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The importance of a welcoming department

November 6, 2015

Last spring Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Kevin McDonald and I hosted an informal luncheon for a number of our AALANA faculty who have succeeded in achieving tenure. It was a terrific conversation and, to be honest, very uplifting. Several of them talked about the mentoring they received from others, the collaborative spirit of their department, and how they felt they were supported in significant ways. 

But this was not true in general. 

A few bravely shared with the luncheon group of how they were successful with tenure DESPITE a rather unwelcoming department. They talked about social events that were held in which they were not invited. In some cases, no one showed an interest in their work. And yet they persevered with sheer grit and determination. 

Of course, this is not what ‘inclusive excellence’ is all about. Diversity alone is not enough. (By the way, here’s an article that excellently captures this idea.) There is a reason why we have an office for Diversity AND Inclusion. 

So what can a department do to insure that it is exemplifying inclusion and creating a welcoming department? 

Recently I posed this question to a number of department chairs and the tips were extraordinarily helpful. So I took those tips and then asked the AALANA Faculty Advisory Council to help me consolidate them and put them into a document that might provide some guidance for chairs and departments. You can find this document on my website

Do you have a tip for creating a welcoming department and don’t see it on the list? Send me an email ( or tweet (@RITProvost) and we’ll be sure that the idea gets included.