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Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at οƵ 2019–20 Report

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at οƵ

2019–20 Report


To the οƵ community,

Now more than ever, οƵ is uniquely positioned to address society's most pressing challenges. This is due to our world-class research, our collaborative culture—and perhaps most important—our mission to provide an empowering education that enriches lives. Positive change is most palpable when we expand our ways of thinking, open our minds to new perspectives, resist simplicity and experience belonging in new ways. This can only happen when people from diverse backgrounds come together, and when everyone is positioned for success.

The stories and achievements in this report reflect οƵ's commitment to these values, all of which are fueled and made stronger by diversity and inclusion. The accomplishments detailed herein, some launched in 2019–20 and some continuing successfully from past years, are sources of pride for our community, but they are also a reminder that there is always—and by necessity—more progress to be made. As a university committed to bettering our society, we must always ask ourselves: How can we do more? How can we drive tangible and lasting change?

These questions resonate now more than ever, at the end of a year that has brought profound challenges—from acts of violence and injustice to the particular obstacles and inequities brought to light by COVID-19. This report illustrates our resilience throughout these difficult times. It shows our capacity for thoughtful action, compassionate dialogue and determination. And, in so doing, it inspires us to continue to address challenges head-on, and to always strive to do better.

As with any major endeavor, we can only foster meaningful diversity and inclusion together—as one community, One οƵ. We urge everyone to join us in acknowledging what we have achieved and continuing to make active and enduring change. We are optimistic for our future, and committed to the dialogues, the collaboration, and the hard work that will continue to drive us forward.

οƵ must be the institution guided by its natural proclivity to wed education to inspiration, as a means to challenge young diverse minds in a social and morally purposeful manner to address society's greatest challenges.


VU Chancellor Daniel Diemier

Daniel Diermeier

Susan Wente

Susan R. Wente
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Andre Churchwell

André L. Churchwell
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and Chief Diversity Officer


Cultivating Inclusion and Empowerment
οƵ's collegial culture is at the heart of everything we do: from establishing new committees and task forces devoted to furthering equity, diversity and inclusion, to hosting events such as the Chancellor's Lecture Series that bring new perspectives to our community, to commemorating historical milestones that spotlight our nearly 150 years of history. Together, these priorities—as evidenced by further examples from the past year, below—reinforce the unique climate of our present moment, and the values that will continue to set οƵ apart for years to come.

Celebrating History and Progress

  • 2019–20 marked significant milestones for longstanding programs, including the and .
(L to R) Frank Dobson, associate dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons; Raymond Winbush, first director of the Black Cultural Center; and Rosevelt Noble, assistant dean of residential colleges and director of the Black Cultural Center. (John Russell/οƵ)


students actively impacted by the οƵ Posse Scholars program since its founding

  • οƵ commemorated the to the U.S. Constitution granting American women the right to vote through collaborative events with the Nashville Public Library, participation in the "I Ring the Bell" campaign, , and many other events.
  • As part of the 2019 Reunion festivities, the Office of the Chancellor unveiled the , which recognized selfless pioneers within and beyond the οƵ community: Kate Lupton, Dorothy Phillips, K.C. Potter, David Williams II, and Muhammad Yunus.
"These οƵ Trailblazers shaped the roadmap through which we can all continue to explore, seek improvements and drive positive change in the world. Through their courage and conviction, they opened doors for others to follow, and, in doing so, they made us a stronger and better university." — Susan R. Wente, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and then-Interim Chancellor, during October 2019 unveiling of 2019 οƵ Trailblazers portraits

Kate Lupton

Kate Lupton

David Williams II

David Williams II

K.C. Potter

K.C. Potter

Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips

Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus

  • As part of the 2020 MLK Commemorative Series, οƵ community members retraced moments of local civil rights history with original .
  • Student-athletes, faculty, staff, coaches and community members—including Nashville mayor and οƵ alumnus John Cooper, MBA'85, and public officials—gathered in February 2020 for the , a street near Memorial Gymnasium that was named in honor of Perry Wallace, BE'70, the first Black varsity basketball player at οƵ and in the SEC.
  • , a baseball game in partnership with the University of Michigan and the Negro League Baseball Museum. οƵ also paid tribute to David Williams II, the first African American athletics director in the Southeastern Conference, by in fall 2019.
  • οƵ celebrated the , a prominent new gathering space in the redesigned West End Neighborhood for the historically African American fraternities and sororities at οƵ, in October 2019.


diversity-related stories published through MYVU in partnership with the Division of Communications, in the 2019–20 academic year, highlighting οƵ's initiatives, research and community efforts to foster a more inclusive and welcoming community

New Conversations and Perspectives

  • οƵ's in January was one of the most highly attended to date. The four-day series of events featured keynote speakers Janelle Monáe and Yusef Salaam, in addition to a series of interactive "teach-ins," a community-wide Joint Day of Service, spearheaded by the Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS), and other inclusive events.


students from οƵ and neighboring institutions brought together to engage in service to the Nashville community for the 2020 Joint Day of Service

