University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
College of ACES
ACES Academic Programs
Give to ACES

Strategic Plan for Increasing Diversity

College of ACES Academic Programs, April 24, 2014 (Abridged version)

I. Description of unit’s overall mission/guiding principles

Mission of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

Discovering, advancing, and integrating new knowledge to ensure nutritious and safe food, sustainable and innovative agriculture, strong families and communities, and environmentally sound use of natural resources to benefit the people of Illinois and the world.

Mission of the ACES Office of Academic Programs
  • To support the educational mission of the College of ACES by recruiting, enrolling, and supporting an academically talented and diverse student body.
  • To enhance the success of ACES departments as they teach, advise, and prepare students to contribute to a global society.

We achieve this mission by:

  • Successfully recruiting students for freshman, transfer, and graduate enrollment whose interests and talents align with ACES-related fields
  • Ensuring the ACES student body is representative of the myriad diversity of our state, our nation, and the world as a whole
  • Providing appropriate academic supports for this diverse population of students that continually boosts student retention and graduation
  • Bolstering the intellectual growth of students within and beyond the classroom through the provision of undergraduate research opportunities, honors programs, education abroad, leadership, and other scholastic programming
  • Intentionally promoting students’ career and professional development
  • Fostering teaching and advising expertise through the continued education of faculty, staff, and graduate assistants
  • Supporting instructional improvements, such as access to emerging technologies for teaching and learning
  • Building leadership, citizenship, and global awareness among students
  • Contributing to college affordability through the cultivation of scholarships and financial aid.

II. For the purpose of this strategic plan, define diversity

Diversity is the bringing together of individuals who represent different characteristics (for example, with respect to race, education, culture, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical abilities, religion, and geography) in order to share, learn, and grow from one another. With the exchange of differing viewpoints, opinions, cultures, backgrounds, and life experiences brought by diverse individuals, we not only stimulate creativity, broader thinking, and acceptance, we also enrich the life experiences of members of the College of ACES and campus as a whole.

Although we are concerned with diversity in all of its forms, given the traditional demographics of the College of ACES, we focus most intentionally on broadening the diversity of our undergraduate and graduate student body in terms of ethnic/racial, socioeconomic, and geographic dimensions.

All members of ACES academic units (including faculty members, professional staff, and students) are encouraged to attract and retain new members who bring different racial/ethnic, geographic and academic/professional educational backgrounds and experiences. More specifically:

  • Among the ACES undergraduate student body, African American, Latino, and Native American groups are underrepresented in all majors. In addition, females are underserved in ABE and Crop Sciences. Males are underserved in HCD.
  • Among the ACES graduate student population, African American, Native American, Asian American, and Latino students are underrepresented in all graduate programs. Females are underserved in ABE and males in HCD.
  • Among ACES faculty and academic professionals, African Americans, Latino, and Native American groups are unrepresented in all units of the college. Females are underrepresented at the full professor rank.

III. Diversity value statement

Stimulating creativity, promoting the exchange of ideas, and enriching life experiences through diversity are critical to the mission of the College of ACES. As a leading land-grant college, we are committed to respecting, valuing, and nurturing the diversity of our faculty, staff, and student body through our programs, policies, and practices. We believe that the educational experience of all students in the college can best be enhanced when its membership adequately represents the diversity of the broader population and when the full value of inclusiveness is shared and permeates throughout all of our activities.

ACES continually works to enhance diversity and inclusiveness through activities that possess two basic mechanisms: (1) the building of a student body, faculty, and staff populations that reflects the diverse groups in Illinois, the United States, and the world through intentional recruitment, retention, and promotion; and (2) integrating diverse and global perspectives into student learning, research, and outreach activities.

As we promote tolerance and acceptance within the college and prepare students to contribute to a multiethnic society, we are committed to:

  • The consistent and successful recruitment of a culturally and geographically diverse student body that mirrors the State of Illinois and U.S. population. In addition to working with diverse communities across Illinois to recruit talented undergraduates, we are committed to forging strong collaborations with partner institutions, such as 1890, 1994, and Hispanic Serving Institutions, to attract diverse students to our graduate programs.
  • Comprehensive and coordinated retention efforts that aim to reduce any achievement gaps found between minority and majority groups. Specific attention is devoted to reducing the length of time to completion and increasing graduation rates while increasing learning and overall scholarship through well-devised classroom, leadership, and experiential learning experiences.
  • Innovative curriculum and intra- and extra-classroom experiences that enrich the quality of learning experiences provided to students, with special attention to those experiences that illustrate the relevance of our academic programs for solving critical and changing societal needs.
  • Promotion of a college climate that is welcoming to diverse groups though the provision of a networked system of organizations, leadership activities, and mentorship. Such a climate better enables all students to achieve their educational and career objectives with a spirit of confidence, trust, and full engagement.

