A look at Elon's new Division of Inclusive Excellence, which aims to "create a community where people strive to dismantle oppression and where individuals flourish."
When Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams reflects on the progress of diversity, equity and inclusion at Elon, he thinks about the university’s many firsts. Toshio Sato, Elon’s first Japanese student who was valedictorian of her class in 1920; Glenda Phillips Hightower, its first full-time Black student; Eugene Perry, its first Black graduate; L’Tanya Richmond ’87, its first official diversity officer; and so many others paved the way for the university’s current work to create a more inclusive community, including a dedicated Division of Inclusive Excellence.
The Elon Commitment strategic plan, which declared an unprecedented commitment to diversity and global engagement, sparked conversations about establishing a chief diversity officer who would report directly to the president. In 2020, the inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the high-profile killings of Black Americans like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor accelerated those conversations into action. Williams was promoted to vice president and associate provost for inclusive excellence, laying the foundation for the Division of Inclusive Excellence.
The division aims “to create a community where people strive to dismantle oppression and where individuals flourish.” Williams says the goal is to organize Elon’s diversity, equity and inclusion work in the most effective way, better connecting initiatives that are already happening as well as coordinating new ones. “I’m hoping the Division of Inclusive Excellence will be a hub of all the things that are occurring at Elon around DEI,” he says.
“We’re trying to ensure that the work is done with a greater inclusive lens, that more perspectives and identities are considered and remarkably valued.”
The division’s work took off in January with the hiring of its leadership team. Williams and then-Dean of Student Inclusive Excellence Matthew Antonio Bosch were joined by Laké Laosebikan-Buggs, director of inclusive excellence for graduate and professional education, and Carla Fullwood, director of inclusive excellence education and development. Williams describes it as a “division with no walls” because the team works so closely with faculty and staff across campus to enhance DEI efforts in admissions, athletics, academics, student life, human resources and more.
“We’re not trying to come in and do the work of those particular areas of expertise, but we’re trying to ensure that the work is done with a greater inclusive lens, that more perspectives and identities are considered and remarkably valued,” he says.
Division of Inclusive Excellence staff work in tandem with these campus partners to advance Elon’s key DEI goals and initiatives. Highlights include:
- Infusing anti-racist content throughout the curriculum and requiring DEI education for students in all majors
- Tying merit pay increases for faculty and staff in part to their commitment to DEI professional development
- Revamping Elon’s bias response and reporting systems
- Launching the Black Lumen Project to enhance the Black experience at Elon, under the direction of Associate Professor of Psychology Buffie Longmire-Avital
- Establishing the Asian and Pacific Islander Task Force to identify strategies and organize support for Elon’s API community
- Increasing the focus on ability and accessibility at the university and in the Town of Elon with the Elon Community Accessibility Team
Williams hopes the division structure will make the work feel more coordinated and organized, and “maybe even inspire others to get involved because they can see this is truly a university-wide priority.”
Learn more about “Theme 2: Thrive” of the Boldly Elon strategic plan.