Leadership plans investments to enhance diversity, create more inclusive community
Virginia Tech will increase its commitment to inclusion and diversity across the university, building on momentum created in the first year of InclusiveVT.
President Timothy D. Sands recently shared plans for additional investments in faculty recruitment and student scholarships and a series of strategic next steps with members of the President's Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council.
“To become the leading global land grant university in the world we must attract the best students from all backgrounds, regardless of ability to pay, and recruit and retain talented faculty members who will prepare our students to be leaders and engaged citizens with the cultural competence to work in diverse teams and solve complex problems,” Sands said. “Universities that do not actively seek to broaden the pool of talent from which they recruit will struggle to compete on the national and global stage in the coming decades.”
These new initiatives, developed after extended conversations and feedback with stakeholders, support the goal in Sands' 2014 installation speech that all Virginia Tech students, faculty and staff members "have a culturally rich experience, with opportunities to live, work and study with people whose life experience is very different than their own."
The first year of InclusiveVT built a framework for success and created campus engagement through leadership meetings with underrepresented groups, campus wide workshops and a speaker series (including anti-racist author Tim Wise to campus earlier this month). The President's Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council was created to facilitate coordinated action of scale and the ongoing development of an enhanced role for the university inclusion and diversity coordinators. With its most diverse freshman class in university history, Virginia Tech is positioned to make even greater strides in the coming year.
“We are more determined than ever to recruit and retain world-class faculty members whose broad range of life experiences and diverse approaches to excellence will help to prepare our students to engage multiple perspectives and become global leaders,” said Provost Thanassis Rikakis.
The planned initiatives will be bolstered by the arrival of Menah Pratt-Clarke as vice provost for inclusion and diversity and vice president for strategic affairs. Pratt-Clarke, associate chancellor for strategic affairs and the associate provost for diversity at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will start Feb. 1 at Virginia Tech.
"I’m excited about working collaboratively with the campus community on this bold commitment to build the inclusive community that is vital to our future,” Pratt-Clarke said. “Our success in actualizing our shared vision will require the engagement of the full Virginia Tech community.”
The proposals build on the university’s Principles of Community and are focused on, though not limited to, strengthening faculty recruitment, improving faculty retention, broadening student access. and building an inclusive campus climate.
Build faculty strength
Virginia Tech expects to hire more than 350 new faculty in the next six years. A significant portion of these positions will be eligible for targeted opportunity funding to promote the hiring of faculty who can help create the inclusive campus the university envisions. It is imperative for hiring managers to pay close attention to increasing diversity as it fosters excellence and creates a competitive edge for the university.
The university will also consider increased cluster hiring, particularly for topics designated as "destination areas" during the Beyond Boundaries visioning process. Cluster hiring will be organized to solve complex problems, making it critical to recruit and attract faculty with diverse experiences and perspectives.
Retain underrepresented faculty
Hiring a new faculty member is an investment in Virginia Tech’s future. To nurture their professional growth and retain these faculty members, the university will:
- Enhance its mentoring programs;
- Initiate periodic interviews with new faculty to learn about needs and challenges and implement solutions to identified barriers to success;
- Maintain competitive salaries; and
- Provide professional development opportunities that advance faculty careers and develop a promotion process that recognizes and rewards multiple pathways to excellence.
Increase student access and recruitment
As a 21st century land grant university, the university must improve access to a Virginia Tech education to those talented potential students who need financial support. By developing relationships with middle and high schools, the university can provide educational experiences to improve student success and bring about the realization that Virginia Tech is a place for them. Initiatives will include:
- Creating new scholarships and financial aid programs to promote student access, including 200 full scholarships in the next five years;
- Educating potential students that Virginia Tech's holistic admission process considers many parameters, including grades and test scores as well as extracurricular and informal learning activities, creativity and innovation and resilience in challenging circumstances;
- Creating a new student pipeline program by enhancing outreach programs to attract a wider range of talented students who do not currently see Virginia Tech as a viable alternative for college; and
- Coordinating the many existing programs on campus that support student diversity and ensuring that any student who is struggling socially, culturally, or academically will have ready access to help.
Building inclusive climate and curriculum
Cultural competence involves not just knowing about and participating in diverse cultural activities but also embracing and celebrating the differences highlighted in these cultural activities. The first year of InclusiveVT helped colleges and administrative areas identify and begin implementing a wide range of projects to grow cultural competence. The university will continue to support these initiatives and also provide funds for new programs across divisions. Initiatives will include:
- Providing funding to promote curricular transformation, multicultural programming, and centers that provide support for an inclusive campus climate and curriculum;
- Developing experiential learning opportunities across the curriculum that engage multiple and diverse perspectives in problem solving (including industry and community perspectives);
- Creating individualized pathways through the curriculum that allow each student to experience many different narratives and deconstruct dominant narratives through difference;
- Promoting cultural competence as a core learning outcome and supporting its integration into the curriculum as faculty members update courses and further develop measurement systems for learning outcomes; and
- Designating new and existing Virginia Tech faculty who are committed to promoting an inclusive campus as InclusiveVT Faculty Scholars who will work closely with the new vice provost for inclusion and diversity to promote the success of InclusiveVT.
Provost Rikakis emphasized that supporting difference and developing a community that has the necessary diversity to tackle the complexity of the 21st century requires recognition and rewarding of multiple pathways to excellence.
The university will be announce a series of activities for the prompt implementation of the goals outlined above soon after Pratt-Clarke's Feb. 1 arrival to Virginia Tech. Watch Virginia Tech News and the VTInclusive website for details.
How to get involved now
There are many ways to become involved with InclusiveVT to share thoughts, concerns, and solutions, as well as opportunities to attend events and become part of transforming Virginia Tech. In fact, the President’s Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council challenged every Hokie to attend an inclusion and diversity event this fall to broaden perspectives.
- Dec. 2, Communicating Respectfully In a Diverse World: The goals are to explore communication skills for promoting inclusion and respect in the workplace and to explore ways to use your voice to effectively address issues of disrespect. Register online.
- Dec. 16, Unconscious Bias: Even when one considers themselves to be open-minded and accepting of others, they may still harbor biases that affect their feelings and actions—in both positive and negative ways. Register online.
- Jan. 12, Advancing Diversity Workshop: Menah Pratt-Clarke is the keynote speaker. The program will include presentations about current Virginia Tech diversity initiatives and discussions of how to improve inclusion and diversity on campus. Register by Dec. 18.
- Feb. 8, Campuswide welcome reception for Menah Pratt-Clarke: Come meet one of the newest members of Virginia Tech's senior leadership team. Please watch campus announcements for the time and place.
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.