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Teaching Inclusivity Challenged Me to Live It with Lt. Col. Jamica Love

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Transcript For Season 2, Episode 3 "Teaching Inclusive Excellence Challenged Me To Live It" With Lt. Col. Jamica Love, Ph.D., Chief Diversity Officer

CATHERINE ROY, COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING SPECIALIST: Welcome to the VMI Leader Journey Podcast. My name is Maj. Catherine Roy, communications and marketing specialist for the Center for Leadership and Ethics. I am your host for today’s episode titled “Teaching Inclusivity Challenged Me to Live It” featuring my conversation with Lt. Col. Jamica Love, VMI’s Chief Diversity Officer.

Our conversation is part of the center’s year-long exploration of citizen leaders, our leadership theme. Citizen leaders are active participants in their communities. Knowledgeable, informed, and engaged, they act, influence, and inspire positive outcomes for issues they are passionate about.

Love has her Ph.D. in psychology and has worked in higher education for about 20 years. When I asked her what inspired her to use her talents as a diversity officer, she shared with me the story of her career journey where she began to specialize in DEI over the last 12 years.  Said Love, “I didn’t just want to teach people about something that I wasn’t actually living out.” 

During our conversation, you will learn how she has challenged herself to seek out opportunities to connect in diverse settings, to incorporate feedback in her programming, and to her one-word approach for teaching diversity, equity, and inclusion at VMI. Dr. Love is a citizen leader!

We hope you enjoy this episode. Connect with us and tell us what you think!

Let’s dive into today’s conversation!

Let's start with an introduction. Tell us a little bit about your background and why VMI?

COL. JAMICA LOVE, PH.D., CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER: Sure. That 'why VMI' is my favorite question! I've been in higher ed 20 years. So, when I was an undergrad, said I never want to leave. So, I was determined to find a way to never leave a college campus. It worked out pretty well. I've been able to work in higher ed and absolutely love working with college students.

Our conversation is part of the center’s year-long exploration of citizen leaders, our leadership theme. Citizen leaders are active participants in their communities. Knowledgeable, informed, and engaged, they act, influence, and inspire positive outcomes for issues they are passionate about. 

Love has her Ph.D. in psychology and has worked in higher education for about 20 years. When I asked her what inspired her to use her talents as a diversity officer, she shared with me the story of her career journey where she began to specialize in DEI over the last 12 years.  Said Love, “I didn’t just want to teach people about something that I wasn’t actually living out.”

During our conversation, you will learn how she has challenged herself to seek out opportunities to connect in diverse settings, to incorporate feedback in her programming, and to her one-word approach for teaching diversity, equity, and inclusion at VMI. Dr. Love is a citizen leader!

We hope you enjoy this episode. Connect with us and tell us what you think!

Let’s dive into today’s conversation!

Let's start with an introduction. Tell us a little bit about your background and why VMI?

COL. JAMICA LOVE, PH.D., CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER: Sure. That 'why VMI' is my favorite question! I've been in higher ed 20 years. So, when I was an undergrad, said I never want to leave. So, I was determined to find a way to never leave a college campus. It worked out pretty well. I've been able to work in higher ed and absolutely love working with college students.

I applied for VMI. I saw the job and I read it and I said, wow, this place sounds really interesting. I always like to be at colleges that I think have something special, something unique and I thought that about VMI, particularly about the cadets. When I read about the mission and what they sign up for, right, being able to be people who I think are really selfless. When you think about the fact that many of them commission, over half, willing to go serve their country and put themselves on the line for people they will never meet. How much more of a foundation could you use for inclusive excellence, for diversity, equity, inclusion, than that? Um... I just thought, wow, these have got to be some special kind of students! So, I said I want to try this. I want to apply and see what happens and I figured I'd never get a job I don't have any military background and I figured it's a military, uh, college, um, and so they want somebody who has military experience but, um, that higher ed experience is awesome because it fits right in. We are an institution of higher education with a military foundation. So, yeah, I just thought VMI sounds like a good place to be.

ROY: And you mentioned that you've been in some aspect of what you're doing now for 20 years. Can you talk a little bit about that?