IV. History of diversity efforts in the unit


The College of ACES has a rich tradition dating more than 50 years of the successful recruitment of culturally and geographically diverse students, traditionally underrepresented in the food, agricultural, human, and environmental sciences. Successful initiatives include the Research Apprentice Program and consistent outreach to urban and rural youth and educational systems.

Research Apprentice Program

The Research Apprentice Program (RAP) is designed to help highly talented high school students from underrepresented backgrounds become acquainted with and prepare for the exciting career pathways that are available to them through the undergraduate programs of study offered in ACES and the University of Illinois. RAP was developed almost 25 years ago with the support of the USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant Program. It has been sustained through long-standing corporate partnerships.

For those students who plan to attend Illinois, we offer a third summer experience, the Young Scholars Program (YSP), in which students are prepared to succeed in their freshman math and chemistry courses. A proactive retention program, YSP is discussed in greater detail below.

Virtually all RAP graduates attend college, with large numbers selecting the University of Illinois. Recruitment to Illinois has been approximately 50% of participants, with 85% of these enrolling in the College of ACES. Feedback from RAP graduates clearly illustrates that while these students are interested in attending Illinois for their undergraduate students, most face pronounced financial challenges, and their decision to attend is based largely on our ability to provide attractive scholarship packages. 

Retention and Bachelor’s degree completion of RAP graduates who enroll at Illinois has been approximately 96%.

Chicago Youth and Urban Agriculture

Illinois Center for Urban Agricultural Education (ICUAE). The ICUAE was created in 2011 to create greater awareness of the career opportunities that exist in the food, agricultural, environmental, and human sciences in urban settings. Physically based at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, the director of the ICUAE (who is a faculty member in the U of I Agricultural Education Program) has responsibility for increasing awareness of these STEM-related career pathways among high schools, community colleges, Chicago-based businesses, and youth-serving organizations, while demonstrating how the academic programs offered by ACES are excellent preparation for succeeding in these career pathways.

Outreach to Chicago public schools through science education. ACES has on staff a science educator, who serves as a resource to Chicago public high school science teachers, counselors, and students. The educator is physically based in south Chicago at Metropolitan Family Services, which is a well-respected social service organization that serves predominantly Black and Latino communities.

In concert with the campus Office of Undergraduate Admissions, ACES also sponsors annual breakfasts for CPS counselors to better acquaint them with our academic offerings.

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS). ACES has a special relationship with the CHSAS, having helped create its curriculum nearly 30 years ago. Several components of the school's agricultural pathway curricula are aligned with our introductory courses, thereby facilitating the preparation of their highly diverse student body for success in ACES. This close relationship presents opportunities for interacting with CHSAS students, teachers, and counselors.

Outreach to southern Illinois. We sponsor transportation for diverse groups to visit campus and participate in Explore ACES from Chicago, East St Louis-St. Clair County, and far southern Illinois schools. This also includes a special writing competition on topics addressing food and society for elementary and middle school students currently in the southern part of the state.

Graduate Recruitment. ACES participates in a number of career fairs and other activities focusing on attracting underrepresented students for graduate studies. Career fairs, such as at the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) annual conference, the Association of Research Directors (of 1890 institutions) Biennial Research Symposium, the Emerging Researchers in STEM Conference, and the National Conference of Hispanics in Agriculture, provide opportunities for ACES faculty to meet the most talented multiethnic students in the nation. We support and participate in the Graduate College’s initiatives related to graduate student recruitment of underrepresented students through the CIC South Tour of Historically Black Colleges and in many programs to recruit prospective graduate students, such as SROP, SPI, and the Community of Scholars. We also work with OMSA in encouraging very talented scholars on campus to engage in graduate studies through the McNair Scholars Program.


