URMIA Matters

Disability Inclusiveness

January 31, 2024 Host: Julie Groves with guests Jeff Chasen and Courtney Davis Curtis Season 5 Episode 5
Disability Inclusiveness
URMIA Matters
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URMIA Matters
Disability Inclusiveness
Jan 31, 2024 Season 5 Episode 5
Host: Julie Groves with guests Jeff Chasen and Courtney Davis Curtis

In the podcast episode “Disability Inclusiveness” of Season 5 of URMIA Matters, Julie Groves, hosts a discussion on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, both in the association and on campus. The guests are Jeff Chasen and Courtney Davis Curtis, a past president of URMIA. Curtis explains how the addition of DEIB objective to the URMIA strategic plan started and Chasen discusses strategies, such as leveraging internal resources, fostering community partnerships, and framing inclusion as a best business practice. The conversation highlights the value of making inclusivity a core part of institutional practices, with a focus on welcoming and inviting engagement rather than merely fulfilling requests. The episode underscores the human aspects of DEIB efforts, viewing them not as checkbox exercises but as opportunities to make a positive difference in individuals' lives and perceptions of institutions.

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In the podcast episode “Disability Inclusiveness” of Season 5 of URMIA Matters, Julie Groves, hosts a discussion on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, both in the association and on campus. The guests are Jeff Chasen and Courtney Davis Curtis, a past president of URMIA. Curtis explains how the addition of DEIB objective to the URMIA strategic plan started and Chasen discusses strategies, such as leveraging internal resources, fostering community partnerships, and framing inclusion as a best business practice. The conversation highlights the value of making inclusivity a core part of institutional practices, with a focus on welcoming and inviting engagement rather than merely fulfilling requests. The episode underscores the human aspects of DEIB efforts, viewing them not as checkbox exercises but as opportunities to make a positive difference in individuals' lives and perceptions of institutions.

Show Notes [member log-in required for some content] 

Connect with URMIA & URMIA with your network
-Share /Tag in Social Media @urmianetwork
-Not a member? Join ->www.urmia.org/join
-Email | contactus@urmia.org

Give URMIA Matters a boost:
-Give the podcast a 5 star rating
-Share the podcast - click that button!
-Follow on your podcast platform - don't miss an episode!

Thanks for listening to URMIA Matters!

Show Notes
Accessible KU
KU’s ADA Resource Center
Kansas City Current training facility
World Cup 2026-Kansas City
Center for Disability Inclusion

Jeff Chasen, AVP for Employee Growth, Development, Accessibility, & Inclusion - University of Kansas

Courtney Davis Curtis, Assistant Vice President for Risk Management and Resilience Planning- University of Chicago

Julie Groves, Director, Risk Services, Financial Services - Wake Forest University

[00:00:00] Julie Groves: Hi everyone. I'm Julie Groves, the director of risk services at Wake Forest University, and I'll be your host for today's episode of URMIA Matters. We're going to be discussing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, both in our association and on campus. And we'll hear some strategies risk managers can use to promote this important initiative.

With me today are Jeff Chasen, the assistant vice president for employee growth, development, accessibility and inclusion at the University of Kansas and Courtney Davis Curtis, assistant vice president for risk management and Resilience Planning at the University of Chicago. Courtney is also a past president of URMIA.

So welcome to the podcast today, you guys. Before we start our discussion, I always like to ask guests to tell our listeners a bit about themselves. So Jeff, why don't we start with you? Tell our listeners a bit about yourself. 

[00:00:56] Jeff Chasen: Well, after beginning my career as a lawyer, I've really connected with URMIA and all of the different roles I've had since then.

I first got acquainted with URMIA as senior counsel at United Educators. And then for about 12 years ran a consultancy focusing on compliance risk management and training. And then about 11 years ago, I came to KU first as the first as the AVP for Integrity and Compliance, and about two years ago, switched to my current role and just exactly what you described Employee Growth and Development, and then not only from an HR perspective, but I lead our Center for Equity and Disability, and so it's really been a great time working with URMIA and meeting so many wonderful folks, like I said, literally for decades in my career, and I'm just glad to be back with you, Julie and Courtney, and glad to be on the podcast.

