Get to know one of Penn State’s leaders, Dr. W. Terrell Jones, vice provost for Educational Equity, in this interview. In addition, Dr. Jones will be joining us for an exclusive interview on PawCast, the World Campus podcast. Submit your questions for the interview on this post!
What Does the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity Do?
Most people view discussions about diversity as being about ethnicity, but we need to also be concerned with many more populations, with areas related to being successful at the University, and with the benefits to everyone of having a diverse university. The Office for Educational Equity provides assistance for historically underrepresented/underserved students to be able to obtain a Penn State education. In addition, we focus on improving the campus climate (how individuals treat one another), and we also focus on curricular changes that support diversity. Penn State’s University-wide strategic plan for diversity focuses around seven areas that support diversity among students, faculty, staff, and University leadership.
We really want to create an inclusive learning environment for our students that includes learning how to perceive the world from alternative perspectives.
We want our students to graduate and have an appreciation for a broad range of cultural settings.
We’re also really talking about providing opportunities to go abroad and for people who are part of other countries to be part of Penn State because they help broaden all our perspectives as it relates to diversity.
One thing that the World Campus does, and does so eloquently, is provide opportunities for people who are location bound who, for one reason or another, can’t travel or they can’t just move to a new location. They may have family, they may have to work part-time, or they may have responsibilities that don’t allow them the opportunity. The World Campus brings diversity to their doorstep.
Tell Us About Your Personal Career Trajectory – How Did You Wind up in This Position?
I know there are now national organizations that focus on preparing people for diversity-centered positions like I hold now, but twenty-five years ago, nobody was talking about a diversity position.
My background is in student affairs. I worked with students in residence halls and dealt with issues related to how people get along. Generally, the interactions between faculty and students in classrooms are pretty prescribed. But in residence halls, interactions are much more spontaneous. You don’t know who’s coming down the hallway, who’s studying while you’re socializing.
To be successful there, you needed to be quick on your feet as it related to conflicts and other interpersonal issues.
What Motivates You on a Daily Basis?
My wife, and the fact that I believe we’re making a tremendous difference.
If you look at our numbers, you’ll see we don’t have a problem recruiting people from diverse backgrounds anymore; however, getting those students to graduate can be a challenge. But, we’re seeing some very exciting data that show increases in the graduation rates for minority students, which is one of the goals of our University-wide strategic planning document, A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 2010–15. Currently, Penn State is in the top fifty institutions in the United States that graduates minority students.
Do you have a question for Dr. Jones? We want to hear from you! Submit a question below, and it could be featured in our upcoming PawCast interview.