Message from the Chief Diversity Officer: Diversity Plan updates and campus announcements

Thursday, February 11, 2021

As I consider our ongoing work on App State’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, I recall some words of wisdom the late Cicely Tyson, a pioneering woman in the Black community, shared from her mother: “You come here to go there.” For me, this speaks to the great responsibility we have as a university to “come here” to “go there” regarding our work toward inclusive excellence and the necessity of having a unified effort to create and foster communities of excellence and inclusivity. We must ask ourselves the very question that quote provokes: Where do we go from here to foster greater inclusivity on our campus and beyond?

As one next step, I encourage all members of the Appalachian Community to attend and share your insights at our upcoming charrette listening sessions, during which moderators will facilitate discussions about the goals of the Comprehensive Strategic Diversity Plan. Since spring 2018, App State has engaged in efforts to complete a universitywide diversity plan — a fluid, living document that will guide us as we continue to navigate our way forward toward greater diversity and inclusion. We are at an important juncture as we prepare to implement our diversity plan and although the plan has been vetted by focus groups across campus, we want and need to hear feedback from the broader campus community — our faculty, staff and students. We’ve seen significant registrations from staff, and we need just as robust a response from students and faculty as well, so please register using the links below. Your feedback is critical to ensuring this plan equitably represents the needs of our entire university.

These listening sessions are particularly meaningful since they are being held during Black History Month in North Carolina, as declared by Gov. Roy Cooper. While there is much work to be done, our progress is evident across campus. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Our Diversity and Inclusion Accountability Team, established last summer by Chancellor Sheri Everts, continues to ensure our initiatives remain a priority. Thank you to the Chancellor and her cabinet, as well as our steering committee, which includes the Provost, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and members of the BlackAtAppState Collective, for your leadership.
  • Alumnus Steve Wilks, a former NFL head coach, and his wife gave a gift to App State Athletics’ Keep Climbing initiative that includes establishing the Steve and Marcia Wilks Post-Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship.
  • App State continued its commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by co-hosting An Evening with Michael Eric Dyson, a highly regarded thinker, writer, orator, cultural critic and media commentator.

During the recent UNC System Board of Governors Meeting, the Racial Equity Task Force presented its final report, which has six recommendations that are, as the report states, “essential to advancing the goal of achieving racial equity for the UNC System.” The UNC System Diversity and Inclusion Council worked tirelessly with the Racial and Equity Task Force to refine and present the recommendations. Dr. David Green, a law professor at North Carolina Central University, said during the presentation, “We cannot allow people to lose faith in the process.” This is a serious appeal to each UNC System institution and, as we internalize his words at App State, we remain committed to being transparent and ethical in our work so our campus community can trust that the process is carried out — respectful of the dignity and humanity of all.

/s/ Willie C. Fleming

Dr. Willie Fleming