DePaul wins Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award

When DePaul was founded in 1898, women and students of Jewish background were admitted, even though other universities would not admit those students without a quota. By admitting students of different backgrounds from the start, the university has shown how its diversity values have always aligned with its Vincentian values, according to Interim Assistant Vice President for Diversity José Perales. 

DePaul’s commitment to diversity is part of what has led the university to receive its first-ever Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award.

While Perales said the award is one in which he is proud, he still does not think it means there is not room for improvement. 

“(Diversity) is something we always have to work towards,” Perales said. “It is part of our core values, so the work is never really done.”

One issue the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity is currently trying to resolve is the Dream Resource Guide, which attempts to address the needs of students who are undocumented. In addition to the this, the office also focuses on three core elements as references for students: advocacy, compliance and education.

Advocacy has many resource groups for students, including the DePaul Women’s Network, a group of African-American employees, Latinos Empowered and LGBTQ, which was formed within the last year. Compliance and education have a Build Diversity Certificate Program, which allows staff and faculty to “come together as a community of learners to build diversity competences.” 

Part of the reason Perales thought it was important to have these resource groups and address these issues of diversity is because of its relevancy to the world today.

“The world appears to becoming (much) smaller and so we are more connected not just with people around the country, but also with people around the world,” Perales said.

Freshman Melissa Carvajal recognized the broader scheme of things regarding diversity, as well, and how the university has played part of that role in only the beginning of her college career.

“It’s important for people to have an open mind when it comes to other cultures and different ways of living,” Carvajal said. “Because there are so many people from different cultures you can meet (on this campus), you learn more about culture and religion. Other schools (show) mainly one race.”

Perales said students such as Carvajal who feel as though they want to be in a diverse environment provide recognition that DePaul is doing something good. However, he said reflecting is a major part of how the diversity at the university will continue to thrive and thus is the reason the HEED award is just a “moment in the spotlight.” 

“Together, we can come up with better solutions (through) taking a pause to think about what’s been done in the past and what we can do better,” Perales said. “It’s not enough to do good, it must be done very well.”