The VCCS Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Culture launched successfully in the spring and is now working over the summer on what members identified as pressing issues.
The 36-member panel includes people who represent the voices of the many different populations and communities served by Virginia’s Community Colleges and will advocate for and advance the VCCS’s core values of embracing diversity, broadly defined, and building an inclusive culture where every community member is valued, acknowledged, and accepted.
Selecting members for the inaugural DEIC Council was challenging. Nearly six dozen people were nominated for seats. Some of the Standing Committee of Diversity Professionals, which includes representatives from various colleges, reviewed applications and shared their recommendations about who should be named to the Council.
A benefit of the process was that each nominee was asked to identify pressing issues. Those comments were compiled and reviewed. The DEIC Council selected its first-year priorities from that larger list. Among the most pressing issues identified: recruitment and retention of faculty and staff who reflect the diversity of our students; consistent, quality professional development for employees; and curricula that respond to the needs of our diverse student body.
The DEIC Council can trace its beginnings to 2014 when then-VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois established the Chancellor’s Diversity Task Force. One of the 11 action steps was to create a system-wide steering committee to implement and track action items adopted in that report.
“The steering committee had been established, but it needed a refresh,” said Carla Kimbrough VCCS’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. “This body, which is now a part of the VCCS governance structure, brings in many more perspectives to help make the VCCS ‘a model for diversity,’ a goal of the 2014 task force.”
This new DEIC Council intentionally includes voices from our college executive teams, various VCCS organizations, and affinity groups that bring perspectives from groups based on race/ethnicity, LGBTQ, disability, ALICE, and veterans. The DEIC Council also has two student representatives. Under the DEIC Council’s charter, Council members have staggered terms of one-, two-, or three-year terms, and the executive committee will serve for two years initially. The DEIC Council’s executive committee is made up of Piedmont Virginia’s John Gulley, faculty representative, who is co-chair with Kimbrough; Virginia Western’s Jolene Hamm serves as secretary from the standing committee; Belinda Stockton, the CHRO at Danville, and Tommy Wright, president of Southwest Virginia. These decisions were made to bring stability and continuity to the Council, Kimbrough said.
“With our inaugural meeting behind us, the DEIC Council has several committees
that are identifying solutions to some of the pressing issues identified. For example, we have committees that are exploring how to increase faculty diversity and identifying professional development opportunities for employees overall and faculty specifically,” Kimbrough said. “Another committee is focused on communications in an effort to build an understanding that diversity includes everyone and is nothing to fear. We have other committees that are exploring practices that might be used to increase feelings of belonging for our students and employees. So, in short, we have a busy summer.”
In the meantime, the DEIC Council is looking forward to hearing from the new VCCS Chancellor, Dr. David Doré in August and digesting the committee reports in September.
The DEIC Council is charged with:
- identifying needs
- researching and sharing best practices
- offering policy recommendations designed to improve achievement and graduation outcomes and positively impact the learning environment of students and the professional success of employees
- Leading and supporting efforts to promote the VCCS’s Opportunity 2027 Strategic Plan
The DEIC Advisory Council will meet three times a year, and its second meeting will be in September. A special meeting will be held in August to meet the chancellor and engage in training. A complete listing of the DEIC Advisory Council has been posted online and is available to view.
General questions, inquiries or concerns may be directed to Carla Kimbrough, VCCS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org