Message from the Interim Chief Diversity Officer
Dear App State Community,
At App State, we value a learning environment that is conducive to knowledge, respect, acceptance, understanding and global awareness. While we look to build a future grounded in these principles, part of our work is acknowledging and honoring the contributions of those from the past.
March is Women’s History Month. History is full of phenomenal women who have worked tirelessly toward the path of access and equity. We have witnessed through time such trailblazers as our first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, to more recent “firsts” such as Kamala Harris, the first Black, South Asian and woman vice president, and of course Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state, who — we learned today — has died at the age of 84. It’s also important to recognize the complex life experiences and contributions of lesser-known figures such as Pauli Murray, who served behind the scenes as a leader in the civil rights movement, and Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who became the first Thai American and female amputee elected to Congress.
App State’s history of women leadership begins with Lillie Shull Dougherty, who in 1899 was one of the three co-founders of the Watauga Academy, the predecessor to the university. It extends to App State’s first female chancellor, Sheri Everts, who has presided over a 41% increase in the number of women senior academic and administrative officers since 2014.
Also, we are very fortunate to have the oldest women’s studies program in the UNC System. Women’s Studies was established in 1976 and was renamed as the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies program in 2015. This program is led by Dr. Sushmita Chatterjee, a 2021 Board of Governors School/College Excellence in Teaching Award Winner.
We are currently engaged in work to develop a deeper understanding of the past relationship between our institution, Indigenous peoples and the land on which App State is built. In addition to recognizing this history, we are also committed to continuing to develop the ways in which we support our Indigenous campus community. Last fall, Chancellor Everts charged a working group with developing recommendations for what land acknowledgement means for App State and with identifying ways in which we can commit to the success of Indigenous students, faculty and staff.
The members of the working group are:
- Dr. Lee Ball, Chief Sustainability Officer.
- Dr. J. Allen Bryant, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Director, Gadugi Partnership.
- Shauna Caldwell ’18, Assistant Director of Arts Education and Outreach.
- Rachel Clark, IT Consultant, Center for Academic Excellence.
- Dr. Leonardo Flores, Chair, Department of English.
- Dr. Dana Powell, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology.
- Denise Ringler, Director of Arts and Cultural Programs.
- Dr. Tammy Wahpeconiah, Professor (retired), Department of English.
- Dr. Alice Wright, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology.
This team has proposed a new learning community, called Indigenous Appalachian, as well as a workshop that will educate campus community members about land acknowledgement and the work that follows. The first workshop will be held tomorrow. We will share more information about the university’s Land Acknowledgement Statement soon.
Thank you to the App State Land Acknowledgement Working Group for your work — and to all of you who take the time this month and every month to recognize those who blazed the path before us.
Looking ahead to next month, I hope you will join us for the upcoming Diversity Celebration, scheduled April 5-7. This year’s celebration will center around storytelling. To learn more about the Diversity Celebration, visit the Diversity Celebration webpage.
Jamie Parson, J.D.