[00:01:54] Julie Groves: Well, great to see you. So quickly, what, what would you say one of your favorite things about is about your URMIA membership or your most favorite thing about your URMIA membership is?

[00:02:04] Jeff Chasen: I mean, it's really easy because my favorite thing about the membership is the membership. It's the members, the people. You know, just some of my favorite sort of work family are folks that I may, if I'm lucky, see once a year but connect in other ways and, and also just sort of psychically throughout the year. But there's just no association like URMIA, and we all have the best staff in the world because each of us is a staff to the other.

[00:02:33] Julie Groves: I completely agree. I mean, URMIA is really, the members are really, they become like your family. So I just encourage those of you who might be listening, if you haven't really gotten involved in URMIA, to all the extent you can, I would encourage you to do that because it will very much enrich your life and your job.

So, Courtney, great to see you. Why don't you tell everybody what you've been up to since you stepped down as president and you've had a lot more time on your hands. 

[00:03:04] Courtney Davis Curtis: What's time? No, happy to join here on another podcast and my first one here with, with Jeff but you know, the work never stops once you're URMIA presidency ends and still very much so involved in strategic goal four particularly on advancing and continuing the efforts for our professionals of color community.

And more personally, I'm finishing up my eMBA program. So that still takes a lot of my time as of now. And, you know, hopefully there'll be more to share in the future about some other things I'll be doing with URMIA. So I, I can't fully get away. 

[00:03:41] Julie Groves: Well, great. Congratulations on your MBA program too. I know that's been a lot of work, so I'm sure you'll be glad to be wrapping that up in the not too distant future.

Courtney Davis Curtis: Exactly. Thank you.

Julie Groves: What would you say your favorite aspect of your URMIA membership is? 

[00:03:55] Courtney Davis Curtis: I, I would have to completely agree with Jeff. I mean, it's, it's certainly a community of professionals, but really it's a community where professionals became friends, became family. I mean, there's no other conference or events where you go to and you just look forward to catching up with people in person and, you know, the handshakes become hugs as the years go on and to learn more about each other personally and families, et cetera, and just to see everyone continue to grow and really advance this profession has really been a blessing because many of us continue to stay connected no matter where our roles may take us.

I'm a former broker now risk manager and, you know, I know folks have come back and forth through all sides, but stayed very connected with URMIA throughout. 

[00:04:40] Julie Groves: Great. So let's chat about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. So Courtney, I'm going to ask you the first question. Why don't you tell us about the addition of DEIB to the URMIA strategic plan a few years ago?

[00:04:53] Courtney Davis Curtis: Yeah, certainly. So it has become part of the strategic plan fabric. Gosh, I missed the date back to three or four years ago, certainly after the George Floyd murder where we kind of took a stance and shared URMIA’s support for black lives matters, but really wanted to take it a step further, and we've all heard about D.E.I. and now B throughout our professional careers are just in general, but it was the first time where we kind of took some intentional actions to create a new strategic goal that focused on it. And it started with a survey really to create a baseline understanding of what was happening at our member’s institutions and organizations, what resources and expertise were out there as we try to find ways to further the content that we provide, to think differently about how we are being inclusive and providing, you know, equitable access for all of our members and, you know, the objectives over the years have changed as we continue to do more things to support our membership and to make sure that our membership kind of reflects the diversity of the community that is out there, especially in this profession. 

[00:06:04] Julie Groves: That's great. And, you know, that is a really important initiative.

As you said, a lot of, you know, universities and companies are incorporating that into their daily life. And so I think it, it was great that URMIA is able to include that in our strategic plans as well. So Jeff, why don't you tell us how you define disability inclusion at Kansas? 

[00:06:30] Jeff Chasen: Yeah, happy to do so and, and with gratitude to the work that Courtney led and the work of Courtney and others in, in really bringing this in because we, we do believe it's a core competency and frankly, a best business practice and we'll focus specifically on some of my more recent work about disability. But honestly, at KU, we really believe that inclusion is a paramount value for any higher education institution in all facets of campus working, learning and living, whether it's opportunities for learning inside or outside the classroom or the lab or employment opportunities for students, you know, while they're on campus and then certainly beyond for staff and faculty on or even beyond campus. Sometimes we, you know, we grow our employees in a way that they end up going on to something else. But we think that's an important part of our mission as a community of learners and learning.