οƵ Divinity School Dean Emilie Townes in conversation with Yusef Salaam and Janelle Monáe during the 2020 MLK Commemorative Series keynote, an event in partnership with the Chancellor's Lecture Series. (John Russell/οƵ)
"As [Martin Luther King, Jr.] recognized, only love can defeat hate and only light can conquer and erase darkness. We should never demonize a race or people or person, but seek to understand them." — Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion André L. Churchwell, during kickoff of 2020 MLK Commemorative Series
  • The 2019–20 Chancellor's Lecture Series, hosted by then-Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente, focused on the theme of "Culture of Respect, Culture of Caring." Distinguished speakers included author , actors and activists and , and former U.S. ambassadors , among others. Starting in 2019, the Faculty Senate also hosted community discussions following the lectures, to further explore the scholarship and take-aways from each speaker's conversation.
  • All three of the Ingram Commons Lecture Series—the Lawson, Crawford and Murray Lectures—featured special guests discussing equity, diversity and inclusion. Speakers included , author of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity, the 2019–20 Commons Reading; , human rights defender, international journalist and author of Battling Injustice: 16 Women Nobel Peace Laureates; and , assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. Both Vani and Jack received to stay for up to a week at οƵ's residential colleges, enabling them to discuss their work and interact regularly with students.

Terry Crews

George Takei

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. André L. Churchwell and Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Capital and Business Services Laura Nairon hosted a series of for οƵ University staff throughout the 2019–20 academic year. The listening sessions provided opportunities for staff to discuss their experiences on campus, the culture of working at οƵ, and ways to create a more equitable and inclusive working environment at the university.
  • As part of the Dean's Diversity Lecture Series, Peabody College welcomed a range of distinguished guests, from to . The Dean's Diversity Lecture Series is one example of bold conversations taking place in οƵ schools and colleges. The Divinity School, School of Nursing, Law School, School of Medicine and others each host lectures related to diversity and inclusion.

Na'ilah Suad Nasir

Robert Bullard

Bettina Love

Arun Gandhi

  • The conference titled "Medical Apartheid Revisited: Pandemic, Politics and Priorities." The conference focused on inequities surrounding COVID-19 and featured a keynote address by award-winning medical writer Harriet Washington.
  • University leaders hosted a to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless lives lost due to racial injustice. The livestreamed June 2020 event garnered hundreds of virtual participants across the οƵ community.
  • Also in June, Vice Chancellor André L. Churchwell organized a webinar for chief diversity officers from across the Southeastern Conference. Titled the conversation looked at present-day inequalities as they pertain to public health, community challenges and other themes.


attendees at the COVID-19 webinar for chief diversity officers in the SEC, hosted by Vice Chancellor Churchwell


Creating Platforms and Collaborations to Support Diversity at οƵ

From cross-disciplinary research projects and university partnerships, to investing in the nation's best financial aid program, to outreach to our broader community, οƵ is dedicated to creating programs and initiatives that reinforce our values of equality, compassion and innovation. Below are highlights of the new and ongoing work being done across campus to support diversity at οƵ.

College and School Programs

  • The College of Arts and Science's is a national model of how a research university can partner with historically Black institutions to create a unique pipeline to address academic and career path needs for underrepresented groups. The program is a nationally recognized leader in developing top talent among underrepresented groups in STEM, providing numerous support services and resources for students as they consider a career in academia or the workforce.
The Fisk-οƵ Master's-to-PhD Bridge Program, launched in 2004, focuses on increasing the number of underrepresented groups earning Ph.D.'s in astronomy, biology, chemistry, materials science and physics. After 16 years, 145 students have enrolled in the program, 107 master's degrees have been awarded, 101 students have bridged to Ph.D. programs, and 36 students have earned the Ph.D., 28 of those from οƵ.
  • Through the Global Oral History Project at οƵ University Blair School of Music, students create oral histories of local musicians from Nashville's diverse musical communities, which are stored in the Wilson Library Global Music Archive.
  • οƵ Law School recently announced a 1Levate Leadership Program for first-generation, underrepresented and nontraditional students, which is the first leadership program of its kind in the country, supporting these students in a cohort. The group will receive special mentorship from local attorneys and current students, access to roundtables with high-profile figures, and training to become leaders.
  • The Owen Graduate School of Management's focuses on initiatives and programming to alleviate poverty through market-driven forces. Many of these initiatives are community-based efforts to engage students with diverse community organizations. Projects are also facilitated by 100% Owen, a student service club. That work was expanded in 2019 when the Center for Social Ventures launched a Board Fellows program that places Owen students on the boards of local nonprofit organizations for a year.
  • To instill sensitivities that are essential to culturally competent health care, the School of Nursing requires all faculty and students to participate in the Community Action Poverty Simulation. The simulation enables participants to "walk a mile in the shoes" of those facing poverty and consider the challenges that millions of low-income individuals must face and then discuss the potential for change within their local community.

