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InclusiveVT plans for change

August 31, 2016

Faculty and staff take part in a diversity planning summit sponsored by InclusiveVT.
Faculty and staff take part in a diversity planning summit sponsored by InclusiveVT.

After two years of planning and preparation, InclusiveVT is beginning to make changes. 

On Aug. 18, a diversity planning summit brought inclusion and diversity advocates together from across the university to discuss moving from the planning stage into action. Mercedes Ramírez Fernández, associate vice provost for strategic affairs and diversity, told the group that diversity should be viewed as a measure of excellence and a way to ensure that Virginia Tech students are equipped with the skills and talents needed to work effectively in the 21st century.

“We are called to move beyond the numbers game toward an integration of inclusion and diversity throughout the university,” Ramírez Fernández said. “Diversity is the process toward better learning, rather than an outcome; it’s a way that you live your life.”

Initiatives that will be implemented during the 2016-2017 school year include DiversityEdu training for undergraduate students and faculty search committees; dedication of additional resources for minority faculty recruitment; enhancing Virginia Tech’s regional admissions presence in areas, such as Richmond and the National Capital Region; and funding and staffing for Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Black Cultural Centers, and the LGBTQ Resource Center.

Marie Elisa Christie, director for Women and Gender in International Development in the Office of International Research, Education, and Development, was one of InclusiveVT’s first inclusion coordinators. “I think this is really getting to what InclusiveVT is supposed to be about, to put responsibility for inclusion and diversity at a high level throughout the university,” Christie said. “I think this is a rich, new conversation to really get the inclusion and diversity agenda moving.”

The move from planning to implementation was also welcomed by Faculty Senate President Montasir Abbas, an associate professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. He says swift action will send the message that the university’s commitment to inclusion and diversity is real. “I think people have hope because of the new administration and are looking forward to change,” Abbas says. “There is a window of opportunity that we need to use. We don’t want people to lose hope.”

Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity, summed up InclusiveVT’s work in three words: courage, commitment, and community.

"The work of diversity is local; it’s the places, spaces, buildings, and departments where we work, live, and learn every day,” Pratt-Clarke said. “My hope is that as colleagues, we can begin to really implement change. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about diversity, but if we are going to really transform Virginia Tech, we need to implement the recommendations that have been made over the years.”

For more information and to participate in Virginia Tech’s ongoing inclusion and diversity efforts, visit InclusiveVT.

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