Diversity and Inclusion

Activities and Initiatives

updated June 22, 2020

Institutional Commitments

  • Revised the University Statement of Commitment to Diversity (approved by Board of Trustees in February 2018)
  • Adopted a Strategic Plan (approved by the Board of Trustees in May 2018) committing to major initiatives in support of diversity and inclusion, including:
    • Admitting the strongest applicants, regardless of family financial circumstances;
    • Eliminating financial barriers to curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular participation;
    • Offering high-quality residential, dining, and social options for all students;
    • Recruiting deep and diverse applicant pools for undergraduate and law school admission and faculty and staff positions;
    • Deepening student connections to W&L through the Office of Inclusion and Engagement.
  • Endowed the Office of Inclusion and Engagement with $1 million commitment from the Class of 1994.

Buildings and Memorials

  • Renamed Robinson Hall for John Chavis;
  • Renamed Lee Jackson House for Pamela Simpson;
  • Replaced portraits in Lee Chapel with portraits of Washington and Lee at the time of their direct connection to the university;
  • Closed doors to statue chamber during university events;
  • Established memorial marker to honor Leslie Smith, the first Black graduate of the School of Law;
  • Created Sankofa House to provide a residential and social space for students of the African diaspora and their allies;
  • Created Nuestro Hogar Latino to provide a residential and social space in which Latinx cultures, issues and identities are promoted and acknowledged;
  • Renovated Chavis House and established it as residence for members of Alpha Phi Alpha, the historically black Greek fraternity;
  • Renovated Casa Hispanica;
  • Renovated Red House as the LGBTQ Center;
  • Established gender-neutral bathrooms around campus.

Admissions and Financial Aid


Undergraduate: Increased the percentage of domestic students of color from 12% to 16% in the last 3 years, with an incoming class approaching 20%. The percentage of black students has risen from 2.7% to 4%, with an incoming class over 5%;

Law: Increased the percentage of domestic students of color in the law student body to 22% since 2016, with an incoming class of 23%. The percentage of black students has risen from 4.1% to 6%.


  • Created admissions counselor position focused on diversity recruiting;
  • Created admissions counselor position focused on enhancing partnerships with community-based organizations to diversify applicant pool;
  • Added financial aid counselor position to support existing financial aid outreach to families and expand initiatives;
  • Established athletics liaison roles to support coaches’ efforts to recruit a more diverse class of student athletes;
  • Adopted paid Admissions Ambassador (student tour guide) model and expanded the number of ambassadors, partnering with university offices such as OIE to recruit a diverse pool of applicants.


  • Developed three annual Diversity and Inclusion Visit Experiences, underwriting travel costs for participants;
  • Increased number of first generation and underrepresented students visiting campus;
  • Expanded admissions counselors’ fall travel to include community-based organization meetings and visits to high schools with college-bound students in diverse neighborhoods;
  • Implemented early application outreach to underrepresented students and parents from admission officers, current students, alumni, faculty and staff;
  • Deployed College Board Landscape to more accurately discern applicant school and neighborhood context;
  • Revised Alumni Admission Program to prioritize training, recruitment of young alumni, and more consistent communication and updates, emphasizing the university’s strategic priorities;
  • Sponsored visits to W&L by college counselors from schools with diverse populations.


  • Expanded partnership with QuestBridge, a national nonprofit that matches the nation’s most exceptional, low-income youth with leading colleges and opportunities, to match 16 students and actively recruit those who do not match with other schools;
  • Joined American Talent Initiative to expand college to low- and moderate-income families;
  • Partnered with College Greenlight, a free national college and scholarship search tool for first-generation and underrepresented students, their schools and community organizations;
  • Broadened participation in national talent search programs, including increased volume of students from underrepresented groups.

Financial Aid

  • Award $49 million in need-based financial aid annually, with an average aid award of $51,000;
  • Meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students (including international and transfer students) through grant aid and work study, without requiring loans;
  • Extended W&L Promise of at least a full-tuition grant to students whose families earn $100,000 or less annually (from previous $75,000 threshold);
  • Established need-based scholarships for students from underrepresented communities, including Chicago, Dallas and the American Southwest;
  • Ensured that students receiving significant need-based aid have access to funds in advance of fall matriculation to support travel and expenses related to starting school;
  • Established early application review process so that families can discern W&L aid opportunities before applying for early decision admission;
  • Implemented early application outreach to students and parents to explain financial aid process and added meetings with admitted students to review aid awards.


