Capacity crowd attends diversity and inclusion town hall session

Additional listening sessions will focus on diversity, inclusion and faculty of color

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Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao, Ph.D., discussed diversity and inclusion during Monday’s town hall session, which brought out more than 150 faculty, staff and students.

Rao shared his vision for enhancing inclusive excellence and diversity at VCU and outlined a comprehensive institutional strategic initiative for advancing inclusive recruitment, retention and professional development.

“When you choose to be a part of VCU, you accept a commitment to be a leader in diversity,” Rao said. “It has to be in your heart. It has to be in the commitment you make.”

The hour-long session, which was also sponsored by the Division for Inclusive Excellence, included questions from the audience.

The president’s town hall session also featured questions from the audience.
The president’s town hall session also featured questions from the audience.

Topics included increasing minority faculty, attracting and retaining more minority graduate students, increasing development opportunities for term faculty and boosting leadership opportunities for minority staff. Other topics raised during the session included the role students could play in enhancing diversity and whether the university could make the LGBTQ community more visible in admissions materials.

Rao recently challenged vice presidents to develop a strategic plan to enhance inclusive recruitment, retention, professional development and climate initiatives. He also charged a task force to address the decline in under-represented undergraduate students from Central Virginia who are enrolling and graduating from VCU and announced in January that VCU will drop the SAT requirement for applicants with a high school GPA of 3.3 or higher.

“Commitment and actions to advance diversity require courage, leadership and openness to being deliberate, intentional and accountable to moving the needle and advancing the climate and compositional diversity,” said Wanda Mitchell, Ed.D., vice president for inclusive excellence. “In order to have the level of diversity we truly want at VCU, we need to recognize the areas that need the most improvement and then work toward resolving them.”

A pair of upcoming “listening sessions” will allow the university community to further the conversation. On Thursday, March 19, from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m., a session titled “Faculty of Color” will be held, and on Monday, March 23, from noon until 1:30 p.m., a session titled “Diversity and Inclusion at VCU” will be held. Both sessions take place in the Forum Room at the University Student Commons.


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