Rudolph Clay

Rudolph Clay

Rudolph Clay fuels the curious, confused and all in between.

“I’ve always been passionate about helping individuals with interesting ideas to access, evaluate and utilize information,” Clay said.

As the head of Diversity Initiative and Outreach Services for Olin Library, Clay builds an inviting space for the university and surrounding community, ensuring that library staff, services and resources promote diversity and inclusion. However, his position involves more than strategic recruitment and resource selection.

“There’s a difference between simply having a diverse group and developing the skills to be able to utilize it,” he said.

“There’s a difference between simply having a diverse group and developing the skills to be able to utilize it.”

Rudolph Clay

Clay developed some of those important skills as a member of the 2015 cohort of PLAN (Professional Leadership Academy & Network), a yearlong professional development program designed to cultivate future leaders and enhance tomorrow’s education. Sessions reinforce the university’s dedication to inclusion and active leadership by helping cohort members cultivate core skills such as strategic thinking, innovation, creativity and project management.

“PLAN shows me the beauty of collaboration,” Clay said. “By establishing relationships within the cohort and learning about everyone’s individual projects, we see that there is natural potential for collaboration in the future.”

Clay channels this lesson into enhancing his work, seeking experts on campus to help combat challenges, or improve university and library efforts. Prior to PLAN, Clay frequently encouraged students with questions about library resources to consult the authors — particularly those from the university — yet he often lacked the courage to consult them himself.

“Before, I was reluctant to contact others in fear that they might not want to take the time to help,” he said. “With PLAN, I find that my colleagues are constantly networking and collaborating. Now I’m advocating it and using it.”

Through speakers and workshops, PLAN also helps Clay appreciate the complexity of the university and its workings.

“You can read a book or take a class about strategic planning, for example, but the way that PLAN makes learning even better is that we discuss how we as campus leaders have actually applied the principles of strategic planning to projects that we are all familiar with within the university,” he said.

Rudolph Clay with faculty and staff

Washington University faculty and staff participate in the “Envisioning Inclusion, Real-Time” session during the Day of Discovery and Dialogue

Clay is using lessons learned during PLAN in his role as head of diversity initiatives at the library. He said that the university benefits from creating an accepting and inclusive workplace atmosphere where all can consistently contribute and succeed.

To help illustrate the difference between diversity and inclusion, Clay cites expert Vernā Myers: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

As the Olin Library undergoes renovation, Clay is carefully considering the physical component of diversity and inclusion. “We want to make this space attractive to all. If there are any barriers, we want to remove them so that everyone feels that this is their library,” he said.

Looking forward, Clay envisions a university community in which students, faculty and staff actively challenge themselves to incorporate diversity and inclusion into their practices.

“Each individual should ask, ‘What does diversity and inclusion mean for me personally?’ I would hope that by developing these personal philosophies, our community comes to learn and embrace the benefits of being at a university that values diversity and inclusion. That’s how it will be sustained,” he said.