Women's Initiative

  • With the launch of Women's Advancement and Equity (WAVE) councils (one led by faculty, students and postdoctoral scholars and one led by staff) in 2018, the university reinforced its commitment to continue supporting women at οƵ. In the 2019–20 academic year, the councils conducted surveys, town halls and listening sessions to gather input from the community that will inform the development of innovative solutions and practices to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to succeed, no matter what gender they identify with.

Provost's WAVE Council – Women's Advancement and Equity

  • Steering Committee Chair (2019–20)
    • Cindy Kam, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science, College of Arts and Science
  • Staff WAVE Council - Co-Chairs (2019–20)
    • Cara Tuttle Bell, Project Safe Center
    • Shunta Curry, Office of the Chancellor
    • Jenny Mandeville, Division of Communications
  • οƵ University joined with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine as . Through the Action Collaborative, οƵ is partnering with 42 higher education institutions and research and training organizations to address and prevent all forms of sexual harassment in higher education. οƵ was one of 28 founding members to join the Action Collaborative at the beginning of 2019, and an additional 15 organizations have since become members.
  • οƵ Delegates to the Action Collaborative
    • , Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of Graduate Studies in Biological Sciences
    • , Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Director of Graduate Studies in Cell and Developmental Biology

Financial Inclusion

  • The Opportunity οƵ financial aid program, which replaces need-based loans with grants and scholarships, has distributed more than $1.2 billion in undergraduate aid and supported more than 12,500 students since its inception, playing a vital role in attracting talented students from many geographic locations and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • During the 2019–20 academic year:


of οƵ undergraduates received some form of financial aid


is an average financial aid package, in the 2020–21 academic year.

  • , a student-led, university-supported initiative that provides undergraduate students who qualify for need-based financial aid with funding for extracurricular activities that have fees, awarded $360,000 in the 2019–20 academic year. Since its launch in 2016, the program has awarded $960,000 to undergraduate students. Experience οƵ helps address the monetary constraints associated with participating in extracurriculars and improves financial inclusion and community, one experience at a time.

Supporting Our Diverse Community


diversity-related student organizations out of 600+ organizations

  • The Office of Student Care Coordination has led a number of trainings and presentations aimed at caring for students who feel marginalized. These include "Students in Distress" training for Next Steps program staff and volunteers and "Black Minds Matter" trainings about mental health concerns of Black students, among others. The office also has focused recent hiring efforts on recruiting individuals with experience serving underrepresented communities.
  • The University Counseling Center launched "Melanin Matters @ VU," a workshop series to support Black students by engaging in conversations around imposter syndrome, internalized racism, Black excellence, social justice and self-care, as well as "Navigating Distress as a VU International Student" and weekly "Power Talks: Being an Anti-Racist Ally" workshops.
  • The through the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence offered a series of workshops in spring 2020 focusing on deaf awareness and autism. An InclusAbility Advisory Committee is now being established.
  • οƵ identity centers, part of the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence, hosted numerous programs and events over the past year to engage and support their communities.
  • The Career Center collaborated with numerous diversity-related offices, employers and student organizations, as well as compiled extensive Identity Group Resources, to ensure that underrepresented students had significant tools for success as they transitioned to the workplace. Diversity-related internships are listed in the DoreWays database by organizations like . Career Center staff also met with 29 student organizations to discuss how best to serve underrepresented students.
  • During its , the Career Center held diversity conversations with employers, hosted a new luncheon event called "Career Conversations: Inclusivity in the Workplace," and implemented sensory-sensitive hours for neurodiverse individuals.
  • Student leaders from across the university were recruited to serve as International Orientation Leaders, Transfer Student Leaders and student VUceptors. Recruitment efforts in 2019–20 yielded a diverse group of leaders. Within the VUceptor cohort alone, 52% identified with one or more minority groups. Additionally, all orientation leaders received cultural competency training and cultural humility training prior to the start of classes.
  • A program manager for the residential colleges was hired in fall 2019 to focus specifically on supporting first-year and transfer international students throughout their transition to οƵ.
  • Staff in the Office of Immersion Resources participated in numerous training sessions to enhance skills to better support their students, including Disrupting Everyday Bias training; joined the Campus Connection program to help ensure equitable service and outreach are provided to all students; and took the online course through Coursera.
  • The Career Center, Office of Immersion Resources, and Global Education Office held office hours at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center and the Office of LGBTQI Life throughout the year, and made special presentations to support our students from nondominant identity groups in collaboration with the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity.
  • The οƵ Health Professions Advisory Office (HPAO) has developed a very individualized approach to mentoring students, which includes a two-hour meeting for each student preparing to go through the process of applying to health professions schools. HPAO also offers interview workshops, mock interviews and a peer-mentoring program for students to prepare for the interview process. A new workshop was developed to help students prepare for virtual interviews used by most medical schools during 2020.
  • Changes to the structure of the Health Professions Advisory Office have significantly impacted the overall outcomes for οƵ students applying to allopathic medical schools, such as an 80% acceptance rate for all allopathic medical schools and an increase of 28% acceptance in underrepresented minority students and those from low socioeconomic status families. In AY 2020, 82% of applicants identified as racial or ethnic minorities.
  • The Global Education Office (GEO) investigated and adopted new practices to successfully recruit more diverse candidates, both for full-time staff positions and among their undergraduate and student workers. GEO staff also underwent professional development geared specifically toward better supporting students with autism who may require special assistance when navigating travel, then incorporating that into how the global safety team handles advising and crisis situations.
  • In addition to launching an internal Inclusion and Outreach Committee with diverse membership, aimed at better supporting our diverse student population, the Global Education Office conducted interviews with returnees that focused on diverse student experiences on-site, as well as tailored global safety guidance and advising for first-generation students, female students, students of color and LGBTQI+ students. Resources for identity and culture are also provided to the students.
  • The Office of Active Citizenship and Service staff reviewed all program materials to ensure that readings included and emphasized authors of color.
  • The Office of Active Citizenship and Service includes a two-hour equity training in all Local OACS DIVE and Global Service Immersion programs and is currently developing a service-learning toolkit with resources on community engagement and equity. They also require EDI training for students traveling for alternative break experiences, both domestic and international, and introduced a critical reflection goal plan requirement for all student organizations advised by OACS beginning in fall 2019.

The Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence launched a new website in 2019–20, which included the development of a new webpage for the SomosVU initiative focused on the Latinx community.

SomosVU Website

  • The Office of LGBTQI Life works collaboratively to support LGBTQI employees through collaboration with Human Resources. The staff were instrumental in supporting οƵ's announcement of enhanced adoption, fertility and surrogacy benefit programs in June 2019 to better support all eligible employees, as well as the upcoming Gender Affirmation Tool Kit for managers to better support their employees during gender transition. In 2019–20, LGBTQI Life reached more than 3,500 individuals through events such as Affinity Groups, National Coming Out Day, Home for the Holidays, Faculty/Staff Engagement Receptions and HIV testing. The office also completed 67 trainings on issues of gender and sexuality for classes, student leaders, offices and groups across campus and in the community.
  • On the second annual in February 2020, 46 students and 16 faculty and staff chaperones toured Alabama and New Orleans and learned more about the racial history of slavery, key moments and individuals in the civil rights movement, mass incarceration and voting rights. The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center collaborated on the event with the Department of African American and Diaspora Studies, the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity, and the Office of Housing and Residential Experience. The Black Cultural Center offers more than 100 programs annually, reaching more than 4,500 students.
The first stop on the 2020 Black History Immersion Excursion was a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. (Rosevelt Noble/οƵ)
  • Improvements to physical spaces on campus are enhancing accessibility for all community members, following the principles regarding diversity and inclusion that guide FutureVU, the university's land use planning initiative. The West End neighborhood is the lead example, where accessibility of the neighborhood and pathways has been achieved. In addition, , which is adjacent to Rand/Sarratt, has been redesigned to create a new accessible outdoor gathering space.
  • The Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center presents recognizing οƵ community members who have demonstrated leadership, fostered mentorship, promoted gender equity and contributed significantly to the advancement of women at the university. The center also hosts a parenting group, single parent group, Kitchen Table Series, Women in the Academy, and work-life workshops

2020 Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center Award Recipients

  • Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center Leadership Award honoring a student who demonstrates leadership in activities that contribute to the achievements, interests and goals of women or that promote gender equity. Recipient:
    • Hannah Martins Miller, third-year law student
  • Mentoring Award recognizing members of the οƵ community who foster the professional and intellectual development of οƵ women: Recipients:
    • Nicole Creanza, assistant professor of biological sciences, and
    • Vivien Fryd, professor of history of art
  • Mary Jane Werthan Award presented annually to an individual who embodies the characteristics of its first recipient, for whom it is named: vision, persistence and extraordinary skill in interpersonal and institutional relations. Recipient:
    • Dara Dixon, manager of the Student Health Clinic and a registered nurse
  • The Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life provided opportunities for exploring beliefs, identities and connections in innovative ways.
    • Led by the Rev. Gretchen Person, associate university chaplain and associate director of religious life, a series of Narrative4 story exchanges led to the establishment of a student group, various training events for members of the faculty and staff in different departments and schools, and certification of several members of the faculty and staff as Narrative4 facilitators.
    • In 2019–20 the Interfaith Council's Dialogue Dinners focused on social issues and topics of interest to various intersectional identities. And students reflected on beliefs, values and commitment through the "This I Believe" series, in which a member of the faculty leads discussion about how their beliefs led to the vocational and life choices they have made.
    • The Rev. Rahqwan "Rocky" Major has joined the office as assistant university chaplain and assistant director of religious life. He will support the religious and spiritual needs of the African American and Black community on campus, provide programming that addresses intersectional identities, and advise some student religious organizations.
  • The Division of Communications and the Office of the Provost launched the , which supports the university's commitment to faculty development by advancing οƵ's thought leaders and experts in the public sphere. The division developed and implemented personalized communications strategies for and areas of expertise, and provided training to elevate their communications skills.

