New Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Assumes U of A Duties
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Yvette Murphy-Erby, the former director of the University of Arkansas School of Social Work and former associate dean in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, started her new duties as vice provost for diversity and inclusion on Sept. 15. She said the biggest surprise in her first week has been learning that many faculty and staff on campus are already engaged with or active in an effort related to diversity and inclusion.
“There is great work being done, much more than I realized,” she said. “The challenge that I see is the lack of a mechanism to centralize the many great efforts. As such, one of my early tasks must include facilitating a process to provide a central location for diversity related efforts. A central location will help to break down silos and enhance opportunities to share information and knowledge efficiently.”
Enriching campus diversity and inclusion is one of the U of A’s eight guiding priorities, and the first action under that priority in the newly adopted U of A Strategic Plan is to hire a vice provost for diversity.
As vice provost for diversity and inclusion for the U of A, Murphy-Erby will report to Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jim Coleman.
“Yvette Murphy-Erby has a detailed knowledge of the University of Arkansas from her perspective as a social work faculty member, administrator and accomplished researcher. Her service across the state and her training as a social work professional has allowed her to develop a deep personal passion and understanding for the state of Arkansas and a strong desire to lead the university in achieving its goal to become a more diverse and inclusive place,” said Coleman. “I’m excited to work with Dr. Murphy-Erby to ensure that diversity and inclusivity of people and ideas fuels our academic excellence.”
Murphy-Erby will work closely with both Coleman and Chancellor Steinmetz to provide leadership in developing, implementing, and reporting on the success of a campus diversity plan.
The university’s strategic plan also calls for actions to develop a campus-wide inclusion and diversity plan, increase enrollment of Arkansans to reflect state demographics, and improve recruitment and retention of talented and diverse faculty and staff.
Murphy-Erby plans to work closely with Charles Robinson, vice chancellor for student affairs, who oversees a number of programs aimed at recruiting, enrolling, retaining and graduating a diverse student body. As they coordinate those efforts, she plans to direct resources from her office towards increasing diversity and inclusion of faculty and staff.
“There is an urgency for our campus to move forward in the area of diversity and inclusion. To make real and meaningful progress will require total campus engagement,” she said. “I think the U of A is ready for that level of engagement. My goal is to provide the leadership we need to bring our separate efforts together to develop new ideas and approaches and to work towards real, meaningful and measurable progress.”
Murphy-Erby believes this progress requires organization and a process aimed at addressing structural, institutional and systemic challenges while also focusing and building on the many strengths and assets that are already present. In addition, she believes the process should provide space for organic developments that emerge out of clear metrics, expectations and guidance. Her longer range goals include developing a diversity and inclusion research and training institute; implementing a structured process to assist units in developing their individual diversity plans and metrics for evaluating their progress; and working collaboratively with faculty, staff and external stakeholders to find ways to embed the principles of diversity and inclusion in every aspect of the campus.
“Diversity and inclusivity matter in efforts to recruit and retain faculty and staff. Diversity and inclusivity matter in teaching and service as well as in research and leadership. They matter to the success of our university priorities and to our responsibility as a land grant and flagship institution for our state. We have a responsibility to do all that we do from a standpoint that reflects diversity, inclusion and excellence.”
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