Undergraduate Curricular and Co-Curricular Programs

  • Created a new minor in Law, Justice and Society;
  • Added new courses in Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division; Protest Poetry; Shut up and Play: Black Athletes and Activism; Material Culture and Protest; Early African American Print; After Namibia: Afro-German Poetics, Activism, and Hip Hop; The Economics of Race;
  • Offered courses at Augusta Correctional Center that combined W&L students and inmates and resulted in, among other things, a student-sponsored exhibition of art created by the inmates;
  • Created and expanded the Advanced Immersion and Mentoring Program (AIM), which provides a fully-funded, five-week research and leadership experience on campus before classes start, exclusively for entering first-year students from widely diverse backgrounds;
  • Created programming for faculty and staff during Fall and Winter Academies, including sessions on Race & Ethnicity in Higher Education; Inclusive Teaching and Mentoring; Leveraging Technology to Cultivate an Inclusive Classroom; Applied Inclusive Pedagogy; Disability, Diversity and Inclusivity; Intentional Mentoring of Diverse Students; Helping Faculty Support Students from Marginalized Communities; Understanding the Challenges that Undocumented Immigrant Students Face; Strategies for Inclusive Pedagogy; Library Challenges and Resources related to Diversity and Inclusivity; Mentoring Under-Represented Students.

Law School Curricular and Co-Curricular Programs

  • Created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • Instituted an annual lecture in honor of Les Smith, the first African American graduate of the School of Law;
  • Reintroduced a Critical Race Theory course;
  • Partnered with the development and teaching of the undergraduate minor in Law, Justice, Society;
  • Increased interdisciplinary courses and programming.

Faculty Recruitment and Retention

  • Implemented recommendations from Recruitment and Retention Task Force to improve hiring of diverse faculty and staff;
  • Partnered with Human Resources to identify outlets for position ads to generate diverse applicants and increase support for trailing partners;
  • Joined the Consortium for Faculty Diversity and the Ph.D. Project to generate more diversity within applicant pools;
  • Increased emphasis on diversity-focused affinity groups within professional associations;
  • Developed new protocols for developing and reviewing diverse candidate pools;
  • Created an ambassador program to support diverse candidates throughout the recruitment process;
  • Founded Professionals of Color network with sponsored events throughout the year;
  • Established annual reporting from the College and Williams School to Board of Trustees on faculty composition and recruiting outcomes;
  • Established regular reporting to College faculty on W&L diversity data;
  • Published Groove, a monthly collection of Black-themed events at W&L and other institutions in our region.

Physical Education and Athletics

  • Expanded efforts to and embraced new approaches to recruit diverse students to our athletic teams;
  • Increased efforts to hire diverse candidates to the faculty and staff of the department;
  • Implemented training programs to recognize differences and implicit biases;
  • Increased attendance at and engagement with student athletes, coaches, sport programs, and PEA staff at OIE functions and events and other academic and cultural programs that contribute to our diversity commitments.

Student Affairs

Student Support

  • Created Diversity/First-Gen Working Group within Student Affairs as a vehicle to share information and ideas, and to aid in the facilitation of addressing issues;
  • Established Class Dean model to offer support, serve as resource and as advisors for student organizations;
  • Established a single rate for campus housing regardless of room type (single, double, triple);
  • Launched alumni mentoring initiative to connect current students and alumni of color;
  • Launched new Inclusion and Engagement website with information and resources for diverse students, including low income and first-generation, multicultural, LGBTQ, religious, and those with disabilities;
  • Sponsored programs and provided financial and staff resources to meet student need:
    • Angel Fund to provide student financial support in the case of extreme emergencies;
    • Food pantry in Elrod Commons (in partnership with Campus Kitchen);
    • Career Closet for students to borrow interview attire;
    • Free coats, hats and gloves for students in need;
    • Textbook lending library (in partnership with First Generation – Low Income Partnership (FLIP);
    • Increase funding for career trips and other career-related opportunities;
    • Long-term laptop lending program;
    • No-cost meal service over all breaks except the long winter break;
    • Free laundry services;
    • No-cost campus housing over breaks for students who need it;
    • Low-cost shuttle to transportation hubs at breaks;
    • Increased funding for summer internships, travel for interviews and career trip scholarships.

