addDiversity is one of those “sit-up-straight” words, a powerful concept that can seem daunting or make people defensive.

To me, it’s not at all. Diversity is an appreciation for our differences, a starting point for engaging each other. Diversity is sitting together — in a classroom, at a lab table, or writing a grant — and bringing our assorted backgrounds and experiences together to create new knowledge, solve problems, and educate our students. Diversity brings unique change — change that lasts, not short-term solutions.

Diversity is a core value and top priority for Washington University. It germinated here in the last decade when Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and university leaders recognized that we were not where we should be. Since then, I’m proud of how our community has worked together to prioritize diversity and inclusion as a core institutional value.

Through admissions and hiring, and piloting innovative initiatives and strategies aimed at inclusion, we have been slowly making progress. We’ve had some successes; but we still have much work to do. And it’s more important than ever.

Why? Recent global, national and regional forces have underscored the fact that diversity brings both challenges and opportunities. We know that. The challenges of diversity are hard; diversity moves all of us out of our comfort zones. But engaging each other in new, sometimes disquieting ideas is the role of universities. A key part of our mission is to prepare our students to become global leaders in a world that is increasingly diverse.

Wherever they go after graduation, whether they remain here in St. Louis, return to their home communities around the nation and the world, or seek adventures in new places, our students will blaze new trails worldwide. Our faculty is a global faculty, and our backgrounds inform the research and scholarship that takes place here.

Excellence flows from full inclusion, and we are committed to making this university excellent in every way — even if the work is complex and the issues are not easy. We’re working to meet the challenge of diversity so we can embrace the opportunity of diversity.

A university like ours cannot be excellent without drawing the full array of thinking, experience and backgrounds to our work. We cannot send our students to be global leaders in government, public interest, science and research, and the private sector if they cannot work with, learn from, and lead diverse groups.

I am proud to be working on this effort. Washington University aspires to be a thought-leader and a best-practice institution in diversity and inclusion. Help us get there.


Vice Provost
William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law