Dear Members of the SFS Community:
Just a few weeks ago, I began my tenure as the inaugural Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in SFS, a position established by Dean Joel Hellman as part of his commitment to making global antiracism a core principle of the SFS. I look forward to working with the dean and all members of the SFS community to embed this principle in our curriculum, our institutional culture, and in our composition.
Like so many others in our community, I was deeply shaken by the events in this country that have driven thousands into the streets this summer, particularly the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and, more recently, the shooting of Jacob Blake. These tragedies were a collective manifestation of the casual devaluation of Black lives, shaking this nation to its core and leading to many outward expressions of both searing outrage and heartwarming solidarity. The events also forced many institutions, including the SFS, to look inward: to better understand our institutional failures when it comes to race and inclusion, as well as to appreciate the transformational role a school like SFS can play. As noted in the Call to Action first voiced by my faculty colleagues and amplified by Dean Hellman, the next generation of global leaders will not be not served by the status quo. Thus, the SFS must be at the forefront of scholarship and practices that respond to structural inequalities. Indeed, our school’s founding creed insists on a dedication to justice, to conscience and to morality, so that we can achieve a more peaceful and equitable world. By standing for racial justice, we honor that commitment and empower the future global leaders we seek to educate, including those who have been excluded for too long.
In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to hear from students, faculty and staff in the SFS, as well as from many alumni. In addition, I have begun to form partnerships with the many administrators and units across the University whose work deals with addressing racism, bias and other forms of discrimination. The work already being undertaken by concerned members of our SFS community is downright impressive and inspiring. DEI committees have sprung up across the School, not as mere window dressing, but as meaningful efforts at self-examination and toward the enactment of a truly antiracist agenda. Individual faculty members are revisiting their syllabi and courses, discovering the gaps on race, diverse authorship and perspectives and realizing, at long last, that inclusion does not mean the dilution of intellectual content, but the enrichment of it. Centers and programs in the SFS are instituting robust efforts to diversify their student bodies, their curriculums and their programming. We are awakening, slowly, and newly sensitized to the needs of historically marginalized students. Students are organizing, too, in impressive ways to effect changes in the School’s climate, admissions policies and the SFS curriculum. Staff members are pursuing opportunities for training and dialogues to make the SFS a better, more welcoming and more inclusive place to work.
Across the SFS, I see emerging best practices that can be honed and shared with the entire community, including great ideas such as DEI liaisons, syllabus evaluations, diversified advisory boards, enhanced recruitment of students locally and at HBCUs and similar institutions, concrete approaches diversifying faculty searches, clear bias reporting guidelines, enhanced networks for students and alumni of color in international affairs fields and many others. As these and other results-oriented initiatives reveal, antiracism is an active project.
As Vice Dean, my role is to ensure that we coordinate and collaborate in order to effect meaningful, lasting change in the SFS. We cannot be complacent. We cannot let this momentum dissipate. My job is to help build an SFS-wide infrastructure that enables us to sustain the impressive efforts already underway and embed antiracism as a core principle, as Dean Hellman has charged us. As we engage in this critically important work, I look forward to updating the community on our progress. Moreover, I invite all members of our community to partner with us: join one of the initiatives mentioned above within the Centers and Programs; participate in the faculty, staff or student committees now engaged with DEI; or reach out to us directly. Eventually, we expect to have a website that will serve as the main avenue of communication on SFS DEI issues. In the meantime, should you have any questions or concerns, or wish to share suggestions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our aim is nothing less than to make the SFS a better place, true to its mission, true to its ideals. In doing so, we enhance the School, the nation and the world around us.
Sincere best wishes,