Rice receives award for inclusive, equitable workplace practices

Rice University has received the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources’ inaugural Inclusion Cultivates Excellence Award. This new award recognizes and celebrates institutional initiatives and programs that have made a significant impact with respect to inclusive and equitable workplace practices, particularly those that have brought about cultural change throughout the organization.

Rice received the award for its Latino-targeted benefits and wellness initiatives. The award includes a $5,000 contribution to Rice University’s endowment.

When Rice’s benefits team in the Office of Human Resources discovered that the institution’s Latino employees were not investing in their retirement plans at the same rate as other Rice employee groups, it sought to reverse the trend. The benefits team created targeted Spanish-based programs and counseling to help penetrate cultural and language barriers and set these employees on the path to saving for retirement.

Rice partnered with TIAA-CREF to target its Spanish-speaking population, and the university served as a pilot site for TIAA-CREF’s companywide Spanish-language initiative.

Thanks to this program, Rice’s Latino population is better educated on the nuances of saving for retirement, said Elaine Britt, director of benefits and compensation. And savings rates have increased among the institution’s Latino employees. Rice’s Latino population is now exceeding the non-Latino population in participation in the institution’s voluntary 403(b) program.

Rice’s Latino population also was targeted for diabetic education, including how to measure blood glucose levels, and education on healthy eating and lifestyle changes to manage and prevent Type II diabetes. Through this initiative, 23 percent of Rice’s Latino population was identified as either diabetic (and unaware that they had an ongoing health issue) or prediabetic.

As a result of the program, the benefits team was able to intervene and assist this population in managing blood sugar and improving overall health, Britt said. The university’s health risk assessments are now offered in Spanish.

This targeted communication model has proven such a success that it is now being applied to other cultural groups at Rice.

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.