Celebrating DHE’s Staff-Led, Equity-Minded Cultural Transformation

Commissioner Santiago reflects on what sets DHE’s equity work apart, including our staff-led journey toward new organizational values.

Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago
November 9, 2021

Our Values:


Massachusetts was designated a Talent, Innovation, and Equity (TIE) state by Lumina Foundation in 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. That decision brought recognition for and resources to what has become known as the Equity Agenda. We joined Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, and Virginia as states that declared that equity was their highest priority. The Department of Higher Education is appreciative of the pathbreaking work that these states have embarked upon.

While we unabashedly used and modified some of the approaches we learned from the other states, our work must reflect the reality that we face in Massachusetts. Sometimes I have been asked what is it about the equity work in Massachusetts public higher education that differs from the other aligned states. I would cite three essential elements of the Massachusetts public higher education approach to equity.

Screenshot of Commissioner Santiago, dressed in an apron and standing in a kitchen with bowls of fresh vegetables and other ceviche ingredients on the counter

Considerable effort has gone into the professional development of our staff. Open and honest conversations and the participatory leadership they have engendered are a true testament to the culture we are defining together. We are at a point where the Department has formally endorsed a series of values and behaviors that guide the internal working of the agency. All of this has been accomplished in a relatively short time frame—nine months. I have officially approved a living document subject to periodic review and modification following the staff’s recommendations, if necessary. The process of developing and adopting our values—Equity, Accountability, Community, Empowerment, Intentionality, and Teamwork—reflects our organization’s commitment to growing and learning together as we work towards developing a culture of racial equity. Knowing that sustainable change requires continuous learning, we will offer ongoing professional development to help staff embody these values and behaviors and stay true to this work.

I congratulate the efforts of all staff, thank them for bringing these new principles to fruition, and look forward to our continued work in this area.