Message from the Interim Chief Diversity Officer: Inclusion elevates all

Thursday, August 26, 2021

To all of our new Mountaineers, welcome to your first semester at App State, and to all of our returning Mountaineers, welcome back! At App State, we value the importance of fostering a living and learning environment that is conducive to knowledge, respect, acceptance, understanding and global awareness. Inclusion elevates all of us, and we all play a vital role in creating and sustaining this environment.

I also extend a special welcome to our newest classes of Diversity Scholars, Fleming Scholars and ACCESS Scholars — the university’s highest level scholarship opportunities specifically for underrepresented students — as well as one of our most diverse classes of Chancellor’s Scholars. If you meet these students, please take a moment to congratulate them on their successes. These are extremely competitive scholarship programs that require essays and interviews — which these students completed in the midst of a global pandemic. Thank you to the members of these scholarship search committees who dedicated their time and efforts — often after hours and on weekends — to help select these most deserving recipients.

Many of you may have seen in the news that last month a Texas federal court ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as unconstitutional. This ruling only impacts those in the Texas region, but it could have broader implications if the Supreme Court agrees.

App State is committed to supporting the success of all students and ensuring that anyone who dreams of earning a college degree has that opportunity at App State. Our hearts go out to those for whom this ruling has created new uncertainty and fear. We stand in solidarity with our DACA recipients, Dreamers, undocumented community members and all those with mixed-status families. App State will keep a close eye on this issue and provide updates, accordingly. This uncertainty may lead many in our community to have questions and there are campus resources available:

As we begin our fall semester, I want to share some of the work we did this summer and some resources available to help connect you with on-campus communities focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

  • During Welcome Week, more than 400 student organizations and numerous community partners came together for the Club Expo. This was a great way for students to learn the various ways they can get involved. There are many student groups dedicated to supporting underrepresented populations. If you are interested in getting more engaged with these groups, I encourage you to visit Intercultural Student Affairs and to also bookmark the university’s Engage website to see additional upcoming events.
  • The Center for Academic Excellence’s Inclusive Excellence Team convened several working groups this summer, one of which created on-demand online resources for faculty.
  • This semester, my office is partnering with the Center for Academic Excellence to facilitate an Inclusive Excellence Lunch and Learn series for department chairs called Equity-Centered Leadership. Learn more about this series and register for sessions in September, November and December.
  • Appalachian Advocates — a partnership between my office and the Walker College of Business — is a professional development group open to all faculty and staff. The group was created to equip, expand and make visible the network of support available to underrepresented faculty, staff and students. Visit the Appalachian Advocates website for more information on how to become a member of this valuable resource on campus.
  • Affinity groups are a great way for underrepresented faculty and staff to start networking and building relationships on campus. I was fortunate to connect with the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) shortly after my arrival at App State — they gave me my first “A” pin and an App State coffee mug that still sits in my office. Being a part of BFSA gave me a community of people to talk to about resources I needed and challenges I faced as a person of color in Boone. It also gave me a place to celebrate accomplishments and life events. The university’s active affinity groups are listed below:

A working group is currently discussing the need for, and assessing interest in, an affinity group for Faculty and Staff of Color. Please help them by completing this survey.

I look forward to seeing all that we can accomplish together this academic year!

/s/ Jamie Parson, J.D.

Jamie Parson, J.D.