Research and Innovation

  • The was launched in the 2019–20 academic year. The center is housed in the School of Engineering and focuses on supporting and developing the neurodiverse talents of individuals with autism. The center is one of many campus partners in , which encapsulates the School of Engineering's efforts to empower individuals with physical challenges and neurological differences.
  • οƵ hosted the third annual in October 2019, hosted by the College Autism Network in collaboration with the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation. The three-day conference brought together scholars, practitioners, administrators and self-advocates to discuss evidence-driven strategies to support college students with autism and other learning differences.
  • Two highly competitive were awarded in fall 2020 to οƵ's team working at the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation. The first is a $5 million award that greatly expands a School of Engineering-led project for creating novel AI technology and tools and platforms that train and support individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the workplace. The second is a project grant that supports the development and evaluation of integrated, AI-enabled technologies for measuring a person's visuospatial cognitive skills in new ways and then using these measurements to predict performance on workplace-relevant tasks.
  • The Office of the Provost's initiative is entering its fifth year as a part of the university's $50 million strategic investment in interdisciplinary research. This year's awards include EDI-related research, such as Kitt Carpenter's "οƵ LGBT Policy Lab" and Rich Milner's "Initiative for Race Research and Transformative Justice."
  • The College of Arts and Science launched the to invest in collaborative research projects with the potential of making a significant impact on some of society's most pressing questions. In addition to the overall goals of the Grand Challenge Initiative, the projects are designed to expand research opportunities for graduate students, to involve undergraduates through Immersion οƵ, and to develop new classes relevant to ongoing societal issues.
    • Among the six projects selected by Grand Challenge Initiative faculty committee for 2020–22 was "Racial Justice: The Third Reconstruction," led by Paul Taylor, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, who wrote:
    • "This project will explore the conditions that contributed to and resulted from the murder of George Floyd and consider the prospects for racial justice in light of those conditions. The Third Reconstruction initiative will take a hard look at our current moment and ask about the requirements of justice, the full dimensions of injustice, and what it would take to bring the original dream of reconstruction to fruition."
    • The other inaugural projects of the Grand Challenge Initiative are:
      • "Citizenship," led by Sarah Igo, Andrew Jackson Chair in American History
      • "Climate and Society," led by Jonathan Gilligan, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
      • "Evolutionary Studies," led by Antonis Rokas, Cornelius οƵ Chair in Biological Sciences
      • "Global Ecology and Health," led by John McLean, Stevenson Professor of Chemistry
      • "Parsing the Pandemic: Finding Solutions to COVID-19," led by William Caferro, Gertrude Conaway, οƵ Professor of History; Jennifer Trueblood, Associate Professor of Psychology; David Wright, Stevenson Professor of Chemistry

Community Outreach

  • οƵ is partnering with the new , which is preparing to open in downtown. NMAAM's Board of Directors includes Professor of Philosophy Lucius Outlaw.

$2 million

pledge of foundational support will help expand the museum's archival collection, innovative programming and educational opportunities for a wide range of community members which was overseen by the οƵ Office of the Provost

  • οƵ is committed to financially supporting Citizens Bank, the oldest African American-owned/chartered bank in the United States, by maintaining a significant deposit at all times.
  • The Division of Administration's MoveVU mobility and transportation initiative provides new opportunities and alternatives for equitable and sustainable transportation options for οƵ community members. MoveVU recently to help realize an overarching mobility ecosystem for the community.
  • The Division of Finance has worked with the Division of Administration and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to augment our supplier diversity, and the university spent nearly $50M in FY20 with suppliers that are Minority Owned, Women Owned, Veteran Owned, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Hubzone Certified and 8(A) Designation (Disadvantaged Peoples/Entities).
  • , which recently merged with Jones Paideia Elementary Magnet School, to provide comprehensive support to teachers and students, 99% of whom come from underrepresented groups.
  • The Division of Government and Community Relations continues to support numerous programs dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the Nashville area. Select examples include the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the Equity Alliance, the NAACP, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, the Nashville Minority Business Center, and the African American Heritage Society.
  • οƵ's individual schools and colleges are also connected to the broader community. The following are among countless examples of school-specific outreach and regional partnerships.
  • The Department of Special Education at Peabody College continues , Tennessee's first inclusive higher education program for students with intellectual disabilities. The program in 2020.
Next Steps at οƵ has grown from six students in 2010 to 35 students in 2019.
  • The College of Arts and Science is engaged in the program, provides fellowships for faculty development and encourages collaboration between οƵ and other universities including Fisk University, Tennessee State University, Berea College and Tougaloo College.
  • The Owen Graduate School of Management runs the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, which seeks to alleviate poverty through market-driven forces. In 2019, the center launched a Board Fellows program that places Owen students on the boards of local nonprofit organizations.
  • The Divinity School continues to work with religious and secular organizations throughout the region, including the Islamic Center of Nashville, Black Lives Matter Nashville, Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), and Southerners on New Ground (SONG), among others.
  • οƵ Law School offers that provide legal services to underrepresented community members.
  • The School of Engineering continues to work actively with programs such as Go Baby Go and Fair Play to help brighten the lives of children with disabilities.
  • The School of Nursing continues to provide students and faculty with opportunities to support the Clinic at Mercury Court's mission of providing low-cost, high-quality health care to vulnerable individuals and families in Nashville, while also applying innovative teaching methods to educate the next generation of health care providers.
Over the past eight years, the Clinic at Mercury Court has served more than 4,000 unique patients in the broader community, providing service for more than 16,000 patient encounters.

