The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 2 months ago

The DEI Viewfinder: A Practical Tool for Highlighting Inclusion


Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is top-of-mind for many colleges and universities today.

Marketing inclusive content in a respectful manner requires a unique perspective, one that marketers who don’t come from an underrepresented group can fully understand and appreciate.

Katie Jensen , Associate VP of Insights & Analytics at University of St. Thomas , talks to us about the DEI Viewfinder: an incredible tool that helps empower inclusion at every level of higher education.

Join us as we discuss:

  • The DEI Viewfinder’s function and purpose (2:13)
  • How the Viewfinder influenced St. Thomas’s marketing approach (12:10)
  • Advancements in hiring practices and class diversity (19:18)

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You're listening to The Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, donor relations, marketing trends, new technologies, and so much more. If you're looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Ed Marketer Podcast. I'm Troy Singer along with Bart Kaylor, and our episode today is going to tackle the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion and how to pursue it and improve it within your marketing. We are going to be talking to Katie Jensen. She's from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, and they've done a lot of work. They've presented at a m A a couple of times on it, so a lot of people are talking about the work that they do and the viewfinder that they've shared. Bart is familiar with it, and Bart I think our conversation with her is very eye opening, especially for colleges and universities who are starting to look deeper into how to improve this topic within their marketing. Yeah, it is Troy and it's interesting. The journey of of getting introduced to Katie and and the folks at St. Thomas came came via the fact that I had a client that reached out and said, hey, I'd love to take a look at our our materials and see I see it through the lens of d e I. And they knew a little bit about my background of having some adopted children and a little bit of a biracial family, and so I had somebody on the team and say, hey, you want to talk and look into St. Thomas. They've done some good work in that and so I did that and we were introduced to Katie and some other folks there, and so that's kind of where this came from. And again, it's such a great a great tool that they have. Katie is very passionate about it and she'll share that it's a great conversation and uh, and I think that we all have room to learn about each other and this is a great way to start that. Thank you, Bart. Here's our conversation with Katie. It's our pleasure to welcome Katie Jensen, who's the associated vice president of Insights and Analytics for Marketing Insights and Communications at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota to the podcast, and we're going to be talking to her about the high level and very public work that her, her team and the college has been doing around diversity, equity and inclusion. But first, Katie, if you would tell us a little bit about the university. Absolutely, thanks for having me try and bart um so. St. Thomas is the largest private university in Minnesota. We're located in the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. We have about nine thousand students total, six thousand or so an undergrad and about three thousand graduate students UM. We are among the top twenty national Catholic universities, and we're best known for our programs in business, particularly entrepreneurship and engineering. We've also recently launched a College of Health with a brand new School of Nursing UM and are the first uh UH university ever to move directly from Division three to Division one. In athletics, it's a pretty fun time to be a tummy. Thanks for sharing that, Katie, and and I guess we wanted to talk a little bit about as as Troy kind of set it up with the the d E I work that you guys have all done, but you've become very intentional on that work. I think a lot of schools will say, yeah, we we kind of keep that in mind, but you've actually created what you call a d EI viewfinder. Tell us a little bit about that. So the d e I Viewfinder is all about helping our team create more inclusive content. And so the d e I stands for diversity, equity and inclusion and it's a tool UM that we've actually spread across the university and across our team... help people ask the critical questions to make sure their work is as inclusive as possible. So the viewfinder includes nine questions, and these are questions that anyone kind of anywhere you are on your d e I journey, whether you're experienced in those concepts or not, UM can really start to think critically and have good conversations about d e I as it relates to our work. So for us, you know, we, like a lot of universities, have a goal of expanding our audiences, opening doors to UM you know, marginalized communities, underrepresented communities UM that haven't always had access to higher education. And so it's really important from a marketing and communications perspective, where often the first introduction they have to St. Thomas UM to make sure that we're making UM everything accessible, whether that's the process for applying or understanding what it's going to be like to be a student here. UM. Just making sure that we're throwing those doors wide open and really helping people see themselves here. That's great. And I I UM, I know that it's publicly available. I actually signed up for it, and I've I'm working my way through the viewfinder myself, and I've just been fascinated by and I'm so grateful for it because I think that this is something that all colleges and universities should do, and I particularly, I mean I've I've got a little bit of a soft spot in my heart for faith based that's kind of where I came out of, much like what St. Thomas is and and I think it's just a it's a responsibility for all of us to do that and to and to recognize that. So help me understand from the university standpoint, what are some of the desired outcomes for those who are going through it, whether it's on campus or even somebody like myself who's outside. That's just trying to be better informed. What we're really trying to do with this tool is spread the responsibility for d e I conversations to more of the team. We were finding that it was often, you know, our colleagues from marginalized communities who are having to speak up and say, hey, you know, I think this is sending a message you didn't intend. You might want to work on this piece a little more from an inclusion standpoint. And UM, you know, when when we set out to create this, my colleague Becky Stenlin and I were the ones who did the research and created this tool, were two white, CIS gendered straight women, UM, and you know, wanting to make an impact UM, and wanting to take some of that UM work on ourselves and provide our other teammates with UM with the tools to help UM. And so really, you know, our outcome is to make UM d e I work and keeping an eye on the inclusivity of our work more than just a few people on the team's job. It's everybody's job. It's actually not a step in our content creation process. It's something that should and could be applied at every step of the process from developed, meant to review, publishing. It's really kind of democratizing the power that inclusivity piece can have. That's great, and I kind of alluded to the fact that, I mean, this kind of fits naturally out of the convictions that you have as a as a Catholic institution, which I applaud in that. I'm curious, how did this kind of come about? I mean, certainly this is something like this seems to have to come from the top down priorities that the way it happened, I would say some top down in some bottom up. The one of the big things for us has been d e I as a priority from the President to the CMO, you know, making room for it in our jobs and really being clear with us that, you know, being on a d e I journey developing cultural competency is part of the job that we have here. Um, it's part of the skill set we need. So there's that piece, and then the other piece is just wanting to get feedback and opening ourselves up to feedback from other parts of the university. The way we developed the tool was actually partnering...

