In an effort to meet our members’ expressed need for support in reaching their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, the Council of Independent Colleges launched a new network, Belong: An Inclusive Learning Community. Formally launched in February 2023 in partnership with the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE), Belong aims to equip faculty and staff at small independent colleges and universities with proven practices to deepen student engagement and sense of belonging.
In its first three months, the Belong community has grown to:
- 60+ institutions from across the country (almost 10% of CIC membership)
- 366 credentials in inclusive pedagogy available to Belong members
- 1,800 faculty and staff signed up for the first two webinars
- 10,000 faculty and staff who can access Belong’s Push Library
- 108,000 students who benefit from the community
The first cornerstone webinar was hosted just three weeks after the community launched, and over 1,200 faculty and staff members registered. The first credentialling class finished with a success rate of over 90 percent. 98 percent of those who completed the course reported that the training was valuable and helpful.
Belong’s first Community of Practice meeting also took place in February. This was the first convening of individuals dedicated to inclusion work and prompted a series of monthly discussions and enhanced networking. These initial milestones were an incredible affirmation of the need and demand for this work and these resources.
How has Belong managed to grow so fast? In addition to being cost-effective and results-driven, members point to three key factors:
- Ease of use – Belong has pioneered a Push Library, providing ready-to-share materials making it easy for offices on campus to promote conversation. Webinar materials are shared in a similar fashion, reducing the workload for diversity or HR offices to use Belong and increasing the value of the network.
- Credentialing – Nationally recognized for their training leadership, ACUE partners with CIC and provides the “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” credential, with many member campuses already completing the program and some opting to pursue additional credentials.
- A connected community – CIC has responded to leaders in the DEI space on campus who need a community of similar institutions to support this work.
Belong continues to grow and meet the needs of member institutions dedicated to the shared purpose of increasing belonging and inclusion on campus. As summer begins, CIC aims to host more webinars and to expand the Belong network. For campuses that need to advance strategic goals and prioritize support for all students, Belong is a great solution. Reach out to our Belong community lead Sabrina Sturgeon at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.