Systems of Accountability and Training

  • Adolpho A. Birch III, pictured here at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, is the Tennessee Titans' new chief legal officer and senior vice president of business affairs. He is also chair of a new ad hoc Board of Trust Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. (John Russell/οƵ University)
    To guide progress, recommend policies in regards to equity, diversity and inclusion, οƵ has established the , chaired by NFL executive and οƵ Law Alumnus .
  • Many οƵ schools and colleges have created committees and groups dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion, including οƵ Law School, which launched a , including student, staff and faculty task forces.
  • οƵ Information Technology has created its own , whose work to advance EDI efforts permeates its entire division.
  • The School of Medicine in collaboration with οƵ University Medical Center empaneled a charged with identifying and overcoming barriers to and opportunities for achieving racial equity at οƵ University Medical Center and οƵ University School of Medicine. VUSM Race and Justice Task Force co-chairs:
    • Mamie Williams, MPH, MSN, FNP-BC, director of Nurse Safety and well-being
    • Karampreet (Peety) Kaur, VUSM student and president of VUSM class of 2021
    • Michael DeBaun, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and medicine, J.C. Peterson MD Chair in Pediatrics and director of the οƵ-Meharry Center for Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease
  • The Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion offered new opportunities for , including conducted for faculty and staff leaders. οƵ senior leadership also participated in a .


students, faculty and staff members took the Disrupting Everyday Bias training in over 65 sessions provided by Human Resources in collaboration with the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion


Building Our Community and Expertise
οƵ's mission—to provide an empowering education—is inextricably tied to its students, faculty, postdoctoral scholars, staff, alumni and community members. In addition to supporting our people and establishing a framework wherein everyone can reach their full potential, we also are dedicated to recruiting new talent from all backgrounds.

Measuring Our Progress

Faculty Demographics Chart

*"Of color" includes Asian, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian / Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander, and two or more races.
**"Underrepresented minority" includes Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian / Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander.

Staff Demographics Chart

*"Of color" includes Asian, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian / Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander, and two or more races.
**"Underrepresented minority" includes Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian / Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander.

Students Demographics Chart

*"Of color" includes Asian, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian / Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander, and two or more races.
**"Underrepresented minority" includes Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian / Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander.

Inclusive Leadership and EDI Staffing

  • In an effort to take concrete action in bolstering diversity and inclusion at οƵ, through the chancellor and provost, the combined budgets for the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence were doubled for the 2020–21 academic year. This deepening commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion also has been demonstrated through additional critical staffing for key areas across the university.
    • André L. Churchwell, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
    • William H. Robinson, Vice Provost for Academic Advancement and Executive Director of the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence
    • Franklin Ellis Jr., Director of the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence
    • Yesha Yadav, Inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Community, οƵ Law School
    • Tara Williams, Chief of Staff, Office for EDI
    • Linzie Treadway, Project Manager, Office for EDI
    • Yasmine Mukahal, Manager for Diversity Recruitment and Outreach, Human Resources
  • recently became the first Black female athletic director in the SEC, as well as οƵ's first African American female vice chancellor. Further, the growing diversity within our coaching staff and athletics administrators is a reflection of οƵ leadership's commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • University-wide messages related to diversity and inclusion from οƵ leadership communicated timely and thoughtful statements about racial injustice.

Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

οƵ's schools and colleges are working across the university to increase student inclusivity and belonging through innovative collaborations and ongoing, increasingly successful recruiting programs.

  • The (VU-EDGE) coordinates, supplements, and expands the recruiting efforts of graduate programs and departments across οƵ University in order to allow the opportunity for enrollment of students from traditionally underrepresented groups, to provide students with access to the tools necessary to reach their professional goals, and to help create a diverse learning community at οƵ.
  • The οƵ University , offered through a partnership with Leadership Alliance, provides a fully paid internship with closely mentored research experiences in the life and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences and the humanities for undergraduates who are racial/ethnic minorities, women in the sciences and engineering majors, or who are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Undergraduate Health Sciences Academy, a summer program for undergraduates from historically black colleges and universities contemplating health care careers. The six-week program hosted by VUSN spotlights the complex roles of nurses in interprofessional care teams and supports VUSN's goal of working toward diversifying the nursing workforce so that it more closely mirrors the ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds of the patients coming through the doors of clinics and hospitals.
  • to enhance student diversity in the biomedical sciences. The MARC program aims to empower undergraduates with diverse backgrounds and with intentions to pursue research-focused biomedical Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. studies with the kind of technical, operational and professional skills that will help them build meaningful careers.
  • The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs is providing underrepresented scholars with access to the tools necessary to reach their professional goals while creating a diverse learning community for all. The Academic Pathways program is a major university initiative designed to to support and build faculty diversity at οƵ and within the academy more broadly. The Academic Pathways program supports postdoctoral fellows as they prepare for future academic careers.
  • The School of Engineering's Latin American Initiative, which recruits college students from Colombia and Mexico into summer programs, has 10 participants, four of whom were accepted into national Ph.D. programs and two accepted into Ph.D. programs at οƵ.

