Against the backdrop of reckoning over our long history of racial injustice, we at UF/IFAS are committed to achieving a diverse and inclusive student, staff and faculty cohort that represents our values.
The relationship between black people and agriculture has been difficult. UF/IFAS and the agricultural industry inherit this history, but we are not bound by it. We and our industry are committed to advancing an inclusive and diverse organization that represents our modern society.
Overall, black students comprise 5.76% of UF students and 5.18% of CALS students, and represent 16% of Floridians. We will strive for greater parity in recruiting and retaining a representative student and faculty cohort at CALS.
Agriculture and natural resource careers are dynamic and rewarding; however, the associated history with slavery and share cropping serves as a barrier for recruiting black students. We will work to reframe our recruitment story to demonstrate how choosing a career among our many CALS majors can result in life-long work that is rewarding and critical to the health and economy of our planet.
Our shortcomings in providing a welcoming environment on campus is another barrier to recruitment of black students. We know intuitively and through social science research that black students feel more welcome and succeed at higher rates when staff and faculty have similar backgrounds to their own.
I challenge the IFAS community to implement proven strategies that create an inclusive climate that values contributions from all members of society. We need to go beyond seminars and workshops to action based on verified recruitment and retention strategies. We must measure our success based on outcomes and measurable indicators that reflect meaningful change among our operative procedures.
As we develop our plans, we will use baseline statistics to set ambitious goals to achieve greater parity. We are called individually and collectively to strive for an inclusive and representative UF/IFAS, one that truly reflects the values and aspirations of all Floridians.
President Fuchs inspires us to promote social justice on campus through kindness and grace. The road we endeavor to journey is a celebration of many stories and histories, each unique, each valuable, each welcome to contribute to the mission of IFAS.