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ACS Diversity Initiative























The ACS Diversity Initiative
Within the Context of
A Liberal Arts Education


Drs. R. Owen Williams, ACS President; Ron L. Swain, ASCDI Grant Project Director; Idella Glenn, Assistant Vice President – Furman University; Jim Hunt, Provost - Southwestern UniversityDr. Idella Glenn, Assistant Vice President for Student Development and Director of Diversity and Inclusion, is leaving Furman University after serving for over 18 years to become Director of Diversity Education and Retention Initiatives at Virginia Commonwealth University.  For almost two decades, Dr. Glenn has been instrumental in advancing diversity and inclusion both at Furman and across the Associated Colleges of the South.  She has played a major role in preparing a Diversity and Inclusion Planning Grant proposal that was funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  A ten-member Planning Committee, composed of five Chief Academic Officers and five Diversity Officers, is charged with producing a significant grant proposal focused on diversity and inclusion for the ACS.  Dr. Shirley Collado, Dean of the College at Middlebury College, is consultant to the Committee and Dr. Ron Swain is the Project Director.  The Planning Committee held its first face-to-face meeting at the University of Richmond on September 26, 2014.  A second such meeting will take place in March, 2015 at Davidson College.




While ACS member institutions differ in numerous ways, we share a common and a primary purpose: to provide a quality liberal arts education that prepares students to be responsible and effective local, national, and world citizens. The following five practices are at the center of the types of learning that distinguish a liberal arts education from other types of learning:

  1. Commitment to Life-long Learning that is characterized by a sustained intellectual curiosity.
  2. Critical Thinking that is characterized by the ability to identify assumptions, to test logic, to evaluate evidence, to reason correctly, and to take responsibility for the actions that result.
  3. Encounters with Difference that promote the understanding of others, as well as self-understanding, and the appreciation and mutual respect of diverse perspectives and cultures.
  4. Free, Principled, and Civil Exchanges of Ideas that are characterized by open-mindedness and mutual respect.
  5. Ethical framework that serves as the basis for decisions and actions in all personal, social and business relationships.

Participants at the 2008 Diversity Leadership Summit

2008 Diversity Leadership Summit summary

The liberal arts curriculum is known in Latin as artes liberales, or “work benefiting a free person.” At its best, the academic and social aspects of a liberal arts education teach one how to live.

Mission of the Diversity Initiative within the Context of a Liberal Arts Education

An essential element of a liberal arts education, as noted in number 3 above, is a welcomed and valued diverse learning community, where individuals and the campus community as a whole may safely and respectfully explore unfamiliar ideas, convictions, and practices. This element in particular and the purpose of a liberal arts education in general frame and shape the mission of the ACS Diversity Initiative, which is to support and to encourage the ACS member institutions in their endeavors to create and to sustain campus learning/teaching and social environments that welcome, value and celebrate diversity.

In keeping with this mission, the ACS Diversity Initiative is about the tasks of:

  1. identifying common concerns that may be addressed by collaborative and consortial efforts, including but not limited to such topics as faculty/recruitment/retention and prejudice reduction.
  2. providing opportunities where dialogue on and the exploration of diversity concerns that affect the academic and social environments of member institutions may take place, including such opportunities as consortial workshops, seminars, conferences, and forums.
  3. sharing best practices and helpful resources through a variety of electronic and non-electronic means.
  4. encouraging member institutions to create campus infrastructures that will provide continuity across the current and future academic calendars to address diversity issues and concerns.
  5. celebrating the diversity within ACS and sharing beyond the consortium the experiences of and the lessons learned by our member institutions.

Approved by the ACS Diversity Initiative Planning Committee, September 2003
Approved by the ACS Council of Deans, October 2003
Approved by the ACS Presidents, January 2004

"We need to help [people] cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that surrounds and strengthens this community - and nation." Cesar Chavez, activist

    While ACS institutions differ in numerous ways, we share a common belief that diversity in our student bodies, faculties, and staffs assists us in attaining our primary mission: providing a quality liberal arts education that prepares students to be responsible and effective local, national and world citizens. We believe that racial and ethnic diversity on our campuses significantly enriches the educational experience and promotes personal growth, by increasing the exposure to and the understanding of differences that are found in the larger, pluralistic society.
     At their best, multicultural experiences foster mutual respect, teamwork, and communities where it is the quality of a person's character and contribution that matter the most. This is of utmost importance in a world where we work and play side by side with people from very different cultures and backgrounds.

    Through the links on this website, ACS shares with you information and resources that we hope will promote, help, and inspire your multicultural adventures and interactions. If you have additional sites and resources that you would like to recommend to your fellow ACS colleagues, please send all of the pertinent information to

I believe we can stand together to create A community that values and respects our differences.
Ron Swain, Senior Advisor to the President, Southwestern University

You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note.
Doug Floyd, columnist

None of us is responsible for the complexion of his skin. This fact of nature offers no clue to the character or quality of the person underneath.
Marian Anderson,singer, 1941

This Diversity Initiative is funded by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation as part of the New Models of Cooperation in Three Challenged and Critical Areas Grant.


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