And that engagement with the community and beyond and just how we work. So we have sort of a holistic model for our broader DEIB initiatives. In fact, our provost often speaks of the importance of meeting each member of our community where they are and with what they need to have the opportunity to be successful.

And so certainly I think disability is an important part of the DEIB spectrum and we try to go beyond sort of legalistic compliance approaches and try to approach it from the perspective of advocacy. I wouldn't necessarily say activism, but an advocacy mindset. That's really more of a kind of right doing approach rather than just avoiding wrongdoing.

And as a result, everyone benefits from these initiatives and we end up with more effective and even efficient practices. We try to frame inclusion, as I said, as a best business practice along with, you know, the ample humane and really human values that, that underlie it. And so, you know, that has been the last couple of years of my work.

It's really tried to focus in on that area. 

[00:08:32] Julie Groves: And as you mentioned, this is a relatively new position for you. You've just been in it, you know, about two years. So, how have you been able to move the needle on campus in this area during your time in this job? 

[00:08:45] Jeff Chasen: Heh. You know, the primary challenge is trying to be effective and efficient, especially given the challenges in general that we face in this area, but especially with resources. 
Our ADA Resource Center, which is really unique. It's an advocacy center. I also, I'm responsible for oversight of, you know, for example, our employment accommodations and other aspects of employee relations and I serve as the equity advisor, which is our sort of representative to our larger D. E. I. B. program representing H. R. But, what we found is especially the funding in this area, the center is less than half the size that it was when I had originally supported it, as a partner across campus, and, you know, we pretty much have a 4 digit operating budget. So not a lot of funds. And so we've tried to adopt a few strategies that I think are really relevant in the disability context, but I think apply to DEIB overall.

One is to really leverage internal resources. So, for example, we are warehouses and really powerhouses of data on our campus. And data show us and tell us so many things, but one thing we realized was that we hadn't really done a good job of aggregating data and building it into a common system, for example, with workplace accommodations, you know, under the ADA.

And so we, we have worked to combine several online systems over the years and the old paper files and create one sort of comprehensive system so that we could evaluate our practices, use it as resources for the future, try to focus on being more consistent and fair, et cetera. And we've also partnered, we're going through our once a decade master plan process.

And so our ADA Resource Center partnered with the master plan consultants and our internal team and we created a rubric for evaluating accessibility and inclusiveness of every campus building and every campus space. And now we're working toward developing a rolling list of priorities. All of these are kind of revenue neutral ideas or cost neutral ideas.

But that rolling list is our way of prioritizing so we can focus whatever resources that we have. And to be honest, those sort of resources, say external, but I really mean campus resources, we try to be an internal resource ourselves. So we work on developing, you know, kind of just in time trainings and other resources that go to workflow, kind of just like good compliance and other risk management training. It shouldn't just be technical or like a law school exam about a given statute, but really, how do we, you know, facilitate into the workflow, the important values. So, for example, we have an event planning guide that focuses primarily on accessibility, but also in other ways in creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment. And so those are the kinds of resources that, again, are, they don't impose added costs, but they create a greater efficiency for the overall university. 

And then finally, and we've talked about this before, you mentioned it, you know, I really believe in community building and partnership. I was an office of one when I was the AVP for integrity and compliance, and, you know, you can't really have a compliance function with one person, you know, no matter how talented they may be, and certainly it's beyond my capabilities. So we built a really thriving partners network. And now we have that same concept with our DEIB program. Overall, we have these equity advisors, but our ADA resource center has looked to partner with fledgling student organizations that want to do work in the disability inclusion or overall inclusion space, our faculty staff council, we have identity councils. And so we work in partner there and I'm directly engaged with two of those.
 And the things I'm really excited about are partnering with the outside communities that that also bring resources, both in economic terms, and also just sort of in intellectual terms. So, one thing, that's really exciting right now. Kansas City is going to be one of the host sites for the World Cup in 2026.

