When It Comes to Inclusion, Ohio State’s Lee All In

Valerie Lee, vice president for Outreach and Engagement, vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer, was featured in a Nov. 14 article from Diverse Issues in Higher Education. An exerpt is below:

Dr. Valerie Lee is determined to make diversity a verb, not just a noun.

As chief diversity officer, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and vice president for outreach and engagement at Ohio State University, Lee manages one of the largest — if not the largest — diversity departments in all of higher education with more than 88 full-time staff members. As part of her commitment to total inclusion, Lee has a comprehensive strategy to move to a “one university model,” moving students, staff and faculty “from silos to solidarity.”

She recently championed to have her department, along with the university’s Black cultural center, moved into a historical building on campus, signaling that university officials are increasingly recognizing the importance of her work. Her goal is to develop the center into the world’s best cultural center, something she says “is really within our grasp.”

Before Lee became an advocate for equal opportunity at Ohio State, she was hit with her own share of adversity. Despite graduating at the top of her high school class, Lee was told that she could not serve as valedictorian because she was Black. After such an unfair experience, Lee decided she would pursue an undergraduate degree in mathematics because it was the “most fair” field she could think to pursue. It did not take long, however, for her love of African-American women’s literature and critical race theory and multicultural pedagogy to consume her. Instead, she switched to studying English education and eventually joined the English faculty at Denison University and, later, Ohio State.

But despite her love for teaching, she found herself drawn to administration.

“I have always been interested in changing the rules of the game, and to do that, you need to be a senior administrator to be at the decision-making table,” Lee says. “I wanted to be in that part of the academy that actually calls the shots.”

The full article is available on the Diverse Issues in Higher Education web site.

 

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