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University leaders outline plans and commitment to inclusion and diversity

December 1, 2016

Tim Sands, Menah Pratt-Clarke and Holly Mendelson
President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke receive an award for Virginia Tech from Holly Mendelson, co-owner of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The publication named Virginia Tech as one of 10 Diversity Champion colleges and universities.

A roundtable event in Washington, D.C., created an opportunity for Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Menah Pratt-Clarke, the university’s vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity, to outline a number of the university's initiatives that affirm its commitment to InclusiveVT

The initiatives are designed to help Virginia Tech reach its goal — outlined by Sands at a Nov. 7 Board of Visitors meeting — of doubling the number of underrepresented minorities at the institution by 2022 and enrolling far more students from historically underserved populations.

One key initiative is working with donors to provide matching funds that would create scholarships for students in these underrepresented groups.  

Sands explained that the scholarships would not only cover tuition costs but also lend additional financial support, allowing student recipients to focus on their studies; to become stronger academically, and to be in a position to compete more effectively and succeed after graduation.

Other initiatives include the College Access Collaborative, which partners with teachers, counselors, and parents to prepare students to be successful at Virginia Tech; working with the Hispanic College Institute to bring 100 students to campus for visits that introduce them to college life; and enlisting alumni to help reach out to potential minority students.

During Thursday's roundtable, Pratt-Clark said the effort to recruit alumni to reach out to minority students has resulted in a 55 percent increase in applications among that group.

Steve McKnight, vice president of the National Capital Region, moderated the event, which was held at the National Press Club. About 40 members of the Virginia Tech community and invited guests attended.

In addition to the roundtable, Sands and Pratt-Clarke accepted the Diversity Champion award from Holly Mendelson, vice president and co-owner of Potomac Publishing, Inc. and co-publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest, oldest, and one of the most respected national diversity and inclusion magazine in higher education. 

The honor is given by INSIGHT to institutions that “exemplify an unyielding commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout their campus communities, across academic programs, and at the highest administrative levels.”

Sands credited Pratt-Clarke, who joined Virginia Tech from the University of Illinois last year, with many of the strides Virginia Tech has made in its efforts to increase diversity.

“Menah’s insights have contributed to important breakthroughs and has been effective in moving our aspirations into action,” Sands said. “She has been able to articulate the connection between Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), inclusion and diversity, and the cross of the ‘T’ in the VT-shaped student,” Sands said.

“The commitment of Virginia Tech’s leadership to diversity is unusual and amazing,” said Pratt-Clarke. “Connecting diversity to excellence allows InclusiveVT to extend across campus.”

Pratt-Clarke said that she could see Virginia Tech’s powerful commitment to the community when she visited classrooms while interviewing at the university.

“I thought it was important to get the ‘pulse’ and I realized that there were some amazing foundational values at Virginia Tech when I saw the Principles of Community framed on the classroom walls,” she said.

Both Pratt-Clarke and Sands also thanked the Board of Visitors for their continued support for InclusiveVT. 

“We are fortunate to have the Board of Visitors behind us,” said Sands. “They are not just tolerating our efforts; they are actively engaged and promoting them.”

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