Harper College

Harper honored with ICCTA’s Equity and Diversity Award

Dr. Avis Proctor, William F. Kelley and Dr. Tamara A. Johnson accept the 2023 Equity and Diversity Award from ICCTA Treasurer Shawn Boldt.

Dr. Avis Proctor, Harper College president (from left); William F. Kelley, chair of the Harper College Board of Trustees; and Dr. Tamara A. Johnson, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion; accepted the 2023 Equity and Diversity Award from ICCTA Treasurer Shawn Boldt on June 2.

The Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) recently honored Harper College with the 2023 Equity and Diversity Award. It’s the second time Harper received the award, which recognizes leadership on policies that enhance institutional diversity, inclusion and equity for underrepresented groups.

“We are excited to be recognized for Harper College’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion as well as our implementation of policies to close equity gaps,” said Dr. Avis Proctor, Harper’s president. “We are encouraged by the institutional progress that this award acknowledges and remain dedicated to the college’s efforts to advance equitable student success.”

Dr. Proctor accepted the honor alongside Dr. Tamara A. Johnson, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, and William F. Kelley, chair of the Harper College Board of Trustees, at ICCTA’s annual awards banquet in Normal on June 2. In addition, Kelley was a co-recipient of the 2023 President’s Award for his support of ICCTA and community colleges. Dr. Richard Johnson, Harper English professor, was nominated for the Outstanding Full-Time Faculty Member Award.

Established in 2010, ICCTA’s Equity and Diversity Award, “recognizes exemplary commitment by an Illinois public community college board of trustees and its chief executive officer to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion in the college’s education programs,” according to the association. Harper, which last won the award in 2017, was assessed on the college’s leadership on equity matters during the past five years.

Under the leadership of Dr. Proctor and the Harper College Board of Trustees, the college has centered equity in its planning. A Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution (AANAPISI), Harper established its Three Pillars of Equity – including removing barriers, closing equity gaps and implementing focused solutions – while including data-informed equity goals in the college’s strategic plan. Harper’s “5-10-20” initiative seeks to create a 5% increase in credentials conferred, 10% increase in graduation rate and 20% reduction in equity gaps by 2024. Three years into the plan, Harper has already achieved or made significant headway on each target.

Harper’s board was instrumental in establishing the college’s first vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with the 2021 hire of Dr. Johnson, as well as the new Office of DEI that includes four additional full-time positions. Also in 2021, Dr. Johnson and the Office of DEI opened Harper’s Cultural Center – a vibrant and safe space for underserved or marginalized people featuring a variety of educational programming, events and training. In 2022, the office established GLIDE (Guiding Learners to Intentionally Develop Efficacy), a mentorship program for Black and Latinx students, and the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Faculty Fellows program, which enables current faculty to gain administrative experience in areas of DEI.

Harper’s diversity and equity work goes far beyond the Office of DEI, from the 5-year-old Social Justice Leadership Certificate program for employees to the newly established Social Justice Studies Distinction for students, which saw its first graduate this spring. An $18 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott fueled the creation of the Igniting Paths to Success Scholarship in 2021, with two-thirds of the 1,500-plus scholarships going to underrepresented students. That gift also funded 2022’s Community Innovation Fund Grant Program, created by the Harper College Educational Foundation to partner with area nonprofits focused on issues of equity, diversity and economic mobility.

All the while, Harper has increased representation among college employees. From 2017 to 2021, the number of Black employees increased by 8% and the number of Latinx employees increased by 12%. Harper’s board formalized the college’s focus on employee representation in 2022 with a recruitment and hiring policy stating the importance of cultivating a community of employees from diverse backgrounds and identities.

“Harper and the Office of DEI are extraordinarily proud of ICCTA’s recognition of our equity and diversity efforts, a testament to the hard work of Harper employees across all areas of the college,” Dr. Johnson said. “As we celebrate this honor, it is important to remember that we still have much work to do. Collectively, we must continue to transform our systems and policies to ensure that all members of the Harper community are afforded the opportunity to grow, succeed and thrive.”

Last Updated: 3/14/24