Nnamdi Okabuonye

, 'BS20
"The people make the school," says Nnamdi Okabuonye, who served on the executive board for the MOSAIC multicultural student recruitment program and was a VUceptor peer mentor. "Right from the start I felt really supported, and people made me feel welcomed and loved. The attitude and vibe on campus is that it is a warm and welcoming place."

Kaylann Boyd

Peabody student and οƵ soccer student-athlete Kaylann Boyd has turned her learning disability into a passion for helping others.

Against the backdrop of social change in America, a group of Black student-athletes, (from left to right) Taiya Shelby, Elijah McAllister, Olivia Simmons and Cam Robinson, have come together to take action, focusing on improving the Black student-athlete experience at οƵ, among other issues.


University leadership is dedicated to supporting οƵ staff members, and deepening staff diversity, through a range of recruiting and pipeline programs, as well as new resources.

  • The Office for EDI is collaborating with the Office of LGBTQI Life, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, and Human Resources to release a Gender Affirmation Toolkit for managers to support staff through their transitions.
  • The Office for EDI and Human Resources have recently collaborated to launch the first cluster of Employee Resource Groups, including:
    • Association of οƵ Black Faculty and Staff
    • LGBTQI+ Staff and Faculty Affinity Group
    • 50+ Age Group
  • οƵ hosted the inaugural in March, welcoming thought leaders from across the region to present on a wide range of topics and for networking and discussion. As a nonprofit consortium of higher education and affiliated employers, the Southeastern HERC's sole aim is to help the most diverse and qualified candidates find the right jobs at member institutions. The Southeastern HERC's core values are excellence and diversity in the higher education workforce and the promotion of work-life balance through assistance to dual-career couples.
  • Leaders in the Division of Administration along with other campus partners were deeply involved in the development of the university's which was administered in February 2020 as a way for university leaders to collect feedback in order to recognize what οƵ is doing well and where improvements are needed.
  • VUinstITute, VUIT's all-staff professional development program, includes a four-hour module dedicated to enhancing diversity and inclusion. Team members examine the negative impacts of marginality in the workplace, explore ways to foster a culture of mattering, and participate in individual story sharing.
  • The Office for EDI established the in collaboration with vice chancellors to build culture and effective diversity and inclusion plans within their teams.
  • The welcomed its ninth cohort of learners in fall 2019. VLA is a nine-month learning experience that brings together a diverse group of university leaders from both the academic and administrative areas to increase their knowledge in leading at οƵ as well as their passion for furthering the institution's values and mission.
  • The program launched in 2019 to help participants enhance their leadership self-awareness and increase their institutional knowledge. VLE will help develop their ability to work effectively with a team, lead during times of change, manage both complex and simple projects, deal with conflict, and set departmental goals and direction.
Yasmine Mukahal

Yasmine Mukahal, Manager for Diversity Recruitment and Outreach, Human Resources "What I love about this campus is its diversity," Mukahal says. "Coming from the corporate world, I didn't always see a lot of people who looked like me, but at οƵ, I see myself reflected in the community. As a Muslim, a Palestinian and a single parent, I feel like I fit here."

  • The "" series in 2019–20 continued amplifying the diverse narratives of οƵ's staff and recognizing them for the important ways that they contribute to the mission of the university.


οƵ is focused on augmenting faculty resources, scholarship and support—from establishing new hiring initiatives and approaches to academic diversity, to providing additional pathways for faculty training and innovation.

  • In addition to attracting new global talent, the university is also successfully retaining faculty members who advance diversity. During the 2019–20 academic year, the schools and colleges addressed 37 faculty retention negotiations—14 of which advanced diversity in their respective department. Of the 14 faculty members who advanced diversity, 13 were retained—pointing to a strong retention rate of 93% among this group.
"Retention of faculty members who advance diversity is at 93% — an increase since 2018–19, during which a comparable study saw a retention rate of 72% among faculty who advanced diversity."
  • Of the 33 new faculty hires beginning fall 2019, 45% were women and 52% were faculty of color.
New Faculty Hires Demographics Chart