LOVE: Boy, yeah. So, I started off as a part-time resident director. This is how my, my whole career started off because again, I wanted to live on a college campus. So, I figured okay, I can do this part-time I have a full-time job, and way back when my parents had decided, notice they decided, I was going to be a doctor. My doc... my dad told me at three years old you're going to be a doctor. At three years old, that sounds great. Okay, I'm going to be a doctor. When you're actually trying to get that degree, you're like, why did I listen to you? But I remember thinking to myself, I'm going to get a doctorate in psychology. So, that was my trajectory but I still really wanted to stay on the college campus. So, for a little while, I made that happen. I worked in higher ed part-time but full-time, I did a couple of things. I was a fee-for-service counselor and I was working with young people, kids mostly, and that was not my calling at all. And I said, okay, well, maybe I can do something else. So then, I decided to take a full-time job in higher ed and that led to me being assistant director of student activities. Okay, and then I became associate director of residential life, director residential life, and associate dean. And when I became an associate dean, then I really started to get into the work of diversity, equity, inclusion.

ROY: And what year, time frame is that?

LOVE: Oh boy, that's a, over 12 maybe years ago or so? And at that time, I felt like everything that I was doing was kind of intersecting with this idea of multiculturalism, inclusivity, pluralism, whatever you want to call it that I was always finding myself either gravitating to those things or finding myself having to literally oversee those aspects. One of the first things that I did is I was designing a first-year experience course and in there I also wanted to make sure that we had some topics that dealt with inclusivity. So...

ROY: Now, was the first-year experience, was that for people who were going to college and they were the first in their families or was this for all freshmen?

LOVE: Yeah, good clarification, for all new students. So, and I wanted to make sure that we had something in the course that spoke to diversity, equity, inclusion so that was kind of the jumping in point of a lot of this work and it just flourished after that in different kinds of areas but it wasn't just professional. Meaning it wasn't just something I got paid to do, I ended up connecting somehow with a group of other women in higher education. We were all black women and we're all like, where are all the other black women? We have each other but we felt like there's got to be this bigger network and we ended up actually putting together African-American in High, African-American Women in Higher Ed in New England. So, that is a non-profit organization. It is still in existence for 15 probably going on 16 years now. That focuses on connecting African-American women in higher ed, African-American women in the academy, period. Whether you're faculty, whether you work in student affairs, and to also celebrate our accomplishments. So, that was something that kind of spurred out of this love and desire to make sure that that support was there for that particular group of women.

ROY: So, um, as I understand, since you've been doing this more concentrated focused area of DEI work for the past 12 years, that's before people, it was part of the national discourse, basically. And so, what, maybe, can you talk a little bit about how that was highlighted? In other words, looking around and seeing that there aren't other people like me is one way of saying, hey, there's a gap here, but to be actually putting programming to that in a formal setting seems like you were ahead of the curve or was it just going on amongst your peers?

LOVE: I will say support matters. So, I think there were conversations it was going on with some of my peers but I think how much, much you engaged in it, really depended on how much your institution or your V.P. what, whatever the case may be...

ROY: You gotta have that top-down championship!

LOVE: Yeah, championship. That support. Because there are times when it's like, oh no. We frown upon certain things at certain institutions and so, I didn't happen to feel that. I happened to feel, my boss was one that if you brought my idea, he said okay, go ahead, you do it. So, it was very it was a small institution. I also think that was helpful. Um, many hands make for light work. Also, if you have a small institution, you're doing more than one thing. You're doing several things. So, it made a difference that I could then be in this area, even though it wasn't specifically something that I had to do based on my job description.

ROY: Less bureaucracy, too, I should think 

LOVE: Yes, absolutely.

ROY: So, this year our leadership theme at VMI that's sponsored by the center is citizen leaders. And you talked about being attracted to VMI because of the military background and we're also talking about, we did in our leadership conference, about being engaged and active citizen leaders.

LOVE: That's right.

ROY: And it sounds like, um, you know, you and I had talked beforehand about the importance of walking the talk. Can we bring some of those ideas together with the citizen leader theme, you, and some of your personal experiences about living out these programs that you're actually putting into place?

