From the Office of the President
The last several months have been challenging for all of us. Our state is facing increases in COVID-19 cases, communities around the country are experiencing heightened racial tensions and we are mourning the loss of two civil rights icons. These events have emphasized the imperative that Georgia State move forward now with our important work of creating a more inclusive and equitable university environment. These times, although stressful and filled with uncertainty, emphasize the need for action.
Several weeks ago, Provost Wendy Hensel and I established a Task Force for Racial Equality to make recommendations on how Georgia State can take action to reduce racism and police violence against Black people and other underrepresented minority groups. That vital work continues, and we expect to receive initial recommendations from the task force shortly. In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce several immediate action items developed with my team that continue our work to foster racial equity on our campuses.
Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
I’m initiating a national search for Georgia State’s first vice president of institutional diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s important that everyone on campus be responsible for advancing equity and inclusion in all aspects of our operations. However, there’s a critical need for focused, professional guidance and leadership to help us reach our goal of becoming a national model of inclusive excellence. We also need to coordinate and leverage the myriad efforts in this space around our campuses to maximize their collective impact.
The selected individual will establish our Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and they will also be a member of my Cabinet. I look forward to engaging the university community in the search process and will provide more information soon.
Diversity Dialogues in 2020-21
We‘re establishing a series of conversations for our community over the next academic year that will address race, diversity, equity and inclusion, exploring challenges and opportunities for Georgia State. I’ll host our first conversation, engaging our community in a dialogue and listening session about campus climate and race. We’ll continue with additional sessions that foster important conversations on race and policing, improvement of faculty development and retention, and civil rights issues. The complete schedule will be announced in August and I hope you will participate in these conversations.
Establishment of a Student Scholarship in Honor of the “Ground Crew”
One of my personal highlights of the past year was our celebration of the three Black women who won their groundbreaking lawsuit to integrate Georgia State – Myra Payne Elliott, Barbara Pace Hunt and Iris Mae Welch. Dr. Maurice C. Daniels, author of "Ground Crew: The Fight to End Segregation at Georgia State," gave the inaugural lecture in the Provost’s Groundbreaker Lecture Series.
It was an enormous privilege to meet Ms. Elliott, her family and the family of Ms. Hunt to say thank you for their contributions to ending segregation in Georgia’s public colleges and universities. Without these women’s determination and fearlessness, Georgia State would not exist as it does today. Our diversity is one of our key strengths, and our pathbreaking work ensuring students of all backgrounds succeed without disparities based on race, ethnicity or income spring from their courageous acts more than 50 years ago.
For that reason, I’m personally endowing a student scholarship that will be named in honor of these three women. The scholarship will provide financial support to students who embody the commitment to social justice exemplified by these pioneers. I hope others will join me in supporting the scholarship so that in future years it can serve many worthy students and remind us all of the importance “groundbreakers” have in the lives of others.
For more information about our events and activities on diversity, equity and inclusion, I urge you to consult the provost’s website at https://provost.gsu.edu/dei-assistance/, where we are compiling the many efforts taking place across our campuses. There will be continuous updates to this website as we build our institutional database of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Thank you for all you do to make Georgia State a welcoming and inclusive university. By working together, there’s no limit to what we’ll accomplish.