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Doane receives $20,000 grant from Cooper Foundation to support new Inclusive Excellence Leadership Program

Doane receives $20,000 grant from Cooper Foundation to support new Inclusive Excellence Leadership Program

With the help of a $20,000 grant from the Cooper Foundation, Doane University is moving forward with the creation of the Inclusive Excellence Leadership Program (IELP) which will be piloted later this year. The program will cultivate inclusive leadership within Nebraska’s rural nonprofit organizations (RNPOs) and faculty, staff, and students at Doane, empowering participants to unleash meaningful change within their communities and organizations. 

“After various strategic planning sessions in 2019 with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members who make up Doane’s DEI Working Group, we’re excited to receive funding to implement a program that will help current and future leaders in Nebraska support the diverse communities in which they live and serve,” said Luis Sotelo, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Doane. “Funding and accessible programming for DEI training isn’t as widely available for nonprofits located in rural communities and we hope the IELP will be a strong step forward in our journey to build a more inclusive, equitable and diverse campus and society.”

Funds from the Cooper Foundation grant will be used to support operational costs and a consulting partnership with Usama Khilji for the development of the program’s curriculum. Khilji has previously worked with the United Nations, taught in schools and universities in Pakistan, worked with immigrant communities in the United Kingdom and participated as a member of the Global Future Council on Systemic Inequalities and Social Cohesion for the World Economic Forum. 

The IELP is anticipated to have eight sessions covering a range of topics over the course of eight months. Topics will include the case for inclusive excellence in personal life and work, understanding self and others: identity development theory and the cycle of socialization, developing awareness of identities and the impact of bias, exploring inequities — now and throughout history — at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels, applying change management and DEI models and frameworks for creating a culture of inclusion and belonging, assessing organizational DEI maturity and aligning inclusive excellence strategy to drive organizational goals, and developing and leading implementation of DEI strategic actions and tracking progress. The program will include one on one cultural competency coaching sessions, a capstone project, case studies, team learning sessions, experiential learning opportunities, and access to a toolkit of DEI resources.

For the pilot program starting in the fall of this year, Doane is partnering with Nebraska’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association and the Hope Crisis Center (HCC), which serve rural populations across Nebraska. There will be no cost to participants. Faculty, staff and students at Doane will also take part in the pilot program. 

CASA is a non-profit that provides training and support for volunteer advocates who work with abused and neglected children ensuring their rights and needs are met while in foster care. CASA is present in 52 of Nebraska’s counties and has a significant presence in rural communities. 

“The IELP will help close organizational and structural equity gaps, leading to improved retention of talent, greater success recruiting diverse students and employees, increased student academic success, and increased team performance, collaboration, and effective decision making,” Sotelo said. “By learning and collaborating together, we can build organizational capacity that leverages DEI best practices to achieve innovation, equity, and excellence in our communities–we can unleash human potential.

The HCC is a non-profit committed to empowering victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It serves individuals in the rural counties of Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline, Seward, Thayer, and York and offers a 24/7 crisis line, one-on-one advocacy, temporary shelter, emergency assistance, legal advocacy, medical advocacy, information and referrals, and community education. 

“It is our hope that...participation in project activities, including one-on-one coaching, group sessions and a capstone project, will help us engage the rural communities we serve with an understanding of best practices in diversity, equity and inclusion and how to effectively implement positive change,” said Carmen Hinman, HCC executive director, in a letter written in support of Doane’s proposal to the Cooper Foundation. 

Non-profit organizations interested in learning more about the IELP can email for more information.