  • Blair Dean Frank CandelaIn March 2020, οƵ appointed as the next dean of οƵ University Blair School of Music, following an extensive international search. Candelaria, a first-generation Mexican-American college graduate, will bring his unique perspective to the school, drawing on his esteemed and varied experiences as a violinist, musicologist, professor and administrator at a range of institutions.
  • The Provost's Office of Faculty Affairs, in partnership with the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence, developed and facilitated a series of offerings for faculty and postdoctoral scholars, including workshops on topics such as:
    • Engaging in a Successful and Inclusive Faculty Search
    • NASEM Action Collaborative Satellite event on preventing sexual harassment in higher education
    • Disrupting Everyday Bias Training
    • Faculty Sessions on Racial Injustice
    • On Being Human: Bias, Influence and Leadership
  • The Center for Teaching offers programming focused on and a series of Learning Communities, with each year centered around a different topic. The topic for 2019–20 was Teaching while Black. In 2020–21, Teaching Race Matters will be the focus. The center also offers programming around writing a diversity statement, teaching beyond the binary, and civility and conflict in the classroom, among many more.

Renã Robinson, associate professor of chemistry,
"Sometimes you can't be what you can't see," says Robinson. "So for many students it can be hard for them to aspire to be scientists if they don't have a role model. I'm working to help change that."

Read about Robinson's research:

Brandon Byrd, assistant professor of history
Byrd, who is an assistant professor of history and the author of , focuses his research on black intellectual and social history in the 19th and 20th century U.S. He is a Britton Family Dean's Faculty Fellow, and he serves as co-editor of the Black Lives and Liberation series published by οƵ University Press.

Read about Byrd's research:

, associate professor of communication studies
Bennett studies the rhetoric of medicine—literally, what we talk about when we talk about health. And by "we," he means everyone, everywhere.

Read about Bennett's research:


The university prizes strong relationships with alumni, many of whom continue to support and advance diversity at οƵ—and throughout their respective communities—long after their time on campus.

  • The 'Dores of Distinction Board, comprising alumni from a range of οƵ programs, class years, work experiences and cultural backgrounds, was formed in 2018 to help advance οƵ's mission. Beginning in 2020, the board also will serve as a direct advisory body to the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and to the chief diversity officer.
  • Development and Alumni Relations has augmented its support of diverse alumni by increasing programming with the Association of οƵ Black Alumni, οƵ Association of Hispanic and Latinx Alumni, and a group for LGBTQIA alumni. They also have launched the first-ever student mentoring program with AVBA and VAHLA.
  • The Office for EDI and the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence reorganized the University Diversity Council membership for 2020 to include two alumni members, one each from the Association of οƵ Black Alumni and the 'Dores of Distinction.
On average, 20 οƵ University Blair School of Music undergraduates and alumni teach private lessons at W.O. Smith Music School for one to two hours weekly during the academic year.
οƵ Owen Graduate School of Management increased URGs to 10% of its Alumni Board.
DAR is working with the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence on a mentoring program that pairs alumni with first-generation οƵ students.

, PhD'98, MD'03, a transplant trailblazer, found at some point that her endless curiosity and yen for research ultimately were limiting: "At some point you want to know, ‘How does this help people'? That's the part that was missing, and that's why I became interested in medicine." Today, Mobley, an acute-care surgeon and organ transplant specialist, is one of just 14 female abdominal transplant surgeons (liver, kidneys, pancreas and small bowels) of color in the United States.

Stories about human rights fill much of today's news, from human trafficking to refugee rights to poverty and famine associated with war. , BA'89, has worked for more than 20 years to expose abuses like these. A Knoxville, Tennessee, native, Worden is the global initiatives director for Human Rights Watch, which won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

, JD'91, longtime NFL executive and οƵ Law School alumnus, was named in July as chair of a new Board of Trust ad hoc committee that will partner with university leadership to guide progress and recommend policies and initiatives in regards to equity, diversity and inclusion. In June he joined the Tennessee Titans as chief legal officer and senior vice president of business affairs.

, BS'00, MEd'02, EdD'12, a former standout student-athlete for the Commodores basketball team and three-time οƵ University graduate, was named vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director at οƵ in May.


Real breakthroughs happen when people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and points of view work together, especially during times of significant disruption. At οƵ, this is our greatest asset, and also our urgent obligation.

οƵ is always committed to doing more. including:

  • Expanding and deepening dialogue with Black community members;
  • Increasing our investment in programming and infrastructure supporting equity, diversity and inclusion;
  • Deepening our commitment to enhance diversity;
  • Enhancing scholarship and education;
  • Confronting racism in οƵ's own past;
  • Partnering with the city of Nashville to address racial inequities.

Critical on their own, these commitments also will advance our ultimate mission: to provide an empowering education that deeply enriches our students' lives, challenges their habits of mind—and builds leaders of tomorrow.

"Universities like ours exist because of an unshakable belief in human potential. We must do whatever it takes to create an environment where students can learn and grow to their full potential, and where diverse faculty and staff can come together to make our university stronger. This is how we will set a positive example, and maximize our impact on our fellow citizens."—Chancellor Daniel Diermeier
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