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A message from Dean Karen DePauw and Assistant Dean Shernita Lee

To the Graduate Community:

These uncertain times of COVID-19 are amplified by the recent and unsettling national events. The senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, are only a few examples of the deadly treatment of Black Americans in this country- often unjust, unwarranted, and with excessive force. These deaths have caused increased anguish, anger, and outrage over the liberties and perceived protection that we are all deserving of, especially from those in authority.

The Graduate School acknowledges that these events, and countless others that remain unknown, have affected not only you, but your communities, families, and the superficial vision of justice that is often blurry and unexperienced by those of marginalized groups. In this time of darkness, we must strive for the light of social justice, fair treatment of others, and most importantly safety.

 The Graduate School condemns all acts of discrimination, racism, and violence. We aim to not only prepare our students to recognize systemic racism but to also speak up and act. Our institutional commitment is reaffirmed through our inclusion and diversity requirement for all graduate students which encourages students to explore their biases, understand their role as an active bystander, reflect on how words and actions influence our community, and reiterates the Principles of Community. We affirm our inclusive efforts to support all students. We strive to prepare our students for the real-world experience beyond their curriculum, research, and academic endeavors, through our focus on intentional and well-rounded experiences for all graduate students.

Among the many efforts underway and planned, we invite you to participate in the "Justice in June" project organized by the Academy for GTA Excellence (VT_GrATE).  Justice in June is a resource compilation curated by Bryanna Wallace & Autumn Gupta that will be used as the basis for gatherings and discussion starting June 8. I encourage you to join VT_GrATE on Mondays at 3 p.m., Wednesdays at 12 p.m., and Fridays at 10 a.m. to engage with our colleagues at Virginia Tech.  Greater understanding of the issues will enhance not only our personal and professional growth but can also positively influence our teaching and learning. We also invite you to join the Office of Inclusion and Diversity for a Special Conversation on Race and Racism on Friday, June 5, at 2 p.m.

 We reiterate the support from President Sands and Vice-President Pratt-Clarke in their recent statement, highlighting the urgency of community. We ask the graduate departments, programs, and all other support members to our graduate students, to continue to exude compassion, patience, and provide space for the plethora of emotions from our students as needed.  The graduate community is resilient even during this perilous time.  Thank you for continuing to help us in fostering and sustaining an inclusive affirming and diverse graduate community.

In Solidarity,

Karen P. DePauw, Ph.D., Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education         

Shernita Lee, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion