Skip to Content

Diversity Summit Luncheon

Back to Article Listing


Rebecca Chopp

Speech  •

Good afternoon, and thank you all for being here. I first want to thank the organizers of this year’s Diversity Summit—specifically its co-chairs, doctoral student Jazmyne Peters and undergraduate Arriana Belkin—for putting together an impressive program that adds incredible value to the University community. I also want to thank Frank Tuitt, Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Liliana Rodriguez, Vice Chancellor for Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence, Johanna Leyba, Acting Associate Vice Chancellor for Inclusive Excellence, as well as all of those across campus whose daily work promotes and supports a more diverse and inclusive community at DU.

As recent events around the nation and world prove, we continue to struggle as a society to live up to our ideals. For sure, we have made progress as a nation—but often the realities of discrimination, harassment and violence on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and other characteristics make us feel like we have made no progress at all.

The country should be able to look to college campuses for guidance—for examples of what inclusive communities look like and the benefits they bring to all of society. But we are falling short—often woefully short—in attracting, retaining, including and supporting students, faculty, staff and alumni of all backgrounds.

Many of us feel scared, angry, frustrated, even hopeless at times. But I look around me today—and most days—and I see signs of positive, if not always consistent, change. I am motivated by students who speak powerfully of their experiences—their struggles and their achievements—and advocate and create positive cultural change. I am inspired by faculty who pursue research that advances our understanding of racial inequities, gender disparities, religious discrimination, gender and sexual identities, physical and mental disabilities, socioeconomic disparities, incarceration, and so many other inter-related topics that help us understand and address inequality. Faculty members I talk to are looking to employ more inclusive pedagogy, and staff members around campus are committed to creating a more diverse and inclusive environment—many of them working daily to achieve that goal.

Culture change is not easy or fast, but, despite continual reminders of our need for more progress, we are advancing. Our new strategic plan, DU IMPACT 2025, highlights the need to build a more inclusive campus community and to prepare graduates to enter workplaces and communities where they will need to work in and lead diverse teams. This is an ethical and civic responsibility, as well as a practical need.

In addition to the creation of three senior-level positions focused on incorporating inclusive excellence in every aspect of the University, we now also have the Chancellor’s Diversity and Equity Advisory Committee, a University-wide committee with representatives from academic and administrative units and the Provost’s Academic Diversity Council, consisting of representatives of each academic unit. Soon, we will have a website dedicated specifically to Inclusive Excellence that will allow us to track transparently our progress on many key initiatives.

Thank you to the students, faculty and staff who continue to help us achieve these goals and set our sights on even more ambitious ones. Know that I and my senior team—as well as colleagues across campus—share your commitment to Inclusive Excellence and benefit greatly from your partnership.

Appropriately, I now have the pleasure of introducing Dr. Damon Williams, a scholar, leader and educator passionate about making organizations inclusive and excellent for all, creating equitable educational outcomes, and activating learning, youth development, and leadership in ways that are transformative and inspiring of new possibilities.

Dr. Williams is wonderful at helping people and organizations think strategically about inclusive excellence. His background and scholarship can provide our campus with insights into strategies to impact tangible change toward a more equitable and welcoming campus at all levels.

His experience both in higher education and now in the nonprofit sector provide us with valuable backdrops to the various challenges we all may encounter as we work to contribute to the positive changes on our own campus.

In September of 2013, Dr. Williams assumed a new role of global responsibility as the Senior Vice President for Program, Training, and Youth Development Services for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He is the chief education officer for the BGC Movement, as he leads the national program strategy for BGCA's strategic outcome areas.

Prior to joining BGCA, he served for five years as associate vice chancellor, vice provost, chief diversity officer, and member of the educational leadership and policy analysis faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was the founding leader of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement, which includes the nation’s largest pre-college to college K-16 pipeline development program, the world’s only hip-hop urban arts scholarship program learning community, innovative campus-wide partnerships to enhance STEM achievement and faculty diversification, research centers, and a four-city partnership with the National Posse Foundation.

He is a four-time scholar in residence for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. He has served as a two-time scholar in residence for the prestigious American Council of Education Fellowship Mid-Year Institute. And he serves on the ACE Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board, the UC Berkeley Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board, the Gallaudet University Diversity Advisory, and the National Diversity Council Executive Board.

His most recent books provide a sophisticated and nuanced approach to assist leaders with the overall process of leading diversity themed change and developing sound diversity infrastructures and strategies.

It is my pleasure to welcome Dr. Damon Williams.