Cultivating an environment of mutual respect, and creating a place that embraces differences and celebrates similarities, lies at the heart of the mission of Virginia Tech’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

William Lewis Sr., vice president for diversity and inclusion, will be at the Virginia Tech University Open House on Nov. 12 to talk about the office and its new direction.

In 2005, Virginia Tech adopted its Principles of Community to encourage diversity and understanding on campus. This fall, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion launched a Diversity Development Institute to provide professional development opportunities that appreciate differing perspectives by leveraging the unique perspectives of faculty, staff, and administrators.

The institute provides faculty, staff, and administrators the opportunity to earn a Diversity Ally Certificate. “I feel that participating in the sessions increased my knowledge and awareness of diversity,” said Robin Atkins, equity and access program specialist in the Department of Human Resources, was among the first staff members to participate in the program. “It made me a stronger individual and leader for the Staff Diversity Development Group.”

The institute also has a Promoting Excellence Through Inclusion initiative to give teaching faculty opportunities to learn and adopt inclusive pedagogical strategies in the classroom. Ennis McCrery, graduate student ombudsperson, attended courses offered as part of this initiative.

“The [Diversity Development Institute] sessions went beyond traditional discussions of diversity, based on ‘doing the right thing’ by offering practical suggestions for incorporating the language and lessons of diversity in the classroom and everyday interactions,” McCrery said. “This practical approach, along with a better understanding of the university's philosophy of inclusive excellence, has increased my comfort level with raising or addressing issues of diversity with students and colleagues."

The fall of 2011 marks the beginning of the Diversity Development Institute and the continuation Virginia Tech’s transformation from awareness to action in creating a working and learning environment in which everyone’s contribution to the university’s success is valued.

Discussions about diversity and inclusion often are difficult. However, these dialogs are crucial in making Virginia Tech an even more outstanding place to learn and work.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will have a booth in Squires Student Center for the University Open House. Stop and find out more about these important programs and talk to Lewis about future plans.