The Office for Equity and Inclusion recently decided to coordinate the Pathways to Inclusive Excellence (PIE) initiative.

The PIE initiative consists of five University cohort programs: the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF), the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, the Wesleyan Math and Science Scholars Program (WesMaSS), the Upward Bound Math-Science Program, and the Posse Veteran Scholars Program. Each of these programs was selected to help students deepen their educational experience and utilize a supportive framework to boost levels of excellence.

“Our vision is to increase the flow of students in grades 9 through 16 from historically underrepresented backgrounds and to provide opportunities and access by way of pathway programs that require complex thinking but also a complex interdisciplinary understanding of belonging in the pursuit of excellence,” Vice President for Equity and Inclusion/Title IX officer Antonio Farias wrote in an email to The Argus.

Each of these programs will contribute to this vision in different ways. MMUF’s goal is to increase the number of minority and other students who have shown commitment to ending racial disparities and plan on pursuing PhDs in the arts and sciences. The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program helps students from underrepresented groups prepare, enter, and progress through postgraduate education.

WesMaSS is a two-year program that mentors and promotes skill building and reflection in an effort to help students develop the habits of successful science students and scholars. The Upward Bound Math-Science Program’s aim is to improve the math and science skills of high school students from Meriden and New Britain. The Posse Veteran Scholars Program offers a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to military veterans to increase the rate of veterans who attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities.

“The Office for Equity & Inclusion is interested in creating living-learning communities where first-generation, historically underrepresented, low-income, women in STEM, and Veterans, have the opportunity to thrive,” Farias wrote. “We’ve found that small group settings, with amazing faculty mentorship, and the right mix of social and political and academic affirmation helps boost a growth mindset in all participants—and I mean students, faculty, and staff.”

The idea for the PIE initiative originates from both the success that Dean Teshia Levy-Grant had leading the Upward Bound Math-Science Program and Farias’ personal experiences as a student who received help from the Upward Bound Math-Science Program and the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.

“These are programs that have decades of…evidence that they work in increasing the diversity of the professorate, boosting leadership and research skills, and creating a sense of belonging in what at times are very lonely educational outposts for diverse populations at highly selective colleges,” Farias wrote. “These initiatives are successful but we thought we could increase success, visibility and interest by putting all the programs under the same umbrella. This also provides opportunities for cross collaborations and successful practices such as mentoring evolve organically from this process.”

Though the PIE initiative seems promising, according to Farias, it’s difficult to predict how it could affect the University community.

“The impact of the PIE Initiative on the broader Wesleyan community remains to be seen,” Farias said. “The best laid plans are only good on paper, so we’ll have to see how the year goes–taking into account student, faculty, and staff input into what works here at Wesleyan and what needs to be revamped. In the end, it if doesn’t help students thrive and inhabit a supportive community, it’s not worth the paper it was planned on.”

Student Advisory Board member Caroline Liu ’18 found the initiative interesting, despite not knowing much about it.

“[The Student Advisory Board] doesn’t meet over the summer,” Liu said. “We haven’t had our first meeting yet. I hope that they will tell us more about it and that student leaders can contribute. Those individual groups I know have been really great in building a community for the people that are involved in the programs, and I really am personally curious how bringing them together will look.”

Although the future influence of the PIE initiative is pending, the University is already using it as an effective model.

“The idea of creating a cohesive series of communities [dedicated] to enhancing diversity and building bridges across disciplines and embracing the value of lived experiences has been fermenting for years,” Levy-Grant wrote in an email to The Argus. “PIE is the beginning and its success will depend on the students who we serve and support from the campus community.”

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