Stetson Wins National HEED Award for Diversity and Inclusion

HEED Award logo
HEED Award logo

Stetson University has won the 2023 INSIGHT Into Diversity’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

For the fourth consecutive year, Stetson University College of Law won the award while the DeLand campus received the award for the first time. 

The winners, announced Oct. 11, underwent a rigorous application process that examined recruitment and retention of students and employees at their institution, as well as supportive leadership for diversity and campus culture. 

“Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

Christopher F. Roellke, PhD

The publication praised Stetson for its notable investment in a new Cross-Cultural Center on the DeLand campus for underrepresented students and multicultural student groups. At a time when some colleges are facing challenges in investing in diversity and inclusion programs, Stetson renovated a two-story historic home to provide a larger Cross-Cultural Center for its increasingly diverse student body.

Stetson Law was recognized for co-founding and co-leading the St. Petersburg Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center in partnership with Eckerd College. The center is notable because it is the only one of its kind in Florida. Stetson Law continues to reinvest in the effort by sharing expertise and resources beyond its Gulfport campus, exploring ways to bring communities together, and training lawyers and future leaders to be part of the work.

“This is an incredible honor for Stetson to receive the national HEED Award and for our College of Law to receive it for the fourth consecutive year,” said Stetson President Christopher F. Roellke, PhD. “It is a reflection of the deep commitment and dedicated work of our students, faculty and staff to create inclusive and vibrant campuses that promote a sense of belonging for all our students.”

Stetson Law has received the HEED Award every year since 2020 for a range of diversity-related initiatives, including the university-wide Civil Rights Movement Education Initiative, which includes an enlightening travel course. Stetson Law also updated specific portions of its curriculum to integrate race and the law in course materials for Criminal Law and Legal Writing & Research courses, which are required classes for first-year law students. This year, it received an honorable mention for creating the Public Interest Law Clinic for Democracy and the Environment.

Benjamin Barros, JD

“Cultivating a law school environment that is welcoming to all is a critical part of our efforts to equip our students to advocate for a more just future,” said College of Law Dean D. Benjamin Barros. “It is an honor to be recognized for the investment – of time, energy, and dollars – in meaningful diversity initiatives. Winning our fourth HEED Award in a row speaks to the wonderfully vibrant community of faculty members, staff, students, and alumni we have at Stetson Law.”

Stetson was one of 108 colleges and universities across America selected for the award, joining Columbia University, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and UC Berkeley. Each school will be featured in the November / December issue of the magazine. 

“We are elated to receive the HEED Award, which is a wonderful affirmation of our efforts throughout the university to provide an academic and professional experience that is personable and authentic for community members of all backgrounds and identities,” said Carmen Johnson, JD, Stetson’s Executive Officer for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion.

Carmen Johnson, JD

“Stetson provides such a unique and welcoming environment, and this is the result of dedicated administrative, academic, and student leadership throughout our campuses. We celebrate our community and this ongoing work and consider the HEED Award as welcomed motivation to keep going and to keep innovating,” she added.

In addition to the investment in the Cross-Cultural Center, the DeLand campus also was recognized for its “Be Seen” marketing campaign that amplifies concepts of student belonging and students’ need to be their authentic selves. 

The publication also praised efforts on the DeLand campus to support first-generation college students, who made up a quarter of the student body in the Spring 2023 semester. Stetson offers the WISE program that provides mentoring and networking to increase their success and engagement, as well as the Alpha, Alpha, Alpha honorary society to recognize their academic achievements. 

Stetson University Magazine received compliments for its cover story in the Spring 2023 issue, which highlighted the success of first-generation students and presented student narratives with thoughtfulness and care, the publication said.