...with another group on campus called the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity or SEED team, and this cohort Um that we worked with. We gave them a bunch of our materials and we said, mark it up. Tell us what we didn't get right. Feel free to point out where we got it right. UM, that's will take those two. But you know, wherever you can show us somewhere that we could have done better, that's what we can learn from. And so I say bottoms up, because it really was just our peers taking a look and and doing us the favor of giving us the feedback UM, and that's where we were able to develop the questions from with a project like this. And I love the sincerity and where all of this came from and how you set out to do it. However, I would like to hear some of the other reactions or you know, I would guess that maybe not all of the responces that you got from the community were positive. Yeah, yeah, I mean the vast majority of the response has been positive. You know, we've trained UM nearly four hundred people in the tool internally and externally. The most common feedback we get is that it's really practical, a really approachable way to take action on d e I concepts. But we do get the occasional person who isn't sure that you know this fits with our Catholic foundation or um. We got feedback once somebody said this is just woke nonsense. My feeling is this is absolutely aligned to our Catholic foundations and to our convictions. We have a conviction around diversity, we also have a conviction around the dignity of all people. And for me, it's the difference between topics that have our political and have been politicized, right, and so I think all people of good will can agree that making sure that re student can find a sense of belonging when they go to college, that they can feel welcome in a place that can help them further their lives. When you take it to that human level, of course, everybody agrees right that that's the right thing to do. And so it's just reminding them about the humans at the center of it. That's not political, that's just caring for your fellow human. And I really can't think of anything, you know, more Catholic than that. We will be right back after a word from our sponsor. Today's podcast is brought to you by Spoke. Note the simple way to add video to anything. If you're looking for an innovative, effective way to get someone's attention, you really ought to check out spoke Note. They make these easy to use QR code stickers that allow you to record and share personalized videos with anybody. We're seeing Spokenoe stickers used on campuses in some really interesting ways, such as outreach to prospective students, maybe through acceptance letters, welcome messages from student ambassadors during the campus visiting orientation, student life applications like placing about me videos outside of dorm room, even personalized fundraising appeals from the development office, and athletic recruiting videos from coaches. The applications for spoke Note in and out of education are really endless. Try them out today by placing an order at spoke notte dot com. Welcome back, Let's rejoin the conversation right here on the higher ed marketer. Like you said, it's it's too easy sometimes to just you know, not think about it and just you know, take a take a politicized line. Um, it's too easy to do that sometimes, And I really appreciate the intentional intentionality that you all have done to really kind of look at it that way and and actually defend it that way. I mean, I agree with you. I think it's a it's a big part of person of faith, understanding and really living out you know, what they believe in that sense. And I applaud you guys for doing that. So that's that's pretty exciting to see that, and I and I'm really glad to to hear how much people have embraced that that that amount of you know,...

