Staff advisory council creates committee on inclusion, equity, diversity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – During its Nov. 18 meeting, the University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) unanimously voted to pass a proposal creating a standing Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Committee charged with developing recommendations for the University to consider as part of its ongoing commitment to advancing inclusion, equity and diversity.

This semester, USAC created a proposal outlining efforts to deliver new programming and advocacy for all members of the University community. This new Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Committee will identify ways to support and safeguard staff, particularly those with marginalized or multi-marginalized identities, highlighting USAC as a resource for all University staff. USAC strives to be a model of inclusion and actively seeks participation from those with diverse backgrounds and varied experiences.

"USAC is proud to support Penn State's strategic goal to advance inclusion, equity, and diversity with the formation of our new committee. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with administration and other staff from across the University to help build an inclusive community based on respect that celebrates our diversity,” said Nicole Sturges, USAC chair and one of the authors of the proposal.

The introduction of the committee proposal states, “The University Staff Advisory Council is dedicated to supporting and enhancing the climate of the Pennsylvania State University by developing and fostering a diverse culture where equity is cultivated, and inclusiveness is instinctive. We are committed to an environment where everyone feels empowered to be their authentic whole selves. USAC will strive to educate, increase access, and broaden opportunities for all identity groups. Further, we commit to efforts that build respect and self-worth, teach caring and celebrate the diversity within our University.”

Initial duties of the committee will include:

  • Creating a diversity statement for USAC;
  • Conducting a diversity audit to examine and improve USAC processes and communications;
  • Working with USAC’s Membership Committee to expand membership to support diversity and inclusivity;
  • Collaborating with Human Resources and other diversity councils to support inclusion, equity and diversity initiatives across the University.

Karen Armstrong, USAC member and newly named director of inclusion, equity, and diversity at Penn State Outreach and Online Education was another author of the proposal.  “We are eager to support the University’s efforts to cultivate environments where inclusion is fostered and expected, equity is demonstrated, and diversity is celebrated,” Armstrong said. “The formation of an Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Committee is one step in the right direction.”

Other USAC standing committees include membership and elections, communications, awards, outreach, logistics and events. Ad hoc committees are created by the Council to respond to short-term initiatives that require prompt attention.

Remarks from University leadership

Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones and Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer Lorraine Goffe attended the Nov. 18 meeting to respond to questions that had been collected from membership representatives on behalf of Penn State units and campuses. USAC regularly engages in productive conversations with leadership.

Having just attended a Strategic Planning Steering Committee meeting on organizational excellence earlier that day, Jones and Goffe said that the steering committee greatly appreciates the support of staff and USAC.

“Part of Penn State’s commitment to excellence involves enabling USAC and all University staff to pursue ideas that will advance our organizational processes,” Jones said. “Staff members often have excellent ideas for process improvements, so partnering with USAC to collect and assess them helps us find impactful solutions to existing and emerging challenges.”

In his remarks, Jones praised staff members’ “tremendous efforts” to support the University’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including their diligence with masking, utilizing personal protective equipment, practicing social distancing and more. He also thanked staff for their flexibility and dedication to student and faculty success across the University.

Other topics discussed

An announcement was also made of two additional social media platforms created to increase ways that staff can engage with USAC and find announcements of important updates and relevant staff resources. In addition to Facebook and the USAC website, the council has now created a Yammer group open to all employees of Penn State and a LinkedIn group for current and former USAC members.

Members who represent USAC on other Penn State committees also provided updates and future agendas. The next general USAC meeting will be held Dec. 16. Goffe will return as a guest speaker to discuss the HR strategic plan and gather feedback from USAC members.

About the University Staff Advisory Council

USAC—the voice for Penn State staff—consists of dedicated staff who act in an advisory capacity to the central administration; explore issues, policies and practices that impact staff; suggest revisions to policies and new policy initiatives; and advocate for staff welfare and development. USAC serves the president and his administration through the vice president of human resources and accepts new members annually. USAC can be contacted via email at, and can also be found on Facebook.

Staff interested in potentially joining USAC can visit USAC’s website to learn more.

Last Updated December 03, 2020