Powerful Portraits for a Powerful Site

Posted: May 14, 2019, 4:19pm


Under the supervision of University of Virginia history professor John Edwin Mason, portraits of African Americans in Charlottesville taken by Rufus Holsinger in the later 1800s and early 1900s were installed around the construction site that will become UVA’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. (SEE PHOTOS)

Source: UVA Today (Sanjay Suchak)

Class of 2019: UVA Law Student Has Fought for Rights of People of Color, LGBT and Others

Posted: May 6, 2019, 12:00am


A dedicated civil rights advocate, Akande will graduate May 19 from the University of Virginia School of Law with an even stronger voice for representing others. He will be an advocate with a law degree. Akande, who is transgender, has been an activist since coming out as lesbian at age 13. Starting at age 15, he began lobbying the Virginia General Assembly for workplace nondiscrimination policies, an effort that he has maintained over the years. He majored in political science at the University of Richmond, where he organized literal busloads of students on behalf of LGBTQ rights. (READ MORE)

Source: UVA Today (Eric Wiliiamson)

Letter from VPCODE - April 30, 2019

Posted: April 29, 2019, 3:14pm


Greetings, Friends,

As we approach the end of the spring semester, I would like to take this opportunity to review with you recent initiatives.

I officially retired on January 1, 2019 and, after a 30-day sabbatical, returned in a temporary faculty wage position during the search for the new Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The 2019 Community MLK Celebration was very successful. This year’s calendar included about 20 programs, all of which were executed collaboratively, including numerous pan-University partnerships. The timely theme “Women in the Movement” was incorporated into many of the events.

On March 3, we celebrated Liberation and Freedom Day, commemorating the day in 1865 when the 14,000 enslaved people in Charlottesville and Albemarle County were freed. Members of the Charlottesville and University community came together at the Rotunda to remember and celebrate. This year’s service was coupled with a Memorial to Enslaved Laborers blessing ceremony. Vials of the clay soil from the ground where the memorial is being erected were given to those in attendance as a memento.

On March 22, a luncheon was held to celebrate the 10th annual John T. Casteen III Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Leadership Award. The award is presented annually to a member of the UVA community who best demonstrates a dedication to leadership and a deep commitment to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University and in the community. Congratulations to Valerie Gregory, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admission, who was the 2019 recipient of the award.

Black Alumni Weekend was celebrated on April 5-7, 2019. On April 6, I had the opportunity to speak at Old Cabell Hall about the past, present and future of diversity, equity and inclusion at UVA. The following are some comments from that talk demonstrating progress and opportunities for improvement in diversity, equity and inclusion.

We have tracked diversity at UVA diligently. The class admitted in Fall 2018 is the most diverse first-year class ever with over 34% minority students. African American students entering this past fall represented 9.2% of the class, second only to UNC among public research university peers in the 62-member Association of American Universities (AAU). The number of African American students that entered this fall is 34% higher than five years ago. The current total enrollment of African American students at UVA is the highest ever with over 1,400.


At UVA, African American students have the highest graduation rates of all public institutions over two decades. GPAs have increased in recent graduating classes and current classes are demonstrating elevating GPAs. For example, comparing first semester GPAs, 29% of the class of 2021 had a 3.4 to 4.0 cumulative GPA compared to only 10% of the class of 2005. The graduating class of 2021 is the first to lift a first-year cumulative average above 3.03. 

UVA is the number one public university in the country for the percentage of women earning undergraduate engineering degrees, with 33 percent women undergraduates compared to a national average of approximately 21%. The Clark Scholars Program provides opportunities to exceptional students from populations traditionally underserved in STEM fields. Funded by a $30 million gift from the A. James and Alice B. Clark Scholars Foundation and the UVA Bicentennial Scholars Fund, the program accepted its first 16 students in 2018 and will increase to a target enrollment of 60-75 diverse scholars in future years in engineering.