LOVE: Absolutely. I always say, first of all, this is a lifelong journey. Learning should be a lifelong journey and particularly when you talk about inclusive excellence. And let me just pause there and say when you think about diversity, equity, inclusion, we call it inclusive excellence here. So, when you hear that, that's what I'm talking about. It's never something that you go from, I, you know, when you're a student you, you go from okay, I'm a new student. This is my first year. This is my second year. That's not how it works when you think about inclusive excellence. It's, it's more fluid than that, right? You don't go to another level quote-unquote, you're just going to another space. And for me, I always knew it was important. This isn't everything you do but I didn't just want to teach people about something that I wasn't actually living out. That I wasn't actually doing, right? That I didn't have any experience in. And at the end of the day, one of the things that, even when you look at the research, it talks about how when you as a person have personal connections and relationships with people who are different from you, that is what moves the needle in terms of inclusivity. Having those relationships. And when I say relationships, I'm not just talking about people you say hi to or even people you see at work. I'm talking about people when you have to make a decision and you need advice, you pick up the phone and call those people. That's a different level of relationship because that's not the kind of relationship you have with everyone. So, those are really deep relationships that help in this whole inclusivity piece. So for me, years ago, I went to this conference. I remember it like it was yesterday. And I was an associate dean and a guy named Sun Cha Ra was speaking and big conference, majority culture, so, the majority of people who were at the conference were white and his challenge to majority culture was step outside of the box. This is important for us to make sure that we are not exclusionary. That we're in this discussion about inclusivity and he didn't use those exact same words but he said, so, I challenge you to look around and see if your neighbors all look like you. To see if the people in your faith community, look like you. To see if the people you are friends with, look like you. The people you work with, all of these different places. And I never forgot he said that. Even though he wasn't, he was talking to the majority culture, he, for me, it resonated. It was kind of a seed that fell on good ground and I never forgot. Years later, and, and he also happened to be a pastor and I said, oh, one day, I'll go to his church. Years later, I found myself in a situation where I worked at an institution that was predominantly black. Hard to find in New England but that was the case. Also, I was living in a predominantly black neighborhood and I was going to a predominantly black faith community and I am black. So, it was every place I turned, I was being affirmed in my identity and I felt kind of great but it reminded me about what he said. If every place you go, everybody looks like you, how are you challenging yourself? I said I don't want to quit my job. I like my job. It's hard to move. But, can I find a different faith community? And that was the lowest hanging fruit quote-unquote I could find, but it's big fruit at the same time. This is a faith community. This is something that's hugely important in my life and I said because at that time everybody looked like me in my faith community. So, I said, okay, I'm going to go to his faith community and I ended up going. And he was gone. He was gone by the time I arrived but the faith community was still there. And I remember sitting there, and this was during the time of Trayvon Martin when he was killed, the sermon was about him. And I remember this little Asian woman going up there and talking about Trayvon Martin like that was her brother and I sat through that service and just cried and cried and I said, I'm coming back next Sunday. I realized something in that moment. I didn't need to be around people who look like me. I needed to be around people who could see me. And that is very different because sometimes people look like you, can't see. So for me, I said, I think I can, I can be here. I'm going to be good. And every Sunday, I just kept going. And that is an example of how I walk this out.

Now, based on kind of how we led up to this story, people can probably guess, it was not a predominantly black faith community. The leader of the church is Asian. Specifically, Korean. Predominantly, the church is Asian, Korean, Chinese, and then White and then lots of other kinds, other kind of different cultures after that. So, that opened up a door for me where, even today, this is Monday, yesterday my friends from that faith community, they get on a Zoom call with me and just how you're doing and pray with me. They do it every month because that's still my, my community. So, that's how you live this out. I can't just tell people get exposure to other cultures. And, not just exposure, not just reading, though that's a wonderful thing to educate yourself, but how much education do we oftentimes talk to people about when you experience it, right? You can learn a new language but when you go to a place where people speak that language all the time, it brings a new life to that language. So, when you think about inclusivity in other cultures, going and being a part of that brings new life to how you understand people and it also helps you to see how you didn't understand things. How you had some biases or misconceptions or all kinds of things that you didn't know and how you had all these connections. You're like, oh my gosh, your sis, you're my sister separated at birth! We don't look alike but we have so many things that connect us. So, that's one of the ways when I talk about living this out, that's what that means.

