Robert M. Sellers

To the University Community,

As the University of Michigan concludes the final year of its initial five-year Strategic Plan for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we must acknowledge both this monumental occasion and the unprecedented challenges that our community has faced throughout this process.

When the Strategic Plan launched in 2016, we knew the plan would need to adapt to both the known and the unknown. Over the past five years, we have endured a worldwide pandemic, witnessed an international movement that has brought systemic racism to the forefront of our national dialogue and had two highly divisive presidential campaigns.

Throughout these and so many other challenges, we have learned much about ourselves and the value of resiliency. We, as a university, have tried to provide leadership and support when the moment has called for us to rise to the occasion. However, as we move forward in our efforts, we must continue to lead, listen and learn along the way if we are to become the community that we strive to become.

In support of this belief, the university has committed to actively fight racism through a series of initiatives and actions.  Some of these actions included: the creation of a task force on policing and public safety for the Ann Arbor campus; the development and implementation of a plan to hire new full-time faculty members over the next three years with scholarly expertise in racial inequality and structural racism; as well as a reevaluation of the race and ethnicity curriculum requirements across the university’s 19 schools and colleges. These actions are just a few of the many ways that the entire U-M community is expressing its commitment to anti-racism.

We have also reimagined what traditional work and learning environments look like in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The university remains committed to delivering a world-class experience to students, faculty and staff.  We have worked hard to ensure that both in-person and remote settings are inclusive, accessible and equitable. We have continued to connect our community through virtual events, conferences and experiences. Ultimately, our goal has been to bring as much of the University of Michigan experience to wherever our community may be.

As we reflect on our progress in Year Five of the DEI plan, we have also been afforded an opportunity to look toward our future.  I am incredibly excited that the university has committed to another five-year DEI strategic plan beginning in fall 2023. Over this next year, we will engage at both the central and unit levels in an intensive systematic evaluation process that will allow us to celebrate our successes and identify where we need to do better. The results of this evaluation process will guide our planning of the next DEI plan—DEI 2.0.  As a result, I anticipate even stronger DEI plans going into the future, as there will be more evidence-based outcomes to use as a framework, compared to our original plans.

This evaluation and planning process does not mean that we will stop moving forward on our current DEI efforts. We will continue to focus our efforts at all university levels to move DEI from a core value to becoming a standard operating procedure in all that we do as an institution. The commitment by university leadership to DEI 2.0 reinforces the idea that DEI is not a time-delineated initiative that can be achieved, where the university then moves onto the next initiative. Just as the university and the rest of society have struggled to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive from its beginning, we must actively attend to these values.  As a result, I believe that we as a university must maintain our commitment to the perpetual work of DEI if we are to become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community.

While I am very excited about the future of DEI at U-M, this also seems like the appropriate time for the transition of leadership. As a result, I announced earlier this year that I will be stepping down as Chief Diversity Officer, effective summer, 2022. I will be returning to the faculty, a position that I have loved my entire professional career. I assure you that I will continue to be as involved as I possibly can in the university’s DEI work, and that I remain deeply committed to making sure that we as an institution meet our goals. I am deeply honored to have had the privilege of serving as chief diversity officer during these past seven years.

Although transition, change and challenges lie ahead, I remain confident in our future because of the determination and commitment of so many outstanding people across this great university.  They are truly the Michigan Difference. As a result, I am confident that our institution will inspire hope and progress across higher education and the world.


Robert Sellers
Chief Diversity Officer
Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion