Today is International Pronouns Day!

This article was written by the EVPA Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Today is International Pronouns Day. Pronouns are used every day to communicate with people around us, and often times personal pronouns are assigned to people based upon our own biases or assumptions of a person’s gender, gender identity and gender expression. It’s important we use the correct words, as one way, to respectfully talk about and reference one another.

What is International Pronouns Day?

International Pronouns Day seeks to make respecting, sharing and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. This day raises our awareness to be gender inclusive and reminds us of the basic human dignity of appreciating and celebrating everyone’s multiple, intersecting identities. For more information, you can visit

How can I contribute to a gender-inclusive environment?

  • Speak and write in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender, or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes
  • Share your pronouns when introducing yourself to people
  • Don’t make assumptions; ask people to share their pronouns
  • Always use the pronouns that a person asks you to use
  • Include your pronouns in your email signature or other communications
  • Complete the Quest: Building Capacity for LGBTQA+ Inclusion online education program

What action is the university taking to advance gender inclusion?

  • A workgroup charged by Melissa Woo, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Administration and Chief Information Officer, and Jabbar R. Bennett, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, made recommendations to update how data systems at the enterprise level gather information on names and pronouns.
  • This month, a committee is being convened to implement the enterprise changes requiring gender, sexual identity and pronouns fields to offer multiple and inclusive options.
  • MSU encourages all employees to indicate their gender pronouns, if desired, on email signatures and other written communication. 

Are there resources to explore this further?

The EVPA Office of DEI is committed to collectively advancing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture and envisions all to engage in meaningful contributions that bridge across differences and demonstrate cultural competence. We look forward to continuing our work – together – to foster a culture that C.A.R.E.S (communication, appreciation, respect, empathy, and sensitivity).

Are you hiring? Review best practices to be most effective!

This is a guest post written by Tina Alonzo, CM, CHRS, DEI Administrator for the Office of the Executive Vice President for Administration

As stated within our University Strategic Plan, we commit to expanding opportunity, advancing equity, and elevating excellence. As outlined within the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategic theme, we are engaging in efforts that recruit, retain and expand career development for staff from diverse backgrounds. One effort that serves as one component of the connected series of tactics is mitigating bias in hiring. Bias is a human condition, not a character flaw and can influence our ability to make equitable decisions without adequate self-awareness. According to the Cognitive Bias Codex, we have 188 systematic patterns of cognitive deviation and the brain can process 11,000,000 pieces of information on an unconscious level, so it’s imperative for us to prioritize equity and diversity in the hiring process. Here are a few best practices to be most effective:

  • Building a diverse selection committee is one way to minimize bias in the search process.
    • Identify qualified applicants based on pre-determined criteria required for the position when screening.
    • Avoid discriminatory bias, prejudice or stereotyping in evaluation criteria and communications.
    • Redacted screening is one tool to reduce initial subjectivity by removing preconceived notions associated with identifying information that may trigger biases or unfair assessments.
    • The applicant/candidate experience matters; remember they are evaluating MSU as an employer of choice during every step of the hiring process.
  • Ensure adequate diverse representation in the applicant and candidate pools.
    • The goal is to broaden the applicant pool, not lower standards.
    • Cast a broader net and expand your reach.
  • False narratives can be formed before a position is ever posted, influencing the overall equity of the hiring process.
    • Use inclusive and balanced language in the position posting; always display how to request accommodations.
    • Be able to adequately explain decisions to retain or reject candidates, linking to job requirements and qualifications.
    • Embrace differing communication styles.

Would you like to learn more and access additional best practices and tips? The Executive Vice President for Administration’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion recently launched the Mitigating Bias in Hiring eLearning to aid efforts in prioritizing equity and diversity in hiring.

Enacting Change, Creating Impact: Women’s Advisory Committee for Support Staff Seeking New Members

Published on behalf of the Women’s Advisory Committee for Support Staff

The Women’s Advisory Committee for Support Staff (WACSS) supports a culture of equality, equity, engagement, and inclusion by providing a voice for women support staff at Michigan State University. The seventeen representatives of WACSS directly advise MSU’s Chief Diversity Officer, WorkLife Office Executive Director, and Associate Vice President for Human Resources, and are committed to five core purposes:

  • identifying areas of concern for women support staff and other employees and proposing creative solutions to address them;
  • recommending policies, programs, or procedures that impact support staff members, and particularly women;
  • ensuring a productive, safe, and educational work environment;
  • supporting an inclusive community; and
  • serving as a liaison between support staff and the MSU administration.

Since its establishment in 1976, WACSS has been a part of countless initiatives across campus aimed at improving the lives of all support staff, but with particular focus on women’s issues. WACSS was involved in the establishment of the Jack Breslin distinguished staff awards and creation of dedicated private nursing space for mothers, and championed the development of a resource guide on MSU’s Educational Assistance Program.

“WACSS is action-oriented and accomplishes a lot in a short amount of time,” says Ashley Lathrop, the Committee’s 2020-2021 chairperson. “Individuals that want to enact change, be a leader, and have real impact on MSU support staff should apply. You’ll have the incredible support of those sitting around the table with you—virtual or in person. There’s no better way to make change happen than to get involved!”

The Committee is currently seeking applications to fill 5 open positions (terms begin July 1, 2021): 1 Clerical-Technical (CTU), 1 Administrative-Professional (APA), 2 Labor (1585, SSTU, 274, and 324), and 1 At-Large (any category). Interested support staff from all categories are encouraged to apply to WACSS at by March 26, 2021. Membership interviews will be scheduled in April for highest-ranked candidates. Questions? Contact Emily Khan, the 20-21 vice chairperson, at

Job Feature: DEI Communications Manager

As the University continues its work related to diversity, equity and inclusion, MSU’s Media and Public Information department is currently seeking a DEI Communications Manager (#669421) for University Communications. This position will serve as the lead communications professional for the unit and will be responsible for developing and executing strategies to communicate MSU’s broad commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as among the institution’s highest priorities.

The Communications Manager will additionally be responsible for assisting University Communications and other university units to facilitate appropriate messaging throughout MSU’s communications infrastructure to communicate key diversity and inclusion themes. The Communications Manager will also perform media relations functions including monitoring coverage on key initiatives and issues, assisting with issues management and media responses, coordinating and implementing media events and developing and writing news releases.

Preferred education, experience, and/or skills include knowledge equivalent to that which normally would be acquired by completing a four-year college degree program in journalism, communications, public relations, English, or a related field; three to five years of related and progressively more responsible or expansive work experience in communications, public relations, or a related field in higher education, an agency environment, or a large, complex organization; equivalent combination of education and experience.

Ideal candidates would possess a minimum of five to ten years of professional experience developing and executing integrated strategic communications programs in a fast-paced PR or marketing agency or working closely with an agency to achieve strategic communications objectives; and demonstrate mastery of high-quality, professional-level project management, planning and conceptualization, plan execution, and results assessment; with particular emphasis on diversity and inclusion programs and projects, directed at both internal and external audiences, among other qualifications.

For more details on the responsibilities of these positions, visit Internal applicants should access postings through the Careers @ MSU tile in the EBS Portal.

Inclusive Leadership: Starting with Self-Reflection

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development.

Central to being a leader at MSU is understanding that furthering diversity, equity and inclusion is a priority that is imperative to the university fulfilling its mission. Simply understanding, however, is not enough. All of us must take an active role in continuing to work towards a more diverse and inclusive community. In a recent response to the killing of George Floyd, President Stanley noted:

“We are committed to building an inclusive environment here at MSU, one that recognizes and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. However, this commitment must be manifested in ways that extend well beyond words.”

President Stanley

Our commitment includes the work of both the individual and the collective; of behaviors, practices and policies that work together in an impactful way. Thankfully, we have a talented Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee (learn more about this committee and their vision here) that will be identifying recommendations going forward. In the meantime, start with the following questions for self-reflection related to these six themes to help reveal where you are on the path to being an inclusive leader:

  1. Belief: Do you wholeheartedly believe everyone is created equal? Regardless of differences in skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, workplace hierarchy, support staff vs. academic staff, attire, etc.? Your honest answers may help with the next question.
  2. Awareness: Are you aware of the conscious and unconscious biases you had or have towards others? We all have them, so the question isn’t “if” you have bias, but where you do and what you do about it. Authors of the Harvard Business Review article The Key to Inclusive Leadership add that to be meaningful, bias awareness must be tied to two other traits:
    1. Humility – a willingness to acknowledge your vulnerability to bias and ask for feedback on blind spots and habits; and
    1. Empathy/perspective-taking – striving to understand others deeply and leave them feeling heard.
  3. Boldness: Are you honest with others about your shortcomings or misperceptions? Are you willing to have uncomfortable conversations or do reparative work if you make a mistake? This work does not occur without mistakes, but we must have the courage to do it anyway.
  4. Curiosity: Are you open to unlearning and relearning from others? Do you take the time to do your own research and learn about experiences others may be facing? Do you really know what it means to actively be a good ally? As leaders, we need to build diverse relationships, ask regularly for honest feedback and make adjustments as needed.
  5. Action: Are your behaviors and actions towards others aligned with your belief in equality? Believing in something theoretically is a start but has little meaning if your actions don’t consistently back it up. In developing inclusive cultures, leaders must address forces that dehumanize at personal, systemic and institutional levels. Don’t sit back waiting for others to take action. Make the changes that you can and speak up to exercise your influence.
  6. Commitment: Do you consistently hold yourself and others accountable to a culture of inclusion? The article Inclusive Leadership in Higher Education Today reminds us that “the inclusive leader works to support others’ identities, fosters understanding, respect, and dignity, and works to build a sense of mutual responsibility for and commitment to cultivating an inclusive, supportive, and impactful experience for all.” Do you speak up when you notice microaggressions? Do you actively seek the opinions of people in meetings who are being marginalized? Do you push for diverse hiring committees and candidate pools? Think about different ways that you can actively expand your commitment and take related steps.

As noted in the white paper Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership, “companies can’t add diversity to the mix of a team and expect that people will automatically collaborate, connect, resolve conflicts, or innovate as a cohesive unit. Aiming to improve your company’s demographic diversity (e.g., gender, ethnicity, ability) without also aiming to improve employee experiences of inclusion is not good for employers or employees. To generate exceptional outcomes, people need to work in an inclusive atmosphere where they can belong, contribute, and thrive.”

With perseverance and humility, we can continue to work on these issues and help MSU to be at the forefront of positive transformation.

Resources to Help:

elevateU Resources:

Podcast: Help Me Understand – Episode 8: A Conversation About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. JK talks with Jessica Garcia, former MSU faculty member and CEO of Hummingbird Solutions, LLC, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm.


Arnold, N. W. (2020, May 22). Inclusive Leadership. Retrieved from

Bourke, J., & Espedido, A. (2020, March 6). The Key to Inclusive Leadership. Retrieved from

Jenkins, R. (2018, June 12). 6 Questions That Reveal If You Are an Inclusive Leader. Retrieved from

Kendall, F. E. (2003). How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege. Retrieved from

Stanley, S. L., & Sullivan, T. A. (n.d.). Message to the campus community on the shocking events in Minnesota. Retrieved from

Travis, D. J., Shaffer, E., & Thorpe-Moscon, J. (n.d.). Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership: Why Change Starts with You. Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership: Why Change Starts with You. Catalyst. Retrieved from