In July 2020, a steering committee of senior communications leaders at Duke was formed to guide the university’s engagement with the Diversity Action Alliance, a global coalition of public relations and communications industry associations and leaders who were working to accelerate progress of meaningful and tangible achievements in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession. Duke was the first university to be a member of this group.

The steering committee was charged with developing recommendations for: identifying, recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse talent in the communications profession at Duke; embedding diversity, inclusion and anti-racism in our central and local communications strategies, programs and content; enhancing opportunities for professional development and support through both existing initiatives and new programs; and establishing goals, measures and processes for tracking progress in a highly decentralized environment. The recommendations were presented to the Duke Communicators Network the following spring.

In summer 2021, the steering committee formed five subcommittees to tackle initial action items based on those recommendations. More than 50 communicators from across Duke volunteered to serve on the subcommittees and work on those actions during the 2021-22 academic year.

Subcommittees 

HR Issues

Co-Chairs: Sarah Dwyer and Kathryn Kennedy

This subcommittee focuses on how to effect and track change in HR practices despite operating in a very decentralized environment. Their initial action item was to conduct a climate survey of communications professionals at Duke that can help identify and understand the workplace environment and the ability of managers to nurture and retain talent.

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Talent Recruitment 

Chair: Patricia Green

This subcommittee focuses on how to use recruiting and hiring to build a more diverse workforce in communications. Their initial action item was to find opportunities to work with Black and BIPOC communities to build and widen pipelines for identifying talent.

Mentorship

Chair: Courtney Orning

This subcommittee focuses on developing mentorship opportunities for people working in communications at Duke. Their initial action item was to determine, put structure around, and streamline a process for identifying mentors and mentees, guiding their interactions, and providing them with resources.

Professional Development 

Acting Chair: Susan Gallagher

This subcommittee focuses on helping to empower people of color in their careers by providing and centralizing educational resources. Their initial action items were to identify and develop ways to hear from Duke experts on topics relevant to diversity, such as lunch and learns or fireside chats, and to begin building a library of resources that they can access to supplement their learning.

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Content  

C0-Chairs: Vanessa Roth and Bernadette Gillis

This subcommittee focuses on how do we do a better job of representing people and communities of color in our daily work as communicators. Their initial action item was to create guidelines for ethical use of images, building off previous work by the Duke Global Health Institute.

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Steering Committee

Co-Chairs: Andrew Park and Terri Laakso

The Steering Committee for the Diversity Action Alliance at Duke provides guidance, resources, and planning for each of the five subcommittees outlined above. Working together with these subcommittees, the steering committee gathers deliverables and compiles a report summarizing DAA activities at the end of each semester.  

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If you would like to become involved with the Diversity Action Alliance at Duke, please email Andrew and Terri with any questions or area of interest. An academic year commitment is preferred, and they are actively seeking new members for the upcoming 22-23 cycle.