Message from the Chief Diversity Officer: Updates from the Accountability Team

Saturday, August 29, 2020

As we begin a new academic year, we have much to look forward to in regard to diversity and inclusion work on our campus.

I want to offer a special welcome to the 2020–21 class of Fleming Scholars! These students will work to promote cultural diversity on campus, as they were involved in diversity, equity and inclusion work during their high school tenure, and their academic accomplishments are commendable. I look forward to being a part of their university journey and to sharing their individual stories. Financial assistance, like this scholarship, is critically important for many of our students. Under the leadership of Chancellor Everts, gift aid for underrepresented students has nearly doubled since 2014 and now stands at more than $18 million, as of the 2019–20 academic year.

As our nation continues to struggle with and respond to racial injustices, we look to what we as an institution of higher education — and a predominantly white institution — can do to make positive differences on our campus and beyond. For instance, last week, in lieu of practice, members of Appalachian’s football team requested to engage in an extensive team conversation about racial and social injustice, which included sharing their own personal experiences. Faculty and staff across the university are also working hard to elevate inclusive excellence. For instance, Cara Hagan, an associate professor of dance, was appointed the Dean’s Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and her first initiative is to establish an Institute for Creative Justice. One of the institute’s first projects will be to conduct a college-specific, qualitative inclusion study, which will help inform inclusive, discipline-specific solutions.

The Diversity and Inclusion Accountability Team has continued to work on our initiatives, detailed here. Over the last month, members of the Chancellor’s Cabinet have met with members of the BlackAtAppState Collective, and we have all spent time reflecting on the first meeting of the Accountability Team on July 21. In advance of the Accountability Team's next meeting, members of the BlackAtAppState Collective will meet with a small group of Chancellor's Cabinet and Student Affairs representatives to set mutual expectations for the meeting, determine the items to be addressed and discuss in more detail the initiatives shared by the collective.

A small group of Chancellor’s Cabinet members met on Aug. 14 to review our progress and solidify our next steps. It is our responsibility, as Chancellor’s Cabinet members, to fulfill our promises and to report on our progress to the broader campus community. Our commitment is evidenced in the current work of many cabinet members and their respective units. For example, Interim Provost Heather Norris shared that she held a daylong retreat for the Deans Council on Aug. 6 to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, including leading a working group to discuss the initiatives assigned to each area of Academic Affairs.

Thank you to the Appalachian Community for your commitment to inclusive excellence on our campus. It takes all of us.

/s/ Willie C. Fleming

Willie Fleming
Chief Diversity Officer
Appalachian State University