Robert M. Sellers

To the University Community,

robert sellers portrait

As the University of Michigan enters the fifth year of its current five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we acknowledge the unprecedented challenges that our community has faced while also reflecting on the tremendous strides we have made.

When the strategic plan launched in 2016, we knew the plan needed to be flexible enough to adapt to the obstacles that had yet to come. However, none of us could have imagined all that we as a community would face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, an international movement demanding the dismantling of structural racism, and a highly divisive presidential campaign.

We have learned much about ourselves and the value of being a resilient resource for our community – providing both leadership and support when called upon. As a university, we have tried to rise to the occasion. Examples of our efforts include: establishing funds to support our most vulnerable who are suffering from food insecurity; compiling a list of resources on the website to better serve and support our most-impacted communities during this time; engaging in dialogue and action to ensure that issues of structural racism our made salient to the community as we do our civic duty to participate in the upcoming election.

As a result of COVID 19, we have also reimagined what traditional learning and work environments look like on campus, ensuring both in-person and remote settings are inclusive, accessible and equitable.  The crisis of the pandemic has afforded us the opportunity to include issues of inclusion and access at the core of our reimagination of the University, as opposed to attempting to retrofit the existing culture.

During this time, the University has continued its unwavering commitment to advancing work surrounding sexual misconduct, launching a new interim policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct on August 14. The policy reflects feedback from more than 70 stakeholder groups, individuals from across all three campuses, and an online survey.

As we assess where we are at the end of our DEI strategic plan’s fourth year and the unique challenges we have faced, we readily acknowledge that we still have a great deal of work to do to accomplish our goals. In that time, we have made notable progress in implementing and living out the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We have significantly increased awareness, introduced essential policies, procedures and processes, deployed cultural reinforcers and broadened access to programs and resources for faculty, students and staff. As we approach the final year of our initial five-year strategic plan, we are preparing tools and resources – both at the central and unit levels – for how we envision the next phase of DEI work beyond this initial plan. As we look to our community for input and feedback in how we will move forward in the next phase of DEI, we know there are essential areas of support ahead, such as specific actions to further combat racism in all of its forms.

Despite our challenges and the work that lies ahead, I remain confident in our future because of  the dedication and commitment that I see every day, by so many people in all positions at this great institution. I continue to believe that our University will serve as a beacon of progress and hope across higher education and the nation.


Robert M. Sellers
Chief Diversity Officer
Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion