Pratt building

(Final Draft, Posted december 2017)

As a leading college of art and design devoted to a creative learning community, Pratt Institute recognizes the strength that stems from a diversity of perspectives, values, ideas, backgrounds, styles, approaches, experience, and beliefs. We aspire to continue to grow as a community that always welcomes and encourages individuals of all backgrounds to contribute to and be part of the Pratt culture. With this goal in mind, Pratt’s leadership launched a major effort in 2015 to promote ongoing diversity and inclusion across the institution, reaching out to groups within the Pratt community to make sure all voices were heard. With the guidance of a leading consultant, town hall meetings, focus groups, and a Senior Staff retreat were held.

The result is a Diversity Strategic Plan that includes a program of coordinated initiatives organized into four areas of focus: Creating a Welcoming Environment, Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Student Body, Hiring and Retaining a Diverse Faculty and Staff, and Expanding “Beyond the Gates” to the External Community.  To oversee the efforts and resources that will be dedicated to diversity across Pratt, the position of Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been created and a national search undertaken.

Creating a Welcoming Environment

A team of students, faculty, and administrators began by assessing current perceptions of Pratt and identifying what is needed to create a more welcoming environment, one in which everyone is treated with respect and professionalism, ideas are freely expressed, and differences are accepted and valued. The team developed six goals around the themes of respect, access, communication, and transparency, outlined below; please see the complete summary of initiatives for more detail.

  • Ensure that all students and faculty feel valued and respected in every Pratt classroom and studio. Faculty and staff will learn strategies for working with students from diverse backgrounds; curriculum and pedagogy will be developed with inclusivity in mind; best practices for classroom behavior will guide students and faculty alike
  • Promote a learning environment that supports students and faculty in order to facilitate student success. Development programs will inform faculty, staff, and administration on cultural differences as well as learning and other disabilities; learning support services and mentoring for students will be expanded; efforts to ensure all forms of accessibility will be updated in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Increase financial support for students with fewer resources. Efforts to fund endowed scholarships will be prioritized to provide additional financial support, including for school supplies; the potential for giving work-study students priority in job assignments will be examined.
  • Improve communication and transparency across all levels of the institution. Web access to announcements and calendar will be improved, including via mobile platforms, and computer access will be increased for staff who currently have minimal access; interdepartmental communications and bias-related policies will be disseminated more effectively; key presentations and communications will be enhanced for interactivity.
  • Develop an institution-wide staff onboarding process. Staff and administration will receive diversity and inclusion education as part of their onboarding; cross-division checklists will ensure a consistent welcome process, and a web-based employee handbook will be accessible by all; new hires will have immediate access to all software platforms they need to do their jobs.
  • Increase social and professional interactions and engagement among staff and faculty across the institution. New cross-divisional professional development programs will be provided for staff and administration, with  regularly scheduled administrative meetings to discuss policies and procedures and encourage collaboration; additional gatherings will supplement the biannual parties at the President’s home; institutional governance will be reviewed to ensure opportunities for staff input.

Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Student Body

Building on work begun in 2014, when Pratt added a specific focus on African-American students to its existing plan to increase geographic diversification of international students, this team worked with a consultant to study Pratt’s admissions, retention, and graduation by ethnicity and race in comparison with “best practice” schools and other AICAD institutions. While there has been good progress in recent years, the team determined that continued focus on African-American students and low income students is indicated, with four goals supported by a comprehensive set of objectives and action items.

  • Ensure continued progress toward achieving a more diverse student body. The number of African-American student applications will be increased by 20% over five years through coordinated outreach activities (including via social media), the use of resources to identify potential applicants, and follow-up efforts; African-American student yield will be increased through an enhanced scholarship program and engagement activities targeting accepted applicants.
  • Reduce disparity in graduation rates between African-American students and other groups. African-American students entering with bottom-quartile scores will be flagged for additional academic advisement; the annual Academic Advisement Survey and institutional research on retention and graduation rates will provide insight into the reasons for student attrition; a new peer-mentoring and tutoring program will support students from groups with statistically lower graduation rates.
  • Reduce disparity in graduation rates between HEOP and other students. The graduation rate for HEOP students will be improved by about 15% over six years through improved communications and interaction with HEOP staff members, deeper analysis of the reasons for student attrition, adjustment of admissions standards, improved admissions/HEOP processes, and the provision of additional peer tutoring for HEOP students through the Learning Access Center.
  • Reduce disparity in retention between Pell and non-Pell recipients. The retention of students receiving Pell grants will be improved by about 15% over six years through the provision of endowed additional scholarship funds and a support program based on an analysis of factors associated with attrition.

Hiring and Retaining a Diverse Faculty and Staff

This team began by benchmarking the diversity of Pratt’s staff against that of other schools and went on to review best practices at several other colleges and universities. They found that while the Pratt staff is already meaningfully diverse, current recruitment policies are inadequate to ensure the continuity and growth of diversity, with particular focus needed on higher-level administrative positions. Organizing their recommendations around the hiring, retention, and professional development of staff, the team developed a suite of initiatives keyed to goals within each area.


