The Division for Inclusive Excellence confers the award to administrative and academic units that achieve distinction in cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment for its faculty and staff. Twenty-five major divisions and offices, colleges and schools are assessed on a biennial basis using assessment and performance data collected from multiple university sources and compiled in three measures: diversity index, inclusion index and engagement index. Administrative and academic units designated as Models of Inclusive Excellence ranked highest in relation to their peer units on an overall average index score.
“Diversity and inclusion are central to our mission and to everything we do at Virginia Commonwealth University,” said Michael Rao, PhD, President of VCU and VCU Health. “Every member of our community benefits from working, living, learning, creating, discovering, and healing in an environment where ideas are openly shared and all voices are heard.”
“‘In that spirit, we must always be mindful that we continue to live this commitment, monitor our progress together, and renew our promise to ensure that every member of the VCU Family is respected and valued for who they are and for the many ways they make our university great.”
VCU began monitoring some aspects of campus climate as far back as 2006. However, there was little or no intent then to link campus climate to an institution-wide system of accountability and transparency related to diversity and inclusion goals. This changed with the university’s new strategic plan, Quest 2025, which called for the implementation of a campus climate monitoring and reporting platform to help identify problem and promise areas across the university that impact employee, student and patient quality of life and success.
“Our charge from the Board of Visitors and the president was to develop and implement a system to let us know how well we are doing with respect to creating and sustaining a campus climate where everyone believes they can be successful,” said Aashir Nasim, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and Director of VCU’s Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation, iCubed.
“What we have seen through this process is that several units have met and even exceeded our expectations; but there are a few others that could benefit from having exemplary models of inclusive excellence.”
During this biennium, Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) achieved the highest overall index score for inclusive excellence. DAR exceeded the VCU average score across all indexes by one-half standard deviation unit or more, which is equivalent to a rating of “Very Good” to “Excellent”.
A rating of this magnitude indicates that a unit’s faculty and staff demographic closely approximates our population of students; there is gender equity across leadership positions; and unit policies and practices reveal a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
These units also have leaders who have expressed a strong commitment to inclusive excellence and have demonstrated this commitment by helping to create an environment that is perceived to be fair, open, cooperative and empowering for their faculty and staff.
“I am pleased to learn the Development and Alumni Relations staff report feeling included and engaged in their work environment,” said Jay Davenport, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations. “Having a team with varying opinions, backgrounds, skill-sets and experiences partnered with fostering a collaborative environment has allowed our unit to realize significant growth over the past year.”
Through highly collaborative team activities the past year, DAR leadership and staff determined “Together We Champion Inclusivity” as one of their core pillars on which all personal and professional decisions are based. These activities have helped to create a culture of expectations where diversity is respected and valued. “Individuals that feel this promise has not been honored are encouraged to speak up,” says Davenport.
What is more, DAR has applied the value principles of diversity and inclusion into realized practices that are making a difference here at VCU and elsewhere. They have focused their efforts on building their pipeline to the profession through the creation of undergraduate programs and internships that attract students from diverse backgrounds to consider a career in institutional advancement. According to Davenport, “... a diverse [DAR] workforce will better serve our diverse population of students, alumni, colleagues, and supporters of the university.”
Rounding out the top three administrative units for campus climate in 2018-2019 were the Office of Research and Innovation and the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Budget.
The School of Pharmacy received the top-ranking for inclusive excellence among academic units. Although the diversity index was not as high for Pharmacy as for other academic units, their faculty and staff reported highly inclusive and engaged environments where leadership was perceived as having integrity related to diversity issues. There were also strong feelings of motivation and competency among faculty and staff in the workplace.
“We have initiated a different approach to faculty and staff relationships, breaking down some of the barriers in between,” said Joe DiPiro, Dean of the School of Pharmacy. “While we celebrate the recognition for "campus climate" we will continue to seek new ways to assure that our School remains a great place to work.”
Overall, only three of the 10 top-ranked units for campus climate were academic units.
School of Nursing and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs were ranked 8th and 10th, respectively.
Models of Inclusive Excellence award winners will be recognized during the Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment (PACME) ceremony held in spring 2020. Each administrative and academic unit will receive a plaque in honor of their achievement and $2,500 to support unit-wide diversity and inclusion goals.
“I am so proud of our colleagues in Development and Alumni Relations and the School of Pharmacy for their continuing commitment to diversity and inclusion at every level. They demonstrate for all of us a willingness to engage difference and diversity in remarkably positive ways that make VCU more equitable and more inclusive. In their excellence, they model for all of us why representation matters in the educational experience and the life of a nationally premier university,” President Rao.
To view a complete list of rankings, visit the division's Campus Culture and Climate Ratings report.