Dear VPA Community,
Believe it or not, you learned everything you needed to know about diversity, equity, and inclusion when you were in elementary school. Do you remember the first time you invited a kid who didn’t look like you or dress like you to come eat at your cafeteria table because you were upset that they were being bullied? Do you remember the first time you included another child you didn’t really know in a game on the playground because you didn’t want them to feel left out? Yes, each time you opened up your eyes to someone was being left out…and opened up your heart to include them in your crowd…you became a leader in the important work of making your world a little more diverse, a little more equitable, and a little more inclusive.
Diversity matters. It expands our social networks and resources. I am excited to have been appointed as the inaugural VPA director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but in all honesty, it takes a community to do this work. I invite you to keep doing the right thing here in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University—just as you first learned to do in elementary school. Open your eyes for those around you who are being excluded. Open your heart to invite them into your conversation, your circle of friends, and the center of your best intentions.
Our work together this year as leaders in this work will be ongoing, but the first thing I invite you to do is send me your stories and observations. I have four basic questions:
- In what aspects of your experience as a VPA student, staff, or faculty member has your program or department been LESS diverse, equitable, or inclusive than you expected? Recount a story that illustrates your experience.
- In what aspects of your experience as a VPA student, staff, or faculty member has your program or department MET your needs and expectations as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning or work environment? Recount a story that illustrates your experience.
- In your opinion, how can you or those who have been negatively impacted by a lax focus on the necessary accommodations and considerations for co-creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive climate be BETTER supported? Relate your hopes and expectations for an improved student or workplace experience.
- As a “call to action,” what good ideas for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in your program or department have you either witnessed or imagined? Relate a story that illustrates the possibilities.
Go to this Qualtrics Survey link to send me your responses anonymously. Or, if you do want your name to be attached to your observations and ideas, you can send your replies back to me directly at in an email with the Subject title “VPA Diversity Stories.”
James Haywood Rolling Jr., Ed.D.
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, College of Visual and Performing Arts
Dual Professor, Art Education & Teaching and Leadership, VPA/School of Education
For more information about diversity and inclusion initiatives at Syracuse University, visit diversity.syr.edu.