Total minority undergraduates increased 40% from 3,643 to 5,274 over the past 10 years, compared to a 10% increase in the student body overall for the decade. Total minority graduate students increased 40% from 907 to 1,304 over the past ten years. The UVA School of Medicine’s underrepresented minority (URM) students increased from 6% to 28% in a decade, averaging 23% over the past 5 years. The School of Medicine averaged 12% African Americans in each entering class the past 5 years, 50% above the national average; but we went down to the national average of 8% the past year following the events of August 11 and 12. 

Total minority teaching and research faculty increased 70% from 309 to 537 the past ten years. Total African American teaching and research faculty increased 30% from 86 to 109 the past ten years. Of our 62 AAU research institution peers including public and private, UVA ranks number 6 in percentage of African American tenured/tenure-track faculty with UNC again just ahead of UVA. Total minority staff increased 25% from 1,084 to 1,335 the past ten years.


As a result of the efforts of many at the institution, diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and initiatives have been advanced with momentum to continue growth. Although the overall percentage of minority undergrads, grads, staff, and faculty have increased in recent years ongoing efforts are needed:

  • More professorships, scholarships, and chairs
  • More minorities in key administrative positions 
  • More space for diverse student organizations and multicultural programming
  • More Native American students and faculty recruited and supported
  • Establish American Studies department
  • Establish Native American studies
  • Establish Asian American/Pacific Islander and Latinx studies majors


Considering negative events in our community in recent years, the annual student survey,

Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) has shown a downward trend in scoring for the question “I feel I belong at UVA,” especially for African American and Muslim students. We must continue to work diligently to improve the climate and sense of belonging for all in our community.

We acknowledge ongoing challenges as well as our progress, and the future looks bright. Our 9th President Jim Ryan, who himself was a first-generation college student, is creating a shared vision for the future focusing on community, discovery, and service. This fall, a record 25,126 students applied to the UVA class of 2023 via the early application process; about 17% more than last year. Overall, almost 41,000 students applied for admission through either early or regular admission. On March 22, the Office of Admission released its regular admission decision and 40% of those offered admission are minorities, an increase of 5% from last year. Offers to first generation college students rose from 10% to 11.5% this year. The 2019 entering class is on track to be the most diverse ever at UVA.

In 1970, the University instituted an annual tradition of planting a tree on Founder’s Day to honor an individual who has made significant and lasting contributions to the University. The tree is to serve as a living memorial celebrating the individual's legacy. This year, the tree was planted in my honor east of the Rotunda near Brooks Hall, overlooking the site of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.

The Office for Diversity and Equity would like to wish a warm welcome to Kevin McDonald, recently announced as the new Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Kevin comes to us from the University of Missouri and will join the team this August.

Please see the featured articles below for news related to diversity, equity, and inclusion on Grounds. I wish you all a healthy and productive spring and summer.


Best Wishes,

Marcus L. Martin

Ryan Names Kevin G. McDonald as Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Posted: April 29, 2019, 12:00am


University of Virginia President Jim Ryan today announced the appointment of Kevin G. McDonald as vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. An experienced administrator with a proven track record of advancing initiatives that help universities be diverse, vibrant and welcoming communities, McDonald is currently the vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the University of Missouri system. He will assume the top leadership post on Aug. 1. (READ MORE)


Source: UVA Today (Anthony P. de Bruyn)

Class of 2019: As a 'Coda,' Kim Built Bridges for UVA's Deaf Community

Posted: April 23, 2019, 12:00am


Christina Kim was born in the United States to parents who immigrated from South Korea, but neither English nor Korean is her first language. As a child, the first language Kim learned was American Sign Language, or ASL.

Though Kim has typical hearing and speech, her parents are deaf. Kim is a “CODA” – a  child of deaf adults – and that identity has shaped her life. The soon-to-graduate University of Virginia biomedical engineering student has sought opportunities during her four years on Grounds to make life its best for the deaf community and for other CODAs. (READ MORE)

Source: UVA Today (Fariss Samarrai)