Dr. Rao Presidential Forum

Last academic year was an important time for VCU in advancing its conversations and work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. There is considerable work underway across the university to support our building the inclusive, open and welcoming community to which we aspire. Among highlights from 2015-16 are: 

Our commitment and priority

  • VCU engaged in a series of intentional and focused conversations on issues of diversity and inclusion, including the Presidential Forum and a series of ‘cafe’ discussions with faculty, staff and students
  • Campus community engagement is being used to inform the university’s ongoing work as well as the development of VCU’s new Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, which will be completed by the end of 2016
  • Community engagement and cultural vitality were among only a handful of key priorities in the Quest for Distinction Strategic Plan updated in July 2016

New resources across units, across campus

  • Units across the university enhanced efforts to strengthen recruitment and retention of a talented and diverse faculty and our capacity to support classroom discussions relevant to issues of diversity and inclusion. These activities included:
    • Made available on-line training resources from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (See Link on Provost’s Professional learning and development resources page)
    • Provided Title IX, Unconscious Bias, Crucial Conversation and Conflict Management workshops for department chairs and other university leaders
    • Continued implementation of the Recruitment Inclusive Champions (RIC) program, a nine-month, educational program focused on diverse recruitment efforts among the faculty. Health Sciences Human Resources has also initiated a RIC for HS.
    • Provided the Institute on Inclusive Teaching, a week-long institute providing faculty “opportunities, strategies and techniques for addressing the inclusiveness of their courses, curricula, programs and service.”
    • Established ‘Crossroads,’ i.e., small group faculty discussions to engage around issues in diversity and inclusive teaching in health sciences.
    • Cosponsored the second annual symposium on Diversity and Inclusion in hiring and professional development with the Greater Richmond Society of Human Resource Management
    • Enhanced diversity and inclusion education in Human Resources sessions and exercises for new faculty, staff, new department chairs and VCU Health System House Staff orientations

Student-focused initiatives

  • Initiatives to further promote, support and enhance student experiences include:
    • Offering UNIV 291: Learning in Safe Space, a for-credit seminar on issues of inclusion and diversity
    • William King, University Ombudsperson, has expanded his role to serve students by offering mediation and conflict resolution services.
    • Pursued and received two Department of Education grants to support student success:
      • The Student Support Services grant will support more than 200 first generation students and students with financial need to successfully complete college (Division for Health Sciences and Division for Strategic Enrollment Management).
      • The Education Opportunity Grant (Division for Health Sciences) will assist adults to return to college to enhance workforce skills training.
    • Opened Lavender House and Mosaic living learning communities in Fall 2016
    • The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) continues a robust set of programming and discussions, including their Courageous conversations, a monthly forum offering structured discussions on race, ethnicity and diversity.
    • Implemented the Student Council for Inclusive Excellence (SCIE) Ambassador Program, including the creation of the SCIE Ambassador Strategic Brief to enhance diversity, and the creation of the SCIE Ambassador website
    • Conducted the HumanCare Co-curricular program for health sciences students and pre-health students to educate them on how microaggressions, socio-economic issues, gender identity, and religious beliefs might affect patients’ health.

Policies to support our values

  • Strengthening our institutional policy and capacity to become more inclusive and to respond to and prevent issues of non-equity and non-compliance:
    • VCU’s Equity and Access Services (EAS) evaluated approximately 400 reported concerns regarding Title IX and other issues of discrimination
    • Developed the university’s 1st ADA policy (Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities Policy)
    • EAS developed Title IX training materials and resource cards and distributed 13,000 responsible employee cards. In addition, EAS provided 25 in-person Title IX policy sessions to a range of employee and student groups
    • VCU implemented its Sexual Misconduct/Violence and Sex/Gender Discrimination Policy (“Title IX Policy”) and launched required online Title IX training for faculty and staff
    • Developed This Restroom is For Everyone project with Facilities Management, Inclusive Excellence and Equality VCU
    • Formed the Transgender Inclusion Administrative Work Group (TIAGW).  TIAWG has:
      • Developed a process through Title IX for students to identify gender and name of use, including assistance to facilitate updating certain university records
      • Collaborated with intramural and recreation sports regarding guidelines for participation and developed plans to provide additional privacy in locker room and changing facilities

Visiting Speakers and Experts

  • Units across campus also invited a range of guest speakers and panels including:
    • Dr. Cornell West, professor philosophy and Christian practice, Union Theological Seminary
    • Dr. Fred Bonner, Professor and Endowed Chair in Educational Leadership and Counseling at Prairie View A&M University and author of Building on Resilience: Models and Frameworks of Black Male Success Across the P-20 Pipeline
    • Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter
    • Jennifer Manion, Ph.D., director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, Connecticut College
    • Dr. Velma Skantlebury, nation’s first black female transplant surgeon
    • The inaugural Black Lives Matter Symposium at VCU featuring activist, filmmaker and writer Bree Newsome, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham, Richmond Peace Education Center’s Adria Scharf, student Angelique Scott and professor Shawn Utsey
    • BLACK QUEER IMAGININGS: A Dialogue on Masculinities, Movements & Mattering including panelists Kimberly N. Brown, Ph.D., VCU; Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr., Ph.D., Washington University; Activist and Scholar Darnell L. Moore, M.A., Columbia University, and Ravi K. Perry, Ph.D.
    • Dr. Joshua Aronson, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology at NYU, presented on Stereotype Threat

Diversity and Inclusion Priorities, Plans and Highlights for 2016-17

  • The Council for Inclusive Excellence and Equity has completed the first draft of VCU’s new Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. The plan will undergo review by key stakeholder groups as well as the broader university community during fall 2016
  • Findings from the University Climate Survey (conducted Spring 2016) will be presented this fall semester and will be used to inform our review of strategic priorities
  • Recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the founding of VCU’s first Gay student group, including the visit of Billie Jean King on October 26th
  • I-Cubed (the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation) has identified 5 core areas for transdisciplinary collaborations addressing challenges that impact urban areas. The university will launch searches for up to 18 faculty across these transdisciplinary clusters or ‘cores.’
  • Implementing the Building Inclusive Communities (BIC) program, a  train the trainer model building our internal capacity to offer cultural competence education for members of the VCU community
  • Planning for VCU’s Black History Month Celebration is well underway, including the visit of Marc Lamont Hill, distinguished professor of African American Studies at Morehouse
  • Academic Affairs is creating a university-wide faculty mentoring support program, building partnerships and networks with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to support faculty recruitment, and developing on-line search committee training which will be mandatory by fall 2017
  • EAS is developing a centralized approach to campus accessibility aligned with university master planning, with an ADA Master Plan RFP to be released later this year
  • The Division for Inclusive Excellence is working to support the coordination of information and services across a range of VCU units offering programs, education and other services relevant to diversity, inclusion, equity and access. Please access our expanded calendar.