...the amount of that you know, pushback that you've gotten maybe a little bit smaller, because I think that as we as we look at how to embrace uh cultural differences, especially when we think about, you know, the shifting demographics, the way that you know, statistics show us that a lot more of the future generations of college students are going to be you know, some of us are going to be in the minorities that have never been in the minority. And that's just the way it is. And that's and I think that the more that we all understand that, the better that's going to be. So perfect. Yeah, I would just you know, add to that, there are certainly times where we go, gosh, are we being too sensitive? Like are we are we just really picking this thing apart? And I always say, you know, that's that's the point. That's the idea here is to be super critical, as critical as you can, UM, and then we have a conversation about it. It doesn't mean that everything that you that we talk about, that we highlight to each other is something we have to change. UM. It just means that it's something that we to talk about. And and some of it is just normalizing the conversation UM, and then also practicing those conversations so that you're delivering the message back to the creators of the content, who gosh, I couldn't do their work and have someone tell me my my work is, you know, not good enough. Every day. They're so resilient, UM. But when we go to them, it's not oh, this you know, this brochure is so racist. It's hey, I think this brochure is sending a message that you didn't intend. Or I think we could make this brochure a little more inclusive, and here are the ways that we can do it. And when you can turn it from UM from a personal UM, you didn't do a good job point of view too, Uh, I think we could work together to make this better. UM. You're gonna find a lot less UM resistance to those ideas. So it sounds like that it's changed the way that your marketing team approaches projects and approaches the creation. Can you dig a little deeper, take us a little deeper into how it's changed the way you approach it as a team. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, like I said before, we haven't made um the viewfinder a step in the process. At first, we were a little tempted to say, Okay, there's gonna be a d E I review step, um, But then we realize there isn't really a perfect time in the process to look at it that way, and UM, we really wanted to empower the whole team to have a chance to to leverage the tool. And in fact, when we hire freelancers to help us with you know, writing or our direction, UM, where our team is that capacity, we give them the viewfinder. And that's part of the briefing process. UM. So you know, when you brief creatives, this is all about giving them clear objectives and expectations that you are going to evaluate their work on, right, Like, that's core to the creative development process. UM. And so we're putting the viewfinder right next to the key messages and the audience. It needs to appeal to in terms of how we're going to evaluate that work. UM. So that's part of it. And then UM, you know, I would I would just say again making sure that UM, you're well, maybe not again will introduce the idea of UM. You know, it takes more edits sometimes UM, you know, and we think that, you know, from what we've seen, it's worth the UM, it's worth the effort. We tend to find that when projects go through this process, they're not just more inclusive, they're actually higher quality work. UM. I'll give you an example. We had one UM in our Opus College of Business. We had this brand awareness campaign where we were featuring our alumni as giants of industry and you know, very successful, and so the imagery had them kind of towering over buildings and key landmarks within the Twin cities. We had some differences and how different people were being shown. So there were if you...