Young Scholars Program. As part of the RAP suite of services, the Young Scholars Program, a post-high school/pre-college transition academic experience involving summer classroom instruction, skill development, and specialized tutoring in math, chemistry and writing, consistently produces positive results. Freshmen retention and graduation rates for YSP participants are each approximately 96%.

Transition support.  Entering freshmen, with relatively weaker credentials in math and science are provided with academic supports and mentoring through a partnership of the Academic Assistance Program in the College of LAS and a freshman graduate student mentoring program through the Student Support Program of OMSA that was established over 10 years ago. The goal was to improve early scholarship among participants. Supports are continued through the sophomore year. These programs have helped to increase retention and graduation from ACES programs among African American and Latino students from approximately 50% in 2005 to 75% in 2012.

Graduate student retention. Efforts addressing diverse graduate student retention have involved hosting networking events to provide opportunities for students to meet each other and to address issues around graduate education and college life at the University of Illinois. Participation in the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) organization is encouraged as it can provide a strong source of peer and advisor support as well as national networking and professional development. As resources permits, ACES Academic Programs provides funding for graduate professional development activities as a supplement to funding available from departments and other campus units.

ACES Academic Programs also holds regular meetings with departmental graduate coordinators and the ACES Graduate Educational Policy Committee to build synergy in improving the recruitment of graduate students from underrepresented groups and building strong relationships with minority serving institutions.

College Environment

Placing emphasis on cultural diversity through our policies, procedures, and practices is important. We aim to provide a college climate that is welcoming and inclusive. We work to create such a climate by: 

  • Providing opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to fully participate in workshops, seminars, and individual discussions that promote the understanding of differences (e.g., those offered as part of Inclusive Illinois)
  • Encouraging ACES Student Council and registered student organizations to engage in activities that promote multiculturalism and pluralism
  • Securing additional financial support to those individuals and groups who wish to lead multicultural initiatives. For example, MANRRS RSO is a key college resource that promotes networking and engagement in leadership activities for undergraduate and graduate students, while contributing to recruitment and retention efforts
  • Supporting all students to take advantage of extra-curricular and experiential enriched learning activities, such as study abroad, leadership, and undergraduate research (ACES' unique discovery course that includes a short-term study abroad tour for first-generation freshmen, many of whom come from underrepresented backgrounds)
  • Ensuring that all students have access to career preparation services, such as job shadowing and internships
  • Reminding faculty members to include readings and discussions that focus on understanding of various differences, such as race, gender, disability, etc., as they relate to disciplinary knowledge
  • Obtaining wider access to courses that meet general education cultural studies requirements
Cooperative institutional relationships

An area that has long held promise for increasing the diversity of graduate students and faculty is cooperative relationships with other colleges and universities that serve underrepresented populations and have expertise in the food and agricultural sciences.

Many ACES faculty members enjoy productive long-term relationships with faculty at other institutions. Their interactions with these faculty members and visits to their campuses put them in contact with a potentially strong pool of minorities and women interested in pursuing advanced degrees. We are now revitalizing these institutional relationships, as well as cultivating new relationships, so that we can increase the national pool of talented undergraduate and graduate “students of color” with interests in the food, agricultural, environmental, and human science sectors who can be candidates for our own programs.

V. Diversity structure

ACES Diversity Programs is overseen by the assistant dean for academic programs, who has responsibility for increasing diversity among the undergraduate and graduate student body in the College of ACES. This individual reports directly to the associate dean for academic programs.

The assistant dean for diversity programs supervises two professional staff members: the science educator and the director of the Illinois Center for Urban Agricultural Education, both based in Chicago.

The college appoints two committees annually that are concerned with diversity issues, among other academically related items: the Undergraduate Educational Policy Committee and the Graduate Educational Policy Committee. The associate dean for academic programs serves in an ex officio capacity on both committees. The ACES Academy of Teaching Excellence assists the associate dean in planning educational offerings of issues critical to higher education, including diversity.

Areas of Emphasis

Focal Point 1: Increasing Inclusiveness
Define what this focal area means to your specific unit. In addition, address how Inclusive Illinois is actually implemented and institutionalized within the unit.

The College of ACES understands that the development of a culturally competent community of faculty, staff, and students is critical. Through our policies, procedures, and practices, we seek to provide opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to fully participate in workshops, seminars, and individual discussions that promote understanding and appreciation of such differences.