And, we sort of morphed into an accessibility network. We have a standing group, the Kansas City Chiefs, our beloved chiefs here in town, reached out to the, our resource center, reached out to me to talk about strategizing about some ideas for improving accessibility. And so I brought Kansas Athletics into the discussion and, and now we have this group that meets on a regular basis and is in communication. We've brought in the two professional soccer clubs in town, Sporting KC, which is our men's team, and the Kansas City Current. What's really exciting about them is they've built and are now about to go live with the first stadium for a professional women's sports team. Typically women have had to use men's facilities. This is the first women's practice facility and, and team stadium. And so we're really excited about that and ways that we can expand accessibility broadly. And, you know, it's a little bit subversive, but we're also trying to embed ways to improve accessibility and overall inclusion for the workforce.

And, just one other resource that I would mention to, to those listening in, um, the Center for Disability Inclusion, is a professional association that focuses primarily in terms of disability in the workplace. And so that may be helping folks find jobs that would be great for our students and also improving accessibility and inclusion, you know, on our own campuses.

KU became the first recognized business partner of the Center for Disability Inclusion, and we're really hoping other universities will join us. It's a great resource. Clearly, employability is central to our function as universities, but we also want to create the best environment for our most valuable resource across campus and that's the human resource. 
 So those sort of strategies are what we've been doing. And, you know, I could go on all day talking about it. And the reality is, you know, that we, we would love to do so much more. And the way we, we can accomplish that is just by working together and, you know, In real ways, kind of good people doing good work and good faith.

And there's a lot we can accomplish no matter the challenges. So those are things I at least wanted to share is what we're working on right now.

[00:15:15] Julie Groves: And that's really exciting that, you know, this, these initiatives that you started on your campus have made their way out into the larger community. And it sounds like, you know, I mean, to your point, that's a great way for your campus, your students to have connections to the outside world in Kansas City.

And so, you know, kudos to you all for your work on that. That's very, very exciting. So Courtney, what suggestions would you give a risk manager who might be listening today and is thinking through how their campus embraces a holistic approach to inclusivity? 

[00:15:55] Courtney Davis Curtis: Yeah, I think, you know, starting with the, the fundamentals, right, is first educating yourself on, you know, various forms of ways that you can support your campus community and your stakeholders at large, and really thinking about that for each and every audience that you have from your students, your staff, your faculty to your visitors on campus.

And some of it is more hazard based and just about the ability to assess, you know, campus in general, but then thinking about that end users experience too. Students learning in class, researchers and students performing and laboratories. And, you know, I also think back to the required trainings that we have and how our colleagues are required to do that and are those accessible?

And so it's, it's really thinking about it as being core to every single facet of your offering on your campus. You know, a lot of times, again, that we think about these hazard type of risks, so our buildings and going through inspections and things of that nature, but also when it comes to constructing the building from ground zero. There's really opportunities to think more broadly about that end users experience and ability to, you know, provide and be a part of whatever that experiences at that time.

And again. foundational to that is to really educate yourself on what that looks like. And I think Jeff named a number of examples that I think we could all use for the baseline. And, you know, when we have these conversations about risk and different elements, we always go back to ERM and compliance. So there's what we have to do from a regulatory perspective, but then it's also thinking about it from an ERM perspective and how we can create this risk into an opportunity too. So if it's not on your risk register, it certainly should be so that there's a focus attention on it.

[00:17:46] Julie Groves: So, Jeff, if you think about specifically the focus on,  folks with disabilities. How can risk managers foster an environment of inclusivity on their campus for these, these types of community members?

[00:18:01] Jeff Chasen: Well, I think as usual, Courtney really, said some very wise things just in terms about making it a part of what we do.

And, and, you know, in the disability context, probably my biggest piece of advice is to really try to orient yourself towards verbs like welcoming and inviting rather than just fill fulfilling requests and even rights. So, you know, we, you know, we typically will include, you know, invitations for people to tell us if they need an accommodation for an event, or if we're interviewing someone on campus, you know, making, making the process as accessible and inclusive as possible.

And, you know, one thing that I've tried to change is instead of offering people to let us know if they need an accommodation, telling them that we would welcome that, or we invite them to let us know how we can make the experience, you know, more fulfilling, more valuable. 

Again, these aren't just like nice favors that we're doing for people. This is a way of really engaging. And the best part, I think, of these activities, whether or not you need a disability accommodation, whether or not, you have an identity that may be underrepresented or marginalized in some way. It speaks a lot to your institution's value again, about making each person count and bringing them up to the level of their opportunity and their ability.

