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Virginia Tech named Diversity Champion by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine

June 28, 2017

Students in a sketching exercise
ExploreVT participants take part in a sketching exercise with the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. ExploreVT is part of a broader program to make Virginia Tech more accessible to underrepresented and underserved high school students.

INSIGHT Into Diversity has named Virginia Tech one of 13 Diversity Champion colleges and universities. This is the second consecutive year that the university has received the champion recognition from INSIGHT Into Diversity, which is the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.

The magazine considers champions to be “institutions that set the standard for thousands of other campus communities striving for diversity and inclusion.”

InclusiveVT has represented Virginia Tech’s inclusion and diversity initiatives since its creation in 2014. In order to provide leadership and accelerate the aspirations of InclusiveVT, the university hired Menah Pratt-Clarke as vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity in early 2016.

“InclusiveVT is the institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence,” Pratt-Clarke said. “It is a recognition that as a land-grant institution, we must be intentional in our efforts to create a diverse community and to ensure that each member of our community feels welcomed, affirmed, and supported in pursuing their talents and achieving their potential."

In the past year, InclusiveVT has worked to increase efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse student and faculty population. During the November 2016 Board of Visitors meeting, President Tim Sands stated that Virginia Tech intended to double the number of students from traditionally underrepresented groups in its incoming first-year class by 2022, and to increase the number of underrepresented faculty.

To achieve the goal for greater student representation, the university has introduced two programs that begin this summer. ExploreVT and the Black College Institute are designed to identify academically curious, high-achieving students and expose them to opportunities at Virginia Tech.

ExploreVT and the Black College Institute complement the College Access Collaborative. The collaborative was launched in 2016 to strengthen Virginia Tech’s commitment to increase access to higher education by partnering with communities that typically graduate lower number of college-bound high school students.

For greater faculty recruitment and retention, the university has developed the InclusiveVT/AdvanceVT Faculty Committee, which consists of 20 full professors who represent each of the eight academic colleges to focus on diversity. InclusiveVT also implemented – in conjunction with the Office for Equity and Accessibility — a required online course that addresses issues of unconscious bias and myths about diversity in the hiring process.

The university hosted the fifth annual national Faculty Women of Color in the Academy Conference. During the two-day event, more than 400 women of color scholars at all levels met to connect, attend mentoring workshops, and find support among peers to continue to succeed in the academy.

“Virginia Tech is a strong community, and we always strive to make it even stronger by broadening the pool of talent that we attract,” said President Tim Sands. “Consistent with InclusiveVT, we are committed to a welcoming, affirming, inclusive, safe, and accessible campus climate.”

In the past academic year, InclusiveVT introduced DiversityEdu, a new requirement for all entering students to complete a pre-enrollment diversity course. In addition, University Council approved a resolution for a new core area in Pathways called, “Critical Analysis of Identity and Equity in the United States.”  New cultural and resource centers were also established to join the existing Black Cultural Center and Multicultural Center. Additional centers include the Hispanic and Latino Cultural Center, the LGBTQ+ Center, and the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center.

To further explore and understand indigenous cultures, Virginia Tech held its first powwow in early April. The powwow followed the first Native American Summit, which was hosted by Virginia Tech  to reinvigorate partnerships between the university and the commonwealth’s 11 recognized tribes.

InclusiveVT also led efforts to improve dialogue and understanding among the differences that comprise the Virginia Tech community by hosting a series of talks and workshops called #VTUnfinished. The effort began with workshops facilitated by Lee Mun Wah, a renowned filmmaker, author, community therapist, and master diversity trainer, in November 2016.

The #VTUnfinished conversations continued into the spring semester as part of Principles of Community week in March. The Division of Student Affairs, in conjunction with the Office for Inclusion and Diversity, hosted weekly talks called #civilityVT Let’s Talk to encourage civil discourse and active listening on a variety of different topics. The talks began in March 2017 and continued until the end of the spring semester in May.

Written by John Jackson

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