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Following up on Presidential Forum on Diversity and Inclusion

Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015

Dear VCU and VCU Health Communities,

Yesterday, we engaged in a productive discussion about diversity and inclusion at Virginia Commonwealth University, especially relating to the lives of black students. The room was filled beyond capacity, and many more followed live on Twitter (#VCUForum) or watched the webcast, which is archived here.

I am grateful for the many voices that shaped this discussion and reaffirmed our enduring dedication to these core values that build our community.  I am inspired to believe that, by working together, we can make VCU a model university for its genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion everywhere.

We must all work to ensure that everyone at VCU, from every background, can succeed. I am fully committed to using the resources of the presidency to advance this ideal, but this must be everyone’s responsibility.

While I recognize that we are, in many ways, a national exemplar for diversity and inclusion, it is also clear we have more work to do. Yesterday’s conversation must be followed by decisive and accountable action. Therefore:

  • By the end of the spring semester, we will publish a new diversity and inclusion action plan for VCU that will guide our continued efforts.  I will ask for your guidance in creating and vetting this plan.
  • We will strengthen our campus culture and climate, including hiring an ombudsperson for students and creating more safe spaces for lively engagement and difficult dialogue, and look at ways in which we may address issues of diversity more broadly in the academic curriculum.
  • We will expand cultural competency training, beginning with my cabinet, during the spring 2016 semester.
  • I will also work to strengthen the communications efforts around these and other initiatives that will promote diversity and inclusion throughout VCU.


While these are next steps, they are assuredly not final steps. Indeed, we recognize that we are never done. We must be fully committed that our beautiful diversity is not only an asset but a vital part of our university community. We must leverage our differences as ways to learn and grow, use sincere trust to build partnerships, and continue the unending work that will make us stronger.

Thank you for making those commitments, and for your many contributions to VCU.


Michael Rao, Ph.D.
President, VCU and VCU Health