I mean, again, none of this is a favor. If there's a favor being done, it's to our institutions and our communities and the world beyond, by getting full value of what we have from these, these resources. I always like to say, and I've said this through all the different jobs I mentioned, the most valuable rule of law is the golden rule.

Or maybe I would even say the platinum rule. You know, golden rule, doing unto others as you'd have them do. But the platinum rule is trying to do unto others the way they would have you do. And it's not a blank check. And, and we don't have a lot of blank checks but I do think that the risk manager, as a campus and community leader, really needs to model these practices and how they engage, to be a resource and a point of reference and really, to just, as Courtney said, to actively consider these things and then seek to connect and collaborate with good folks across campus.

There's no shortage of those resources but we squander them and that is really tragic because we're talking about real human lives, let alone, the things that they can create for the betterment of not only our campuses, but, but the world. 

Those are the sort of approaches that I think a risk manager can take, and I've often said, I don't think there's a higher calling on, on a campus than a risk manager, especially in the enterprise context, the way Courtney mentioned it, because you literally have a chance to impact lives, and to, to make things better and make a difference.

And, and those are really sacred things. 

[00:20:57] Julie Groves: And just as a follow up, when you've issued these sort of invitations to folks to let you know how you can make things more accessible for them, has, what's the response to that been? 

[00:21:10] Jeff Chasen: You know, the truth is that you don't regularly need to make accommodations. And so, you know, a lot of times it's a way of opening the dialogue.

We have on occasion, you know, folks with mobility impairments. We've, you know, been thoughtful about that. Or if we knew that someone was coming to campus for a meeting or an interview, and we knew that, for example, they used a wheelchair, we would simply take the initiative to focus on accessibility.

But also, if you're bringing people to campus, you kind of want to make it as accessible and welcoming as you can. You don't want them parking, you know, a mile away. And so these are sort of common practices. Probably the most striking reaction, Julie, as I think about this just in the moment is, um, that we've been thanked.

We've even been thanked by folks who've said, yeah, I don't really need anything, but I'm really glad that you asked. And I just have to believe that, you know, in a linear transactional way by being welcoming and inviting, you have a much greater chance of being asked for the thing that will help the person put their best foot forward.

Because again, this is a partnership with each individual, It's not a favor. It's a chance of giving them a chance to contribute and most of us do want to, And then the, and then the, the other thing we do get are, are we, we, well, we haven't had to say no to a single request this past year.

We just closed the books on the calendar year and we were able to provide an employment accommodation for 100 percent of the employees who requested one. That doesn't mean they got 100 percent of what they requested. But we didn't even have an employee go into the appeal process. So I really think this sort of inclusiveness mindset that Courtney talked about as being now a core part of URMIA really is a best business practice.

But it's certainly part of a community that I would want to be a part of as well. 

[00:23:09] Julie Groves: And just by, you know, issuing these invitations, you're making a connection with these, they, you know, as you said, come back and say, I don't need it, but thanks. You know, and what that's doing is putting out the reputation that your office is very welcome, easy to work with.

And so I think that's, to your point, that's, that's what we all want. We all want to be welcoming, we all want to make people, you know, of all different diversities, we want to make them feel welcome and as, as though they belong. Because we, you know, they all do. So that's, that's really great. So before we wrap up, anything, any final thoughts you all have that you'd like to share? 

[00:23:49] Courtney Davis Curtis: I'll just add, and this is kind of dovetailing on some of the, the things that Jeff mentioned. At the end of the day, this is really about trying to do the human things well, not so much a check the box exercise. I think this could, you know, doing it right or at least making the offer or the intent to do it can be a real difference maker in someone's day. How they perceive the institution or even your, their interaction with you as an individual too.

[00:24:18] Julie Groves: Well, I just, I want to thank you both for being with us today and sharing, you know, your experience and, and if I, I will just say you all may have, you know, some resources for folks if they have questions, you know, we will let them know that they are welcome to reach out to either of you if they have questions or want to chat with you more about anything that's come up today.

And, um, Jeff, I just want to say as you're talking, with the Kansas City Chiefs. If you want to see if Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelsey or Taylor Swift want to come beyond our URMIA Matters podcast, please let them know that we all have an open door policy. We would always be happy to welcome them on the podcast.

So thank you all again. And this wraps another episode of URMIA Matters.