Message from the Chief Diversity Officer: Update on campus services and Accountability Team meetings

Monday, October 26, 2020

"This community is committed to inclusion now and in the future." — Rabbi Stephen Roberts, inaugural recipient of Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence in the Community Award, presented by Chancellor Sheri Everts in January 2020

As we continue our work to increase underrepresentation at Appalachian, we have reached important milestones for the fall semester:

  • 18% racially and ethnically underrepresented students.
  • 56% growth in underrepresented students since 2014.
  • 97% growth in first-year underrepresented students since 2014.
  • 41:59 male-to-female student ratio.
  • 34% first-generation college students.
  • 30% rural students.

While we have made tremendous strides in diversity and inclusion, particularly in the last six years, now is the time for us to take this work to the next level. Staff, faculty and students across campus are facilitating these efforts. Two recent examples:

  • The National Science Foundation ADVANCE program has awarded a nearly $1 million grant to Drs. Jennifer Burris, Andrew Bellemer, Brooke Hester, Claudia Cartaya-Marin and myself to implement the ADVANCE APPALACHIAN program, which is designed to help increase the representation and advancement of women and women from underrepresented populations in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). You can learn more here.
  • The Career Development Center is dedicated to assisting students from underrepresented groups as they consider how their career and professional paths relate to their diverse identities. To help with this process, the staff has aggregated various resources and links — ranging from lists of diversity-friendly and multicultural employers, to job and internship opportunities — for students of color, student veterans, students with diverse abilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The Career Development Center also has career coaches available to meet with individuals or with groups, and it actively seeks input and feedback from students about how its programming meets their needs. You can learn more here.

The UNC System continues to address issues of race and equity among its institutions. The UNC System Racial Equity Task Force — a special committee established by the UNC Board of Governors — developed a survey that received more than 16,000 submissions across the UNC System last month, and they are hosting a series of virtual town hall meetings for faculty, staff and students at UNC System institutions through Oct. 29. Registration links are available here.

Meetings with the BlackatAppState Collective continue. During two meetings in September, we discussed in detail each of the identified diversity and inclusion initiatives, which reflect the BlackAtAppState Collective’s list of demands as well as existing and additional university initiatives. Thank you to the members of the Collective for sharing your vision for how these changes will help shape our campus culture. During our most recent meeting on Oct. 8, we created a permanent steering committee to lead the review and reporting of work completed toward these initiatives. We identified nine individuals to sit on the committee — three representatives from the BlackAtAppState Collective, three black student-athletes and three App State leaders including myself, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs J.J. Brown and Interim Provost Heather Norris. We will meet monthly to review work completed by various campus units and then, on a monthly basis, we will present reports to the full Accountability Team for feedback.

I know what it is like to feel the call to create change. Through my tenure at Appalachian — as a student, an alumnus, a staff member and a faculty member — I was involved in founding the Black Student Association, Black Faculty and Staff Association and Appalachian Gospel Choir, and in bringing Black Greek life to our campus. In those days, I would not have guessed I would become the university’s executive-level diversity and inclusion strategist. I want to thank the leaders of these organizations, and other groups focused on helping marginalized populations, for continuing the important work done by those who came before all of us, and for fostering this progress and taking it to the next level on our campus. The support for this work is solid and substantial, from Chancellor Everts and her cabinet, and throughout the leadership levels at App State.

We are charting the course for future generations of Mountaineers, and I’m proud to work alongside all of you.

/s/ Willie C. Fleming

Willie Fleming
Chief Diversity Officer
Appalachian State University