...put two of the ads side by side, there was a white man who was standing, you know, confidently in the middle of the landscape, and then you had a black man who was peeking around the corner of a building. Both interesting and engaging ways to visualize this idea of giants in our alumni. But when you put them together, what does that say about the you know, the white man is taking up space whereas the black man sort of tentatively peeking. That's not a message we want to send about, you know, how those folks should enter their workspace. Um. And so we made a revision based on that, and when we revised that ad and had the new one actually had the black man standing strong in in the middle of the landscape, and it was the number one or I'm sorry, top ten ad on LinkedIn UM in Education that following week. So it just shows it's not just about making it more accessible to people who we want to be able to see them selves here. It was a stronger ad just overall. So I always encourage people to think about the upside that they'll have. UM. Yes, it will. It will take longer, UM, it will take maybe more rounds of revisions, but it's totally worth it. Bart, I know. And as you mentioned earlier, you also take d e I very seriously, and I have done work with schools that you have consulted for in the past. Can you give us some examples of some of the work that you've done. Yeah, it's it's interesting I've got a little bit of a perspective on that. And and Troy you know this. I'm not sure that all of our audience does. But you know, out of the four children that I have, two of them are adopted, UM. The two our siblings from Ethiopia, and we adopted them when they were quite young, and so UM, you know, we grew up in a family, you know, for the last you know, sixteen seventeen years of of kind of a you know, white mom and dad, you know, white biological children and then to UM African children as well. And so just kind of navigating that has has open my eyes to some of the sensitivities of d E I and and I've i've I've used that in some of the ways that I try to approach the marketing UM. And you know, Troy, you and I've talked many times just personally about some different things that have been extremely helpful for me to just understand a little bit more of a perspective that I don't have, UM, even though I have a greater perspective than maybe some other UM white fathers might have. But UM, I do think that I bring that to the table. And and I think so many times that schools want to just approach this from a from a marketing or kind of a band aid perspective. It's like, hey, we're gonna do that. Yeah, we'll be a little bit more sensitive to that. But at the end of the day, when you look at their directory and you stand back and you look at the school, and you're like, well, yeah, you're saying a lot of things, and yeah, you're doing the count on the amount of students that are in the brochure and making sure that you know, the students show up on the website. But when I look at your faculty, I'm still only seeing you know, white faculty, or I'm seeing of this or a percent white administration. And so I think so many times it's so important that if if we're really going to lean into this, that that's it's a it's a commitment that goes beyond just marketing. It's a commitment that goes into the authenticity of the university and how you're actually living that out. And so I guess part of the questions that I'd like to take it to Katie is just as St. Thomas has kind of you know, done this d I Viewfinder, how has that influenced the rest of the campus in the sense of, you know, even just your hiring practices. Yeah, we've actually done a lot of work within the Marketing, Insights and Communications team on inclusive hiring. Um. Just like we're working hard to make sure we're inviting students into our community and inclusive way, we're trying to do the same with our colleagues as well. So we took a close look at our hiring practices. We actually partnered with a consulting firm called Team Dynamics. They're a local women and LGBT owned business here in the Twin Cities, and we asked them to audit our process and so we made a lot of changes. Some things just really bull just make...

...the process more accessible and really limit the bias that can creep into the process. So one example is cover letters. The purpose of the cover letter wasn't clear. We were in some cases using it as an example of a writing sample, a first writing sample for us to look at, but we weren't telling them that. So some applicants who maybe didn't have the guidance or the experience to know that, hey, when you write a cover letter, this is how it might be used we're getting screened out because we thought maybe they didn't take it. We were jumping to conclusions. Maybe they weren't taking it seriously, maybe they weren't interested in the job, maybe they didn't have good writing skills. Now we're saying, okay, if we need a writing sample, if that's part of the criteria for doing this job, we're going to ask for a writing sample and tell them how we're going to evaluate it, as opposed to taking some random piece of the application and considering it in a way that they never knew we would. So we think about it as really making the invisible visible, and you know, we look for the opportunities to do that throughout the process. We've also worked on things with HR to improve the approach for the entire university. So, for example, on the application, we asked for gender, and mail was listed first. That's not even alphabetical order, um, and so we asked ourselves, you know what message does that send a female or non binary candidates? So that's been changed to alphabetical phrase that really resonates with me in hiring and actually inclusivity in general is if you're if you're not intentionally including people, you are unintentionally excluding them, UM, and so really thinking about you have to be intentional every step of the way, from the way you write the job description to where you post the information that the opportunity, to how you do the interviews, every step of the process. UM has to be really intentional about how you're including people. That's great and I I have to I was recalling here while we were talking UM. The way I was introduced to St. Thomas is that I had a project that I did recently for a d E I review of some marketing materials for a college university, and Troy actually assisted on that project with me. UM. I remember somebody on the team said, oh, you know what I've heard. St. Thomas has this amazing tool. We should check into them, and that led to our conversation for UM for for the podcast, and so I'm grateful for that. I know that not only is the viewfinder available public and we'll have links to that in the show notes, but I also know that you recently had a talk that you gave at the m A Symposium for Higher Education. Tell us a little bit about what that was all about. Yeah, So, UM, we were excited to be invited back again this year to present at that symposium, um so we UM. Last year we presented the d e I Viewfinder. This year we're talking about this inclusive hiring process so UM it was a presentation on UM ten Steps for Inclusive Hiring um SO really giving people again going back to that idea of how do we make d e I and inclusivity really actionable and accessible for anybody who's doing the jobs that we're doing. UM. We didn't actually wait for HR to lead the way on inclusive hiring. We said, how are we going to do it for our team? And then we pushed a lot of our learning to the university and they're they're using a lot of the things that that we've been doing as well. All of our search committees at St. Thomas get a briefing UM from the learnings that we had UM to ensure that their hiring processes are inclusive and as free of biases as you can make them when there are still humans involved. UM. SO we're excited to share share our learnings UM to have shared our learnings that am I recently. That's so cool. You just made a comment that made me think about the fact that you know as as much as you possibly can with hum is involved. I'm...

