environment for our black and brown colleagues;
  • Diversity and Inclusion Infrastructure for the Division;
  • Diversity and Inclusion Training, Education and Orientation for DSAES Staff;
  • Communication, Inclusion and Outreach.

Every member of the DSAES team has an opportunity to offer any feedback on identified priorities, or additional ideas for the committee to work toward, and staff can submit feedback online.

“These efforts will continue to underscore that our Division continues to be a welcoming, supportive and safe place for our staff, and supporting our students and our colleagues in the faculty,” Kowalka said.

By the Numbers

We are committed to a culture of diversity and inclusion at the University of Houston, and throughout the year we offer a number of services, programs, activities and events to empower, engage and educate the campus community. These are some of the accomplishments of our departments over the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year.