Michael Birchard Receives ASA Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award

Michael Birchard on Day of Service November 2019

Associate vice president of equity and inclusion recognized by Minnesota State

Michael Birchard, associate vice president of equity and inclusion at Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College, has received the Minnesota State Academic and Student Affairs Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award.

AVP Birchard was nominated by Jeremy Clark, Inver Hills academic advisor, Emily Johnson, Inver Hills director of career development, and leaders of the Indigenous Men and Men of Color Workgroup.

“I’m humbled by your confidence in my abilities, and I promise to continue doing my best work,” Michael said. “Thank you for believing in the work we are embarking upon at Minnesota State, DCTC and Inver Hills related to equity, inclusion and anti-racism. It’s challenging work but very meaningful. It is so impactful for our communities.”

More about the award…

Minnesota State colleges and universities are embracing Inclusive Excellence as a model for institutional transformation and educational equity. Inclusive Excellence practices promote student success, advance educational equity, create safe and inclusive campus climates and diversify the workforce.

The Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award is for college and university leaders (president, vice president, dean, chief diversity officer, chief academic officer and chief student affairs officer) for exemplary achievements, contributions to inclusive excellence and institutional transformation.

These individuals exhibit an unwavering commitment to equity, inclusion, and incorporating these values and principles into their day-to-day work. Accomplishments could include, but are not limited to:

  • Demonstrated strategic diversity leadership at their college or university
  • Having led diversity plan implementation for their institution
  • Making progress in meeting system-wide equity and inclusion goals

The following criteria are used to evaluate nominations:

  • An explicit commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion of underrepresented groups and/or social justice
  • Demonstrated respect or inclusive treatment when interacting with others
  • Implementation or sponsored strategies and initiatives which cultivate diversity and inclusion
  • Utilization of data-informed decision making in his or her diversity practice
  • Active collaboration across different divisions within the institution or system

Minnesota State Academic and Student Affairs (Virtual) Conference

Friday, November 13, 2020

What follows is an excerpt from a speech delivered by Andriel Dees, interim system diversity officer, Office of Equity and Inclusion. The speech recognizes Michael Birchard’s contributions to the students, staff, faculty and administrators of Minnesota State as well as the communities the system’s colleges and universities represent.

Michael Birchard

As his colleagues noted in their nomination, in the short time he has been in his current role, he has made “vast, valued, and much needed” contributions to the community through his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

For example, Michael designed monthly diversity and training sessions for each campus, and formed a BIPOC affinity group for employees at IHCC and DCTC to build community and cultivate leadership opportunities.

Michael is an advocate on campus, and approaches his work with humility, creating space so that staff and faculty are partners in the work. Among his work on behalf of students, he has been a strong advocate for ensuring that our technology systems support students in identifying by their preferred name; he has advocated for the addition of foot washing stations on campus; and he has worked to publicly display all the flags that represent student populations.

As part of his work across the system, Michael was also one of the charter members of the Minnesota State Indigenous Men and Men of Color Workgroup that has focused on the recruitment and retention of Indigenous Men and Men of Color students and employees.

After the murder of George Floyd, Michael worked with the Workgroup to organize two webinars: “I am George Floyd” and “I Still Can’t Breathe: A Call to Action.” The webinars exceeded Zoom capacity limits, which spoke to the need for members of the community to gather, to grieve, and to take and advocate for meaningful action.

As his colleagues put it, “Our campuses and our system are better because of Michael’s leadership and hard work.” He loves the Minnesota State System enough to challenge its shortcomings and systemic inequities. As another group of colleagues said of him, “Anyone that truly knows Michael Birchard recognizes that he embodies the purpose and meaning of this award.”


Michael Berndt and Michael Birchard, Unity in Community June 2020

Michael’s role as AVP of equity and inclusion is to challenge us, to help us develop as equity-minded professionals, so we can co-lead this work across our colleges.

Being a more equitable and inclusive organization means we all need to lean into this work personally and professionally. Michael has been critical in helping us develop the resources and inclusiveness our students need.

Michael Berndt
Dakota County Technical College
Inver Hills Community College

More about Michael Birchard…

Michael took on his role as associate vice president of equity and inclusion at DCTC and Inver Hills in March 2019. Before arriving at the colleges, Michael worked at North Hennepin Community college, first as a TRIO advisor (14 years) and then as a diversity affirmative action officer (more than eight years.)

Michael attended St. Cloud State University, earning an M.S. in Social Responsibility and a B.A. in American Studies, Minority Studies and Human Relations.

Michael Birchard colleges gallery

More about Diversity at DCTC…

Faculty, staff and students at Dakota County Technical College consider mutual understanding and respect a top priority on campus. Our college community is committed to creating a positive, engaging environment that welcomes opinions and ideas from people from all nations, backgrounds and cultures.

Our student population features scholars from all over the world, including countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America,the Middle East and North America.

Students with African American, European American, Native American, Asian American and Hispanic heritages are enrolled in our programs, reflecting a growing and promising diversity in Minnesota and across the country.


DCTC Campus Inclusion Message

On our campus, we:

  • Appreciate differences
  • Honor those who serve
  • Demonstrate dignity and respect
  • Value and celebrate diversity
  • Empower success for all

Multicultural Student Leadership Association (MSLA)

More than 20 different cultures are represented in the DCTC student body. Multicultural Student Leadership Association members believe in the importance of not only recognizing our differences, but also embracing and learning from them. MSLA gives students from all cultures the chance to learn, belong and grow by experiencing the rich world of people that visits our campus each day.


Learn more about Equity and Inclusion at DCTC by contacting:

Michael Birchard
Associate Vice President of Equity and Inclusion
Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College

2019 Innovative Student Affairs Program Award (left to right) Michael Birchard, Wendy Robinson, Kari Rusch-Curl, Michael Berndt