ROY: So, I think this is a good bridge to then bringing it a little bit closer to home in terms of what's going on here at VMI and the programming that you are creating and putting together. As you talk about these human connections, you, you said that you're emphasizing our humanity. Can you talk a little bit about that? 

LOVE: Absolutely. I always think so many of the things that happen between human beings, the interactions, it's all about respecting humanity and seeing your humanity, right? First and foremost, to see your humanity. I believe it causes you to interact with people in a different way.

If I see your humanity and respect that, there's a certain tone I use with you. There's a way I can communicate with you because I want to respect your humanity. So for me, I thought, how do I help people in doing that? So, whatever I did in this inclusive excellence piece for the Corps of Cadets, I knew it had to be something that was interactive. That, that people would be able to talk about and kind of process but would still be fun, right? Um, and, and people would still be like, okay, that that that didn't feel like, you know, pulling teeth to have to, uh, uh, attend an inclusive excellence activity. So for me, the foundation of inclusive excellence is about that humanity. It is about helping everyone cadets, faculty, and staff understand. Start from that place. Start from this is how I would treat every human being and that's a good starting point. Um, in our inclusive excellence, uh, activities that we do with the cadets, uh, we do, uh, we, there are several activities, but one of the activities we do it's called four corners. So, four corners of a room, uh, and you've got each corner stands for something agree, disagree, strongly agree, strongly disagree, and you read a statement. Everyone should receive the same punishment for the same crime. If you agree, you go to the agree corner, you disagree... Now, the part of the process is what made you pick that corner? What is it about that corner that made you move? And, what we say in the activity all the time [is] if you hear something that somebody else said that changed your mind, it's okay to move. But that's part of the listening, right? And that's part of being open. But the humanity piece is then people start sharing some of their personal stories and so, I always say, take the lesson. So, modified Vegas rules is what we used. We don't say who said, you know, this, but the lesson, the thought of, wow, that experience that he was able to share was helpful in that, um, regard was mind-blowing, you know, and, and so, being able to share some of your own personal stories, um, some of the lessons that you learned, um, from, from growing up or your different experience and some of the lessons in the room. Sometimes literally right there in the room, somebody will say, you know what? I never realized. I never realized that you know, jokes, racial jokes about people would be hurtful. It just seemed funny, right, until I realized that somebody that I didn't know was of mixed race. They didn't look like that particular race, but I hurt them in telling that joke, right? Um, I thought it was okay to make fun of people with different physical abilities until I didn't realize that that person actually had a physical inability that I couldn't see right off. So, sometimes that just gets us back to simple humanity. Being able to see that person is really important.

So, I try to make sure that that's part of what we're doing in inclusive excellence starting off with that humanity and then having some really great conversations. And I always also say this is not about changing people's minds because that's a thing that people, oh, you want to change my mind. If I could change somebody's mind, I would be a billionaire, right? Um, it is about helping cadets have difficult conversation, right? Challenging conversations. Um. That's one of the things that was also recommended, you know, to VMI to, to do that piece. But recommend or not, that's just a good thing. 

Think of the country right now. If we could have respectful, difficult...

ROY: civil...

LOVE: civil conversations and how much further we would be. I look at these cadets. They are leaders for this and the next generation. So, when I think about that. What that means is these are the individuals who are going to have to have these conversations. So, I need to prepare them. I need to prepare them to be able to lead in a way, and this is, this is connected with leadership, right, because oftentimes you don't always, especially if you're commissioning, you don't get to choose who you lead, right? It's okay. You're assigned to this and these are the people that you're leading. 

ROY: I would say it also is part of your [continuous] learning process. So within the structure of a higher education environment, the ability to learn to listen and take in some viewpoints that weren't part of your regional culture, your family culture, your society, whatever, that is part of the maturing and growing that happens at ages 18 through 22-ish, you know, in that, and so, I don't think that it's unusual either for any institution of higher education to undertake this kind of, uh, let's call it leader development programming. And I think that that will be an advantage to our cadets to go through these courses, whatever it is they take from it now, it could be something that's useful in the future. I think it's, I think you're correct that it is a, it's something that's a lifelong process, you know, hearing about. But I think you develop, it's the opportunity to develop the tools of listening and then adopting that new information, is it useful? Is it not useful? And then incorporating that or not into your, your, uh, your approach.

