PREF DEI Task Force – Now Officially Advisory Council
In December, the Planning, Real Estate, and Facilities (PREF) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) task force officially became an advisory council, allowing them to tackle more projects on a consistent basis. The task force, established in the summer of 2020, helped advocate with the hiring of Beyazmin Jiménez as the first Director of DEI and Culture for PREF in September. With Jiménez’s help, the task force officially became an advisory council in December to reflect their increasing commitment to continuous projects relating to DEI within PREF. With a more official title, the group can continue ongoing projects and have an increased capacity to get involved.
The advisory council has 4 committees which are economic inclusion, workforce advancement, workplace environment and education. They have a robust action plan and 40 goals including collecting data through surveys, raising visibility about DEI actions and some specific goals relating to supplier diversity.
“Now that I was here full time, it didn’t really make sense to dismantle this task force because if anything, it felt like the work had just really gained a lot of momentum,” Jiménez said. “We decided to move it from a taskforce to an advisory council to basically give folks added power that essentially allows them to seek support from me, to also serve as strategy advisors, and to continue feeding information to leadership around the efforts that were necessary in making PREF a much more engaging workplace.”
Torrey Spies, the co-chair of the original task force was integral from the very beginning. Towards the end of 2020, while the Campus Planning and Real Estate and Facilities were still two separate departments, the vice presidents of both reached out to employees to see who was interested in forming a DEI task force.
After meeting with people, they formed four committees. Each committee first conducted research, the brainstormed possible solutions, made their official recommendation then made an implementation plan. The groups also came up with different resources they need, which were co-ops, in house staff, and cash.
“This was definitely always a dialogue with the larger group,” Spies said.
The advisory council will meet quarterly, in addition to committee meetings. Each committee has a chair or co-chair that either steps up or is nominated though currently the education chair is open.
After returning from COVID, they determined that company culture was crucial and used a Gallup survey to assess people’s concerns and gauge employee feelings as well as assess goals and strengths of each department. Overall, Spies is proud of the work they have accomplished so far and is grateful to have Beyazmin Jimenez on board to continue leading. She is also grateful for all the investment and dedication from council members and her co-chair Gary Younger’s hard work.
The council is separate and independent from the University wide Office of DEI and was formed organically without leadership instruction. In Jiménez’s opinion, employee’s passion for DEI stems from their close ties with the community.
“We have a really interesting role at the university because we actually do have a lot of strong ties to the community that we serve,” Jiminez said. “It allows folks to really see themselves beyond just being part of Northeastern and so I think that it will always be top of mind for us because we do have a community to answer to.”
In the future, the advisory board wants to improve communication with the rest of the PREF team. They are also looking to host more education opportunities, so Spies encourages the rest of PREF to “stay tuned.”
Written by Renée Abbott, February 23rd, 2023