Editor’s Note: In his Sept. 30 State of the University address, President Tim Sands challenged Virginia Tech students, faculty and staff to continue to build community that will enhance intercultural competence and empathy so that graduates can succeed in an increasingly complex world.
“Diversity makes for deeper conversations and stronger solutions,” Sands said.
Given that challenge, Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke has issued the following open letter to the Virginia Tech community.
Thank you to all who supported and participated in the #VTUnfinished conversations about identity and differences at War Memorial Chapel. I am grateful to the Virginia Tech students, faculty, staff, administrators, and Blacksburg/New River Valley community members who attended, shared stories, and listened respectfully.
Through this experience, we learned to not judge based on appearances, as some identities are hidden and invisible. We learned about the malleability of identity and how it can fluctuate and evolve. We learned that accepting our own identity and the identities of others is a lifelong commitment to nonjudgmental open-heartedness.
Though at times we seem quite different from each other, we all deserve recognition and respect for our authentic selves.
The vision for #VTUnfinished is that each of us — students, faculty, administrators, staff, and community members — can feel confident and empowered in leading conversations that can help build community across differences. I invite you to attend the last #VTUnfinished fall gathering at War Memorial Chapel on Wednesday, Nov. 9, from 12-1 p.m.
On Nov. 16, Lee Mun Wah, diversity lecturer and filmmaker, will come to campus to guide us in how to have these unfinished conversations. He will lead diversity workshops for students, faculty, administrators, staff, and the community. He will also host a screening of his documentary, "If These Halls Could Talk." For more information and to register for these workshops, go to the website.
#VTUnfinished is a commitment through InclusiveVT to honor and live our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), and our Principles of Community. In order for us to truly build an inclusive community, we have to be willing to ask difficult questions and listen to honest answers.
In so doing, we as a campus can start to build the foundation of trust, honesty, and courage required for sustainable transformation. Collectively, we can help Virginia Tech be a place where everyone is comfortable enough to be themselves, able to respect differences in others, and committed to find the common humanity through our common experiences.
Thank you for your courage and commitment to the work of building an inclusive, welcoming, affirming, safe, and accessible community. I hope to see you at #VTUnfinished.