LOVE: Because we're educators. I say first and foremost, I am an educator, right? So, my job is to educate simply. It is not to, you know, uh, proselytize in, in any particular way, it is just to make sure you have all the information. And isn't that what any good institution of higher education does? 

ROY: And some of that is going to be anecdotal. It's going to be experiential. So, when people say things like, um, you know, this is my lived experience, it doesn't make it right or wrong.

LOVE: That's right.

ROY: It just means this is what I experienced and this is how I internalized it. Yes. Then we can have a conversation and rather than talking past each other now we have common language from which to start.

LOVE: That's right. And I think talking about common language is as important, right? We have certain ground rules that we kind of set for inclusive excellence. So, it helps us with that common language. It helps us, uh, stay in the boundaries of respecting each other's humanity. Because different people, like you said, we come from different places. So, the way I have a discussion in my house might be very different than the way you have a discussion in your house. And one's not right, one's not wrong, one might be like yelling and then that's just the culture. One might be you never yell. One is not better than the other, but we have to have a common way of approaching it when we're doing inclusive excellence. So, that's one of the things that we try to do as well.

ROY: I imagine, too, the benefit of, you know, cadets who are going to go through this programming. By the time they graduate, they should be experts in this area and as VMI is putting people out into the workforce, into our various institutions with this skill set, now, can actually influence the other generations and people coming after them. They've got a skillset set that, I think, is going to be something that's very marketable to have. Certainly, could distinguish them from their peers and may even help with them becoming and being put into positions of leadership because I think part of that listening to each other is empathy and when people know how much you care, then they want to know how much you know. And then, I think that that opens doors.

LOVE: Yeah, absolutely. And how much you care is really important as well. You know, I...

ROY: It's trust.

LOVE: It's trust. And we get evaluations, you know. We, we do a level of assessment seeing if cadets are, um, what they're getting from the program. And I remember a couple of cadets, nope, I don't want to do it and I hate it. Okay. Hate is a strong word but tell me, talk. And any time there's even one cadet concerned, bothered, questions didn't want to do it, come talk to me because I want to hear you. I care if you didn't want to do and I care to know what happened for you in the room. What gave you, you know, what made you feel good about it? What parts you didn't like? All of those things. And I remember speaking with a cadet and they were just like, man, I, some of it was fine, you know, Dr. Love. They always do it, some of it was fine.

ROY: Yeah, they're using that sandwich technique!

LOVE: Yes, yes, right, right. Excellent technique. Um, but I don't know. I just didn't like this particular activity. And sometimes we do more than one. I remember sitting there and listening to that cadet and I was like, okay. Then I spoke to another cadet. Same thing. Didn't like that particular activity. Now I was kind of taken aback only because I was surprised. Not that they didn't like the activity but because my other groups loved it. I was like, well, what's different in this group? They were totally different groups. We do it by class, right? So, one class is at one place in their development and another class is more seasoned in life and in another place, right? So, I said, you know what? I'm skilled enough to change the activity. I don't, and that was part of me being inclusive in terms of my thought process... I didn't need to be so rigid and no, you must do this one activity here that I chose. Well, and one of my cadets, cadet facilitators, because it's, it's facilitated by cadets, so, I don't, I don't do, I'm not a million different places at one time, um, but I remember one cadet talking to a student saying, you know, Dr. Love has, like, 25 different activities in this book. And I was in the background kind of hearing it. I said, well, I'll just change it. I'll just change it and see what happens. And when I changed it, survey results, in terms of being more satisfied with it, went up. And in terms of feeling more connected with their peers, went up. I was like, look at there! Cadets giving me feedback that helped not only other cadets but helped me and my work. So, yeah.

ROY: Yeah so, they basically had the opportunity to come to you and say, you know, how can we, you know, we don't like this particular activity.

LOVE: That's right.

