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Poore calls for sustained engagement in WVU’s journey toward social justice in State of Diversity address

two women on laptop screen, mask in foreground

WVU Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Meshea L. Poore gave her annual State of Diversity address Thursday (Oct. 15) in a virtual event. (WVU Photo/Jennifer Shephard)

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In the face of the dual pandemics of coronavirus and racism, West Virginia University Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Meshea L. Poore called Mountaineers to action.

“We talk about Mountaineers going first – but first we must be willing to go,” Poore said. “We must be willing to go beyond our fears, to be bigger than our worries, and to be bold in our actions. When we are willing to do that collectively, we will see a mighty shift. And as we say around Mountaineer Nation, we’ve got to ‘trust the climb.’”

Poore made her remarks during the 2020 State of Diversity address on Oct. 15 during WVU’s annual Diversity Week, asking the campus community to stay engaged in the sustained work necessary to create the safe, diverse and welcoming community everyone deserves.

“The work around diversity, equity and inclusion is just as much to do about the small steps taken as it is about the huge victories and every bit of it should be respected as a part of the movement toward justice and equality,” Poore said. “But we each have to do our part and commit to do more.”

Poore acknowledged the pain and uncertainty of the times.

“We recognize the mental toll these times may be taking on us all. The coronavirus is concerning and can be downright scary,” Poore said. “The same can be said for racism, discrimination, bigotry and hate. Racism is real, discrimination indeed happens, and bigotry and hate leave lasting wounds that are hard to heal.”

She thanked those who stepped forward to raise concerns and those who have been working to seek solutions, including the “action-oriented” working groups appointed by WVU President Gordon Gee this summer. Those groups, which included faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members, looked at academic issues, campus and community partnerships, development of Black student leaders, inclusive campus environment and university policing. Earlier this week, the University announced updates on the groups’ initial recommendations.

Poore noted that WVU has again earned the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from the publication Insight Into Diversity. The HEED Award takes a comprehensive look into an institution’s recruitment and retention of students and employees and looks at continued leadership support for campus diversity and inclusion.

“In looking at WVU’s diversity demographics we have been holding steady,” Poore said. “As it relates to faculty recruitment, we see a slight uptick in hiring and our retention remained steady. However, in all candor, these numbers need to improve significantly. It is something we can and must do to make sure diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of our institution. We must acknowledge when progress has been made but not rest in our celebration because there is work to do.”

To that end, Poore said the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been working for more than a year with leaders across WVU to develop diversity, equity and inclusion committees at all of the institution’s Schools, Colleges and Units. Many of those committees are already up and running, and the division continues to collaborate with others on campus to activate additional committees.

Poore will assemble the chairs of those committees into an overarching DEI Council to develop goals and best practices for pursuing diversity and inclusion at WVU. Additional information about the council – including how faculty and staff can explore whether their unit has already established a DEI committee or express interest in establishing one if it hasn’t – is available on the division’s website.

She encouraged the WVU community to keep a few “rules of engagement” in mind as conversations around diversity and inclusion continue.

“Have patience with others and yourself,” Poore said. “Listen to understand and not just to be heard. Show empathy and respect for other peoples’ lived experiences. Be willing to grow in your thinking and actions. And always show Mountaineer love for one another.”



CONTACT: Sarah Lowther Hensley
Marketing and Communications Director
Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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