...sure that you don't always get it right. I'm sure that there's always opportunities for for more improvement. I mean, it's a journey, it's a marathon. I'm so grateful for the work that you're doing, and I'm guessing you're probably seeing that showing up in in the results. I mean, isn't it true that one of your most diverse classes just enrolled? That's right, we just enrolled our most diverse class of first time first year students ever at St. Thomas. Also the highest number of first generation students we've ever had, and that's that's the efforts of our marketing team as well as a ton of other people on campus. UM, but really exciting to see, um see those numbers come through. And you know, so much of the way students find out about us is through word of mouth, and we haven't been present in the mouths of many of the communities in town, and so it's really exciting for those students to come and have a great St. Thomas experience and hopefully report back to their friends and family about what are great places. Well, congratulations on that. Before we kind of finish up here on Troy has a couple of additional questions. I did want to say though, I had made a reference to the fact that we'll put the doew finder link in the show notes. But before we leave, just tell me a little bit about what they'll find if they click on that link and what what all is involved. Yeah, so it's we actually created a synchronous online Continuing in Professional Education course UM where people can get the full training on the d e I view finder. So it includes our nine questions UM and actually real examples I think more than thirty real examples of where you can see and learn from our mistakes where we most of where we didn't get it wrong. There are a couple of where we got it rights in there. And so yeah, people can register for that class and they can always feel free to reach out to me for more information as well. I can leave my contact information. Great, and for larger marketing teams, I understand you have some group discounts for that as well. Yeah, yep, so we can work with them if if there's a bigger group wanting to take it, we can do some group discounts as well. Perfect. Thank you for our last question. I would like to ask you if there would be a tip or a piece of advice that you could give that someone can implement immediately around this copic, what would that piece of advice be. Yeah, that's easy for me. It's to open yourself up to feedback and actively solicit that feedback from other people that you work with. Find some people who you know come from a different perspective than you have come from people you know, talk to people who have spent time engaging in these topics. Particularly in higher ed. We've got so many wonderful scholars and their knowledge to draw from. And I'm no scholar on this stuff. I'm just a practitioner. But I've learned so much from from those colleagues and it's really helped us not just learn, but build relationships so that when we do have a miss step, we're hearing it straight from the person who saw it, and hopefully as soon as they saw it, so we can make it right then. With that, also want to underscore how important it is for that feedback not to just come on the backs of our colleagues from underrepresented or marginalized groups. They have representation fatigue, and so be cognizant of constantly asking those people to to share from from their perspective and go above and beyond to weigh in. That's a lot of what we're trying to do with this tool is again spread that work to more people, enable more people to do it, and we've just had so many great conversations as a result. So definitely recommend just open yourself up, be humble, be willing to learn, and it'll be really rewarding. Thank you very much, Katie for being a guest on the podcast. You mentioned that someone could reach out to you. Can you give us the best way for someone to reach you. Yeah, absolutely, reach out via email a d dot Jensen at St Thomas dot edu. So that's St. Thomas dot d u. UM. You could also find me on LinkedIn. Either one works. Katie, Again, thank you...

...very much for sharing all the wonderful wisdom and information that you have and we feel that you're sharing today will be an inspiration for others. Bart. Is there are there any closing comments that you have? Yeah, yeah, just a few. I mean I made some comments there in the middle that that kind of stand on their own, But again, I just kind of keep going back to the fact that, um, this is just the right thing to do. I really appreciate what Katie said about the fact that so many times this gets politicized and turned into something political rather than just it's the right thing to do everybody. I mean, it comes down to relationships and respect. You know, you don't want me to get on my soapbox right now, but it is all about relationships and uh. And I think that once you can get past that, and as Katie said, open yourself up to you know, just receiving some criticism and things you might just not be aware of. I mean, there's a lot of natividay around the idea that you know, I don't know what I don't know, and and a lot of people are just in that in that case or whatever side it is. And so just being open and humble, I think is the way to go. And I appreciate the tools that st Thomas has put together. So again, thank you, Katie. It's been wonderful to have you on the show. Thanks for having me appreciate it. The Hired Marketer podcast is sponsored by Kaylor Solutions and Education marketing and branding agency and by Ring Digital, a marketing firm that specializes in boosting lifting yield for higher ed with unique, targeted and accurate digital marketing campaigns on behalf of my co host Bark Kaylor. I'm Troye Singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with Apple Podcasts, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars do you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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