ROY: So, they had not, they have a voice in, in the programming. How it's executed and their learning experience as a result. 

LOVE: Yeah, and that's probably a lot better than your classes, right? You probably can't change your curriculum, right? It's set, right? This is new! So, there's still plenty of room for growth and an evolution in this. So, that's the great part, right, is that you can give me feedback and I can do some things that are different. And at the same time, I also have the expectation that possibly another class will take and say, oh, we want to go back to the one that you took out, right? Because everybody's different and the way they kind of process this is different and that, that's okay.

I and, you know, sometimes the cadets think, oh no, I don't want to take it. I said, well, okay, do you say to your department chair, I don't want to take the following classes to graduate? No, you show up. You take it. But then, there's an opportunity to give some feedback. Once you've invested and put something in it, right? So, when cadets even beforehand um are like, oh, I don't know. Like, well, let's do it first and then you decide whether or not it was fruitful for you and the vast majority, you're like, okay, you know? Again, this is something that did help me connect with my peers. This is something that did help me in my own self-identity. When I hear things like that, I'm like, okay, I'm, I'm happy!

ROY: Yeah, making progress, you're on to something...

LOVE: That's right. That's right.

ROY: Well, very good. Um, let's kind of wrap this up a little bit. What, um, what other thoughts, maybe, do you have about the program, its direction? Yeah. Are you, you know, are people coming to you and wanting to get some information? 

LOVE: That's a great question. So, um, actually this past Friday, um, I couldn't make the training myself because we had a board of visitors meeting, but my staff came to me and said, we had a few people say, when are we going to do this again? That is probably my biggest challenge, right? Cadets are so packed in terms of their schedule and their time. How do I help them get more out of this? So, what we're looking at now is kind of doing part twos.

So, every Friday, we have this inclusive excellence [training]. Zero eight hundred hours. Nice and bright and early. And last semester, we had it at 11 but process every Friday, I'm saying, well, if I'm only doing this particular class, there's nothing to say as long as I have enough facilitators i can't do like a part two for a different class of cadets. So, that's what I'm working on now because I've had lots of feedback. When can we do this again? So, yeah. And I'm, like, I don't know and I'm trying to figure that out. So, I think that's what I'm gonna start to look at.

And, and as it continues to grow, you know, it's going to change. It's going to evolve and we'll tweak it. You know, I could scratch all of this and do something totally different next year but the point is that this is, you know, the first time in, in terms of, of doing this. So at the end of the day, I am okay with it kind of changing with the Corps of Cadets. And it's not just for the Corps of Cadets.

So, that's the other piece. When you talk about where do I see it going next. Well, there's a growth that needs to happen for all of us, including myself. Like I said, it's a lifelong journey. So, part of that is making sure that all the employees have an opportunity for this inclusive excellence training piece as well. 

I am desperately trying to make that happen, uh, this semester. Whether it be, and my desire is to have face-to-face interactive kind of inclusive excellence training, because I'm a big person or an interactive, um, not to say that it doesn't, like I said, the, the book knowledge, that the academic knowledge doesn't matter, it absolutely does, but if you give me a choice between you knowing what equality means and treating people with equality, I'm going to ask for the treatment, right, instead of you memorizing a definition. So, uh, that's going to be an important, uh, part of what we do. And understanding that this is something that has to be ingrained in everything we do. 

We still have work to do in that area. It needs to be, not just Corps of Cadets. Not just employees. Not just the inclusive excellence training. But it needs to be part of everything that we do, every fiber of the institution, in order for us to give our cadets and employees the maximum benefit, right? I always say it is always a travesty if students are leaving any institution without cultural competency because we have the ability to help them to get there. So, to have the cadets be able to graduate with that sense of cultural competency but what [about] faculty and staff, too? I think the people who work here that's part of also helping in their professional growth, right, and their opportunities to, to advance is that cultural competency piece.

And I want to know, I want all employees to know I'm just as invested in them as I am in the Corps of Cadets. And, and that's at every level, you know. That's whether leadership, uh, whether you're classified staff, tailor shop, you know, we, we owe this to, um, well, maybe we don't owe it, but I think it's a good organization, and this is just what VMI is prepared to do.