  • Align institutional hiring processes with diversity initiatives. A group of faculty and staff, trained as Diversity Search Advocates, will participate in recruitment efforts, with the Assistant Director of Human Resources brought into the process; HERC and LinkedIn memberships will be tapped for pool expansion, and advertising will target diversity-themed professional organizations; candidates will be queried about their commitments to diversity and inclusion; the Director of Human Resources will consider moving Pratt to becoming an Affirmative Action-employer.
  • Align the full-time faculty search process with diversity initiatives. A best practices guide will inform hiring; legal support will expedite international faculty visas and permanent residency applications; annual goal setting and reporting will shape and track diversity-hiring efforts.
  • Achieve diversity hires in schools and departments with no or few faculty members of color. A new program will place postgrads as AICAD Fellows[1], and AICAD Fellows will be targeted as tenure-track candidates; competitive, full-time positions targeting diversity will be funded.
  • Leverage part-time faculty hiring processes to support diversity goals. Pratt’s commitment to diversity will be emphasized in calls for vitas posted on the school’s website; calls will be directed to diversity-themed professional organizations; department chairs will report annually on part-time hiring and diversity goals.
  • Achieve diversity hires in academic leadership at the Chair level and above. Position descriptions will be revised to welcome a more diverse candidate pool, and annual goal setting and reporting will be established.
  • Achieve diversity hires in administrative-unit leadership at the Director level and above. Position descriptions will be reviewed here as well, and annual goal setting and reporting will be established for Vice Presidents.


  • Support new faculty integration into the Pratt community and preparedness for advancement. Faculty orientation will reconvene each January, hires will initially check in regularly with Human Resources staff and their Chairs, and a mentoring program will be added; workshops will cover reappointment, promotion, and tenure, and a faculty-led roundtable will support faculty of color; faculty compensation will be examined.
  • Support new staff integration into the Pratt community and provide opportunities for advancement. Staff hires will receive orientation and a handbook, and will initially check in regularly with Human Resources staff and their supervisors; opportunities for internal advancement will be expanded, and cross-departmental social gatherings increased; staff compensation will be examined.

Professional Development

  • Encourage and support school- and department-level diversity and inclusion goals. Classroom issues and departmental challenges will be covered in facilitated discussions; departments will issue statements of goals, obstacles, and resources needed.
  • Support faculty development consonant with diversity and inclusion commitments. A new Center for Teaching and Learning, based on inclusive pedagogy and programming, will support curriculum development; expanded Faculty Learning Communities will address diversity- and inclusion-themed projects; faculty participation in national conferences will be encouraged, and funding provided for membership in diversity-focused professional associations.
  • Support staff development consonant with diversity and inclusion commitments. Performance appraisals will incorporate diversity and inclusion goals and accomplishments, supported by expanded workshops and training; membership in diversity-focused professional associations will be funded.

Expanding “Beyond the Gates” to the External Community

Neighbor to the largest, most concentrated African-American community in the country, Pratt has a legacy of outreach seen today in the work of the academic departments, the Pratt Center for Community Development, and several other groups. That said, this team has determined that there is a lack of institution-wide data documenting these efforts and of an infrastructure to focus, coordinate, and communicate them. The team analyzed the limited data available about campus efforts and reviewed best practices and scholarship in the community engagement field. The most compelling research studies indicated that diversity and inclusion initiatives help colleges meet diversity goals and embed such work into the campus culture. The team arrived at four goals supported by a portfolio of initiatives to extend engagement “beyond the gates” in a way that benefits all Pratt’s stakeholders.

  • Create a Community Engagement (CE) Advisory Team. A 12- to 15-member team of engaged scholars will support and report to the Chief Diversity Officer [OR Associate Provost for Research and Strategic Partnerships].
  • Establish baseline initiatives. The CE Advisory Team will take an inventory of existing activities, draft mission and values statements with faculty input, and work with administrators to establish the scale of current financial investment, create a statement of goals and relevant learning outcomes, and create new website content for the on-campus and external communities.
  • Establish an academic/administrative infrastructure. A new position will be created, and leadership identified, to oversee Pratt’s community engagement; faculty will receive best-practices guidance and seed funding for relevant course development; an “engaged course” designation will become part of curriculum development; new surveys will measure the impact of engagement efforts; the inclusion of a community-engagement graduation requirement will be considered.
  • Strengthen the pipeline from high school to art school. Scholarships for local high school students will be increased through Pratt’s Center K-12 programs, as will admissions to Pratt of participating students; HEOP applications by Center-K12 seniors will be increased; the Pratt Young Scholars curriculum and timeline will be revised to accord with FAFSA applications, SAT/ACT test scheduling, and tax filings.

[1] The AICAD Fellowship program seeks to provide professional practice opportunities to high-achieving alumni who have recently graduated from AICAD member schools, while also increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of faculty at these institutions.