IU Equity Fund Replaces Obstacles With Opportunity

A student with medium-brown skin wearing an IU shirt and light-blue face mask holds onto the strap of their backpack and looks at the camera.
Creating the new IU Equity Fund is just one way the IU community is showing its “never daunted” spirit. Photo courtesy Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.

When Gabriel Escobedo toured Indiana University, he was skeptical. He knew the Midwest would be very different from his home in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

Then, his tour guides took him to La Casa.

“Immediately, the directors treated me like family. I felt like they were my aunts,” said Escobedo, a PhD student studying the anthropology of dance. “That was one of the reasons I chose IU. I knew if I needed a home, La Casa would be there for me.”

Culture centers like La Casa are just one example of the programs and opportunities supported by IU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA).

Established in 1999, OVPDEMA formalizes and organizes the work that IU has been doing since 1820.

“Over the past two centuries, we have worked diligently to build a university where people from all backgrounds can succeed,” said James Wimbush, Vice President for OVPDEMA, who also serves as dean of the University Graduate School and as Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership.

“At times, this progress has unfolded quickly; in other instances, success has not come quickly enough,” he said.

That is why we are more committed than ever to being a truly diverse university that advocates access, success, respect, equity, inclusiveness, and community for all.

Recent developments—like the Racial Justice Research Fund, and the Black Philanthropy Circle and Queer Philanthropy Circle—demonstrate IU’s persistent pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion and IU’s commitment to anti-racism.

IU Equity Fund to serve students on all IU campuses

Now, OVPDEMA has established the IU Equity Fund. It’s a way for donors to help OVPDEMA respond to the greatest needs of students, faculty, and staff on any IU campus at any given moment in time.

Say, for example, students at IU South Bend want to organize an LGBTQ+ leadership conference. Or Media School students want to produce a film documenting the experiences of Black students at IU. Or a professor needs funding to conduct research on racial inequities in health care. Gifts to the IU Equity Fund could support initiatives like these.

In her time at IU, Janai Weeks, BAJ’20, experienced the breadth of OVPDEMA programs firsthand. She was a Groups Scholar and Hudson and Holland Scholar—IU programs that support first-generation and underrepresented students.

“IU is such a big place. Being part of these programs gave me more accessibility to resources; and when I say resources, I mean people,” Weeks said.

As a student communications assistant for the OVPDEMA team, it was part of Weeks’s job to promote OVPDEMA resources, like study tables, mentorship opportunities, culture centers, and more. She also got involved in IU Day, planning a philanthropy education seminar.

Now Weeks is a licensed insurance agent and she is using the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s online program to complete her masters in philanthropic studies, a passion she uncovered through her work with OVPDEMA.

“I felt supported as a minority student at a majority-white institution,” Weeks said. “OVPDEMA is not monolithic, but all these resources they provide create the melting pot of Indiana University.”

Support diversity, equity, and inclusion at IU

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The IU Equity Fund is a university-wide unrestricted account that can be accessed by all IU campuses to support diverse and underrepresented students, faculty, and staff with resources such as emergency needs, scholarships, research, leadership development, and other programs and initiatives that create an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment where all community members can do their very best work.

Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.