I always say VMI is good in terms of academics, academic excellence. I always say I'd compare, I'm from Boston, Massachusetts. So, I'd compare them to a Harvard student any day. And I'd put one of my VMI cadets up against a Harvard student, academically, any day. Physically? Of course, I'm going to put you up against them. Because I know they're prepared for that. And I also want to be able to make sure in terms of cultural competency that they have those three, you know. That's that little three-legged stool, you know? It's different with honor system in here but I like that concept of that, that visualization of the three-legged stool, academic excellence, physical excellence, excellence in terms of cultural competency. So, that's, uh, how I see things.

So, I have a lot of work to do. It's ever-evolving. My office is ever-evolving... getting staff... I just hired a deputy chief diversity officer and now I have an office manager and I am so happy! It really feels like I can now do more, right? And that's what I'm about to do. I feel like I have, uh, newfound energy! Getting new staff, um, uh, we had a BOV meeting just this past week, that gave me a newfound energy. And understanding that I need to do more in terms of how people understand inclusive excellence and more about making sure it's a fabric of VMI. So, yeah, that's what I see as next.

ROY: Very good! Um, just some closing thoughts that I have. Um, you know, here at the center [Center for Leadership & Ethics] we talk about, we're the proponent for the View or Download the VMI Leader Journey publication and that three-legged stool you talked about is a, is an icon, basically, of the VMI programming: academic, military environment, physical development and programming/athletics, and the seat being the Honor System itself. So, what I liken that to is that mind, body, spirit. You know, how is it we approach each other? And just to kind of bring this full circle, when you're talking about cultural competency when you're talking about DEI initiatives or inclusive excellence planning, we are talking about being able to relate to people in their humanity and to be able to advance our humanity.

LOVE: That's right.

ROY: That is a growth opportunity and it, it does, I think it is a beneficial... something to keep aware at the forefront of your mind. Am I asking, for example, open-ended questions? Am I making assumptions without, kind of, gauging the temperature in the room on some cert... on some things? But as young people or as people who have not been exposed to that kind of programming, you don't know what you don't know.

LOVE: No.

ROY: And so, I, I think that as we roll these programs out just like we went through with our own core professional development programming our, our center has launched two levels of that. One is the Emerging Leaders which is a more extensive one but the one preceding that is Lean Forward. So as brand-new faculty members, you come in and just kind of get the, um, the essentials of what it is to operate in an environment such as VMI. What do you need to know? Some classroom management stuff, just basic stuff to make sure we're all using the same language, we're all taking the same kind of approach in terms of onboarding employees. Then, the next level being the Emerging Leaders, folks have been here for six to ten years, and they're starting to take on or starting to become available to some leadership opportunities. So, what does that look like? So, there's coaching, there's mentoring, there's role-playing, there's all kinds… meeting management. So, I, I see this inclusive excellence programming, for the professional side of the house, also something that's a, another tool in your tool kit for communications, uh, that I think would make a candidate stand out from their peers. So, um...

LOVE: And that's VMI!

ROY: That’s VMI.

LOVE: We stand out. We don't do ordinary!

ROY: That's exactly right. Very good. Well, thank you, Dr. Love, so much for your time and for your effort and for walking the talk of being inclusive, taking the feedback, and then building that into the programming where it makes sense. I think that in very short order this will be something that helps VMI raise its profile nationally.

LOVE: Absolutely.

ROY: And help our cadets and faculty, no matter where they go on from here. So, thank you, again, for your time.

LOVE: Thank you. 

ROY: On behalf of the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics, we thank the following, Mr. Caleb Minus, VMI class of 2020 for the intro and backing music. Find more of his musical stylings on his Instagram page at minus official. That's at m-y-n-u-s official. Colonel Dave Gray, Ph.D., U.S. Army, retired, director of the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics, and of course, as always, our podcast guests. Find this podcast and other CLE programming information on the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics' website vmi.edu forward-slash cle. Follow the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics on YouTubeFacebookTwitterLinkedIn, or Instagram  accounts. The VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics educates, engages, and inspires the VMI Corps of Cadets, VMI staff, faculty, and alumni, and listeners like you. Thanks for tuning in!

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