Beginning in 2017, the conference included a presentation of the Inclusive Excellence Award. The award is presented to a UNT department or unit that demonstrates a commitment to excellence in learning, teaching, student development, institutional functioning, and/or engagement in local and global communities. Their efforts should exemplify the institutionalization of diversity, equity, and/or inclusion efforts through its policies, programs, practices, and people. In partnership with the Inclusive Excellence Sponsor, the Division awards a monetary gift to the unit to help continue their work.
Beginning in 2021, the award was renamed the Dr. Bertina H. Combes Inclusive Excellence Award to honor Dr. Bertina Combes who unexpectedly passed away on February 19, 2021. Dr. Combes was a longtime member of our UNT family who was a dedicated educator and tireless supporter of our students and our university.
The Dean of Students Office. The Dean of Students Office (DOS) has demonstrated a concerted commitment to serving a substantial number of students who may not be able to afford food on their table, purchase a cap and gown for graduation, afford their school supplies, struggle with mental health issues, and have nowhere else to turn. The DOS model is "get the student to us, and we will take care of them." This approach has helped many first-generation students, low-income students and those that face mental health challenges achieve success at UNT. DOS believes its goal is to help students remove barriers that occur outside the classroom so they can be successful inside the classroom and on campus.
Over the past year, the Dean of Students Office has added several programs to help students from free haircuts to collaborating with the Tarrant County Mobile Food pantry to serve our students and Denton Community; to serving our students in the food pantry and finding that a sizable number of students who use the pantry are our international students. Further, in AY22, the CARE Team served 663 students. Of those 663, 215 students were hospitalized due to significant mental health issues. In AY22, the Seeking Options and Solutions program assisted 4748 students struggling with barriers outside the classroom from financial issues to pregnant and parenting students to temporary disabilities, to military orders to those struggling with personal issues. Students that used the food pantry during this period, had a 92.6% retention rate for fall 21, and a 94.7% retention rate for spring 22. The Survivor Advocate program has an 82.69% retention rate for the students they serve. Finally, the DOS Withdrawal Office has had a 18% save rate for Spring 2022, which is the highest ever.
As a result of the tremendous efforts to serve all UNT students in general, and first-generation students, international students, low-income students and those that face mental health challenges in particular, the Division of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access is pleased to announce that the Dean of Students Office is the recipient of the 2023 Bertina H. Combes Inclusive Excellence Award. The DOS example is both inspiring and instructive for other departments across UNT who wish to institutionalize inclusive practices and competencies that truly illuminate our caring community.
This year, there are two recipients of the Dr. Bertina H. Combes Inclusive Excellence Award. The first award recipient is Faculty Success. A unit with the Division of Academic Affairs, Faculty Success is headed by Dr. Holly Hutchins, Vice Provost for Faculty Success. The commitment of this unit to diversity, equity and inclusion is evidenced through Faculty Success’s efforts over the past two years to improve the cultural competence of Academic Affairs faculty and staff by providing learning and development opportunities focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Faculty Success was very successful in partnering with the Division of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) to develop and provide a diverse array of synchronous and asynchronous learning and development options for employees through its Anti-Bias and Cultural Awareness (ABCA) Program. This “best practice” model has engaged over 90+ percent of the Academic Affairs faculty and staff and is worthy of emulation by other units at the University of North Texas. We believe the example of Faculty Success can be both inspiring to and instructive for departments across the university that wish to institutionalize inclusive practices and competencies. Congratulations to Faculty Success!
The second recipient of the Dr. Bertina H. Combes Inclusive Excellence Award for 2022 is the Division of Digital Strategy and Innovation (DSI) led by Vice President Adam Fein. For almost two years, the DSI team has engaged in intentional efforts to improve the climate for employees within the division and to foster a greater sense of belonging. Under the leaders of Dr. Fein, a climate survey was initiated in summer of 2020 to better identify opportunities for improvement and growth. The Division of Digital Strategy and Innovation established a diversity and inclusion council and an e-newsletter to ensure better communication with all divisional employees. Efforts to facilitate inclusive excellence is also evidenced through the continued participation of DSI employees in the programs, offerings, and initiatives of IDEA. Having the DSI leadership team and diversity and inclusion council to complete the multi-part, 20-hour Inclusion, Equity and Community Building (IECB) workshop really set the tone for the division regarding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, DSI’s efforts to ensure equal access by persons with disabilities and members of the LGBTQA+ community have helped to ensure UNT is indeed a welcoming and caring campus community. Congratulations to the Division of Digital Strategy and Innovation!