In this month’s edition of the Open Dore newsletter, William H. Robinson, Interim Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives, reminds us to keep moving forward towards Vanderbilt’s mission of making all members of our community feel included. The initiatives that he outlines below are critical components that contribute to our overall strategy and success at Vanderbilt. As you read Vice Provost Robinson’s piece, I hope you feel inspired and energized to contribute to our momentum, as we focus on our culture of respect and caring.
Susan R. Wente
Interim Chancellor and Provost
William Robinson on Fostering a Culture of Inclusion at Vanderbilt
As an enthusiast for animated films, as an engineer and as someone with the last name of Robinson, I have an affinity for the movie, “Meet the Robinsons.” The key lesson learned by the main character, Lewis, is that he should “keep moving forward,” which is an excerpt from a longer quote by Walt Disney.
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious … and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
Since joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 2003, I’ve witnessed a great deal of progress in creating a culture of inclusion and care on our campus, where individuals are supported and can develop a strong sense of belonging. However, there are always new doors to open and new approaches to try that will help us to ensure all in our community share that sense of inclusion and that we can sustain our culture for the long-term.
From my experiences of serving on the Chancellor’s Committee for Diversity, Inclusion and Community, serving as chair of the Faculty Senate Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and from my collaboration with Peabody College faculty member Ebony McGee to broaden the participation in engineering disciplines among historically underrepresented groups, I have a vision for how to keep moving forward to foster a culture of inclusion at Vanderbilt.
Earlier this year, I joined the leadership team of the Provost’s Office. In my new role as interim vice provost for strategic initiatives, I have the responsibility to lead the Office for Inclusive Excellence. Our office serves the Vanderbilt community with a strategic emphasis to promote academic success, professional and cultural education and inclusivity and belonging among our students, faculty and postdoctoral fellows. We have a strong team that is ready to meet the challenge to create programming and structure that builds a sustainable legacy in support of the university’s values.
We have begun some of that programming in collaboration with the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to implement new educational opportunities for Vanderbilt community members to engage meaningfully with the issue of unconscious bias. We recently held a full-day workshop for Vanderbilt’s senior leadership team, and in October 2019, we will have a Train-the-Trainer program with individuals and leaders from across campus as the next step in a strategic effort to provide cultural education to our Vanderbilt community.
We have also taken action to improve the structural support for inclusion at Vanderbilt. The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, K.C. Potter Center (LGBTQI Life) and Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life were recently moved under the umbrella of the Office for Inclusive Excellence to elevate their mission and expand their impact across campus. These centers and offices have historically served our Vanderbilt community broadly, and I envision even stronger collaboration among the groups in the future. Also, I look forward to partnering with Dr. André L. Churchwell, interim vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, as we co-chair the Interim Chancellor’s Diversity Council, whose work will be informed and guided by the 2018-19 Chancellor’s Diversity Report.
Even with the programming and structure, we still need the individual effort from members of our community. During the Chancellor’s Lecture Series, Terry Crews recently reminded us that we each have our own story, and we can use that story to embrace a culture of caring. When we share our personal story and actively listen to others, it provides a powerful opportunity to connect in meaningful ways. Therefore, let us be individually and collectively responsible for demonstrating inclusive excellence at Vanderbilt. That approach makes equity, diversity and inclusion an integral part of our Vanderbilt culture. Let’s keep moving forward.
William H. Robinson
Interim Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives
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