How does your unit compare in findings, i.e., qualitative reports and rankings (when appropriate) to the nation, the University of Illinois, and peer units at other universities?

At 14.6%, ACES leads peer institutions in the Big Ten in the percentage of underrepresented students (African American, Hispanic, Native American), compared to 11.8% at the Ohio State University, which has the next highest percentage.

Identify your unit’s strengths and challenges in this area.

A major strength of the College of ACES is its responsivity when concerns about inclusivity are raised. ACES provides unlimited opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to meet with the assistant dean for diversity programs to share insights and concerns about the college environment.

Focal Point 2: Building a Critical Mass of Undergraduate Students
  • The recruitment of a diverse undergraduate student population is a key priority of the college. The provision of appropriate academic supports continually boosts student retention and graduation.
  • The Research Apprentice Programs provides an on-campus experience to educate students about STEM in the food and agricultural sciences. This is considered one of the leading recruitment efforts to attract diverse underrepresented students among peer agricultural institutions.
  • The retention of underrepresented students in ACES programs is a result of focused efforts from our summer transition program, Young Scholars Program (YSP), specialized academic support, and enhanced opportunities for scholarly and leadership development. Of YSP graduates who enroll at Illinois, 96% earn bachelor’s degrees.  
  • A major challenge in the recruitment and retention of these groups involves consistent financial support across all four years of college.
Focal Point 3: Building Critical Mass of Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows
  • Promotion of institutional collaborations with minority-serving institutions and other majority institutions that have strong diversity goals would have the most immediate impact to build a critical mass of diverse students and fellows. Productive and cooperative long-term relationships and interactions between ACES faculty and other faculties can result in an increased pool of diverse students pursuing degrees as scientists and educators, thus more faculty and professionals holding degrees from the University of Illinois.
  • According to the USDA Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS), the percentage of minority graduate students enrolled in ACES (9.3%) is fourth when compared to the percentage of total domestic graduate student enrollment within peer Big Ten agricultural institutions.
  • A major strength of the college and the university is theirnational reputation for research, which attracts top diverse talent for graduate studies. There is a need for fellowships and graduate assistantships to attract top diverse applicants to ACES graduate programs.
Focal Point 4: Building Critical Mass of Faculty Members
  • Institutional diversity emphasis through the representation of more minority and female faculty and staff is a goal of the College of ACES. Campus programs, such as Targets of Opportunity Program and Faculty Excellence, as well as coordinated searches which seek to create a diverse pool of qualified candidates for all openings, provide an important means of active recruitment for such faculty and staff.
  • The percentage of underrepresented tenure-system faculty members was 9.3% in 2013; ACES aims to increase that to 12% in 2016. The percentage of female tenure system faculty was 29% in 2013. ACES aims to increase that to 30% in 2016.
  • Institutional cooperation - especially with the CIC institutions producing minority Ph.D.’s in the food, agricultural, and related sciences as well as with selected universities nationwide - provides an important means for identifying individuals for faculty and staff openings. As we do a better job of recruiting underserved populations into our graduate programs, this will enable us to recruit members of these groups into our faculty positions.
Focal Point 5: Building Critical Mass of All Staff Members
  • Increase the number of academic professionals and other staff members from underrepresented groups in all departments and units in the College of ACES so that by 2016, 12% of academic professional staff are from underrepresented backgrounds and 60% are women, and 15% of civil service staff are from underrepresented backgrounds and 90% are women.
Focal Point 6: Increasing Diversity in Public Engagement
  • College of ACES students, faculty, and staff are enriched through outreach, service, and partnerships with diverse communities. Reaching out through our various programs (e.g., experiential and community service-learning academic programs, U of I Extension, and work in public schools) that are based in underresourced neighborhoods statewide, serves to strengthen university-community partnerships.
  • U of I Extension conducts a wide variety of programs that reach out to Illinois residents, families, and communities, such as Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, Save our Urban Land, and the Spanish Language Program. In the diverse and underresourced neighborhoods surrounding the U of I, ACES students and faculty are participating in programs (e.g., community gardening projects and providing outreach to migrant families).
  • Create greater awareness and understanding among ACES students and faculty of the issues facing children, youth, and families in underresourced communities while also gaining information about available resources. Such engagement provides these neighborhoods with support and a voice where one did not previously exist.