Menah Pratt-Clarke, Virginia Tech’s vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, received national recognition when the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) named her the winner of its 2021 NADOHE Individual Leadership Award.

The Individual Leadership Award goes to a NADOHE member for outstanding contributions in research, administration, practice, advocacy and/or policy, and also for work that informs and advances the understanding of diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education. Pratt-Clarke received the award at the organization’s annual conference held virtually this year from March 9-12.

“I would like to thank NADOHE for this honor,” Pratt-Clarke said. “I am deeply appreciative to [Virginia Tech] President [Tim] Sands, the Virginia Tech community, and my team in the Office for Inclusion and Diversity for the collective and collaborative support of InclusiveVT – our institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. Ut Prosim is such a powerful guide for our shared responsibility to make the InclusiveVT difference and create a more just and inclusive world, starting at Virginia Tech.”

“Dr. Pratt-Clarke certainly exemplifies all the criteria for the award,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “Her innovative and visionary leadership and scholarship are helping to inform the national conversation on issues of diversity and inclusion. Her professional history and track record of accomplishment reflect an unwavering commitment to excellence.”

Pratt-Clarke, who joined Virginia Tech in 2016, has nearly three decades of experience in higher education. Under her leadership, Virginia Tech received recognition by Insight for Diversity, which named the school as a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award Diversity Champion for visionary leadership. The award recognizes successful strategies that serve as models of excellence for other higher education institutions.

Some of her accomplishments include overseeing the founding of new cultural and community centers, including the LGBTQ Resource Center, the Native American and Indigenous Community Center, El Centro, and the Asian Cultural Engagement Center; overseeing a new requirement for all entering students to complete a pre-enrollment diversity course that introduces students to basic diversity and inclusion concepts; and leading a new “Target of Talent” program as a campus incentive to support faculty diversity.

In addition, Pratt-Clarke envisioned and implemented a new summer experience program — the Black College Institute — to identify 450 academically curious, high-achieving students and expose them to opportunities at Virginia Tech. This program helped to double the percentage of Black students in the entering class of 2020.

“The NADOHE Individual Leadership Award was presented to Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke as a result of efforts throughout her career that have advanced equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education,” NADOHE President Paulette Granberry Russell said. “Dr. Pratt-Clarke is a recognized leader among her peers across the country, who regard her as an exemplary and a scholar practitioner whose contributions through advocacy, research, practice, and collaboration support change within her own institution, and promote inclusive excellence more broadly. She is clearly deserving of this recognition.”

Pratt-Clarke’s impact extends beyond Blacksburg, as she continues to make significant contributions to the understanding of the issues of diversity and inclusion through her research and scholarship. She has authored four books, and her book “A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America” won the 2018 American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award for scholarship deemed to be outstanding in its field.

Along with her duties as the vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, Pratt-Clarke holds a faculty appointment as a professor in the School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. She came to Blacksburg after spending a decade at the University of Illinois, where she was the associate chancellor for strategic affairs and the associate provost for diversity.

— Written by Jimmy Robertson