As Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I work towards fostering belonging and inclusion at the institutional level. The mission of Carolina’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion is to create and sustain a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff and alumni, and we remain focused on our goal of cultivating that culture on our campus.
We are strengthening our diversity and inclusion efforts by investing in policies and infrastructure at our University that acknowledge our past while looking toward the future. In 2021, we inscribed two buildings on campus with the names of groundbreaking Tar Heels: Henry Owl, the first American Indian to enroll at Carolina, and Hortense McClinton, the first Black professor hired as faculty. Last year we completed the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza on campus, which honors the founders of the first historically Black sororities and fraternities at Carolina. In 2022, the campus and local community dedicated a memorial to James Lewis Cates Jr., a Chapel Hill native who died as a victim of racial violence in 1970. These structural changes resulted from listening to our campus and local community and reintroducing voices previously unheard in our University’s history.
Carolina students come from diverse backgrounds and bring unique and extraordinary perspectives to our campus, which broadens our collective understanding and enriches everyone’s experience. It’s our responsibility to ensure that our students are equipped with the support and resources they need to thrive at Carolina. One of those resources is the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services’ Multicultural Health Program, which serves the specific needs of Black, Indigenous and students of color. In the last year, we’ve hired an additional five counselors to serve the mental health needs of all of our students. As part of our continued commitment to providing students with a thriving educational environment, a skilled and diverse faculty is vital. Increasing our funding of the University’s VITAE Hiring Program by $1.8 million is one method of attracting a diverse mix of talented faculty members to tenure track or tenured appointments at Carolina. We have renewed our focus on inclusive recruitment methods and search committees to focus on diversity with each search, which gives us the opportunity to hire, attract and retain the talented employees we need to continue our legacy of excellence.
To promote respectful and impactful discourse in classrooms and on campus, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion provides training for faculty and staff using intergroup dialogue (IGD) facilitation methods. IGD is designed to facilitate difficult conversations about social issues, identity and difference.
Our work is key to creating a bright and promising future for all the lives touched by the University. As the flagship institution of the University of North Carolina System, we have a duty to serve all citizens of North Carolina. This year we are refreshing Project Uplift, a summer enrichment program designed to promote access to higher education for rising high school seniors, especially those underrepresented in postsecondary education. Every summer, more than 1,000 high school students learn about the college admissions process and interact with faculty, staff and students on Carolina’s campus. We will also launch a male empowerment program that will bolster the undergraduate recruitment and retention of underrepresented men on campus.
Our nation’s first public university deserves a culture in which all community members feel respected, valued and acknowledged with all the tools they need to thrive. Although our work is never complete, we will continue to strive to make that goal a reality for everyone on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.