Student Programming

  • Created Freedom Ride Pre-Orientation trip;
  • Expanded efforts related to first-generation students during orientation;
  • Implemented diversity and implicit bias training programs for students, faculty and staff, including all first-year undergraduate and law students, sophomore members of Greek organizations, the Student Judicial Council, the Executive Committee, student affairs staff, the President’s Council, new employees and new supervisors. Additional departmental and organizational trainings are available on request;
  • Created program on how to be an active bystander when people make racist, homophobic or sexist comments;
  • Offered funding for cultural immersion trips during school breaks;
  • Provide support for the Multicultural Students Association’s Diversity Day and Black and White Ball, celebrating cultural diversity;
  • Provide support for SABU’s annual Black Ball;
  • Sponsor OIE Day to celebrate the office and the various student organizations that provide support and education;
  • Created an OIE Ambassadors Program for 2020-2021;
  • Established the OIE liaison program which connects representatives from the Greek community with OIE;
  • Added a second student representative of OIE to the Student Affairs Committee;
  • Sponsored several “Communi-teas” on topics ranging from DACA to “the language of diversity,” and Cookies and Conversation series on topics including Allyship, Mentoring Black Excellence, Anatomy of a Microaggression;
  • Provided funding for Friday Night Underground and Community Dinners;
  • Created a community Parents and Family Weekend Dinner;
  • Created a First-Generation Student Day celebration;
  • Established WLUnite, a student organization that supports students with visible and invisible disabilities;
  • Provided funding for LGBTQ programs including Gender Action Group (GAG), Coming-Out Day, Kick-off Picnic at Resource Center;
  • Offered Safe Space Training to help LGBTQ students feel safe and included in the college community.

University Staffing

President’s Cabinet

  • Hired the university’s first Director of Institutional History;

Undergraduate Academics

  • Hired first African American Dean of the College;
  • Added a tenure-track position for an underrepresented minority faculty member in the college through a Target of Opportunity hire;
  • Successfully recruited an underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellow and a diverse visiting assistant professor through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity;
  • From 2015-2019, over 31.8% of faculty hired into tenure track lines were faculty of color; 15.9% were Black.

Student Affairs

  • Promoted Dean for Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement and added that position to the President’s Council;
  • Added a new position to the Office of Inclusion and Engagement;
  • Hired an underrepresented minority staff member in Career and Professional Development;
  • Added an underrepresented minority/LGBTQ counselor to the Health Center.


  • Added three underrepresented minority staff members in Admissions and Financial Aid.

School of Law

  • Hired three underrepresented minority law faculty members to tenured or tenure-track positions over the past 2 years;
  • Hired three individuals of color into professional administrative positions at the law school;
  • Appointed an African American scholar as the Frances Lewis Visiting Scholar for each of the last two years, with another African American scholar holding that honor in the year ahead.

Alumni Engagement

  • Created standing committee on Inclusion and Engagement on the Alumni Board of Directors;
  • Increased diversity of Alumni Board and Kathekon;
  • Created “Inside W&L,” the first e-newsletter specifically for black alumni;
  • Enacted a policy prohibiting chapters from hosting events at clubs with any discriminatory membership practices;
  • Worked with alumni chapters to increase multicultural engagement, sponsoring speakers and hosting events at Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., and ZuCot African American art gallery in Atlanta;
  • Hosted three black alumni reunions since 2012. 2019 reunion included the first philanthropic effort by black alumni, to support minority student experiences;
  • Added multicultural alumni and student event to Young Alumni Weekend programming;
  • Co-sponsored and funded an alumni career panel for black students in 2016;
  • Provided organizational support and funding for the 2019 FLEX gathering of black alumni and students;
  • Added staff member to support affinity groups and engage more diverse alumni.

Institutional History

  • Procured funding to support the preservation of the ruins at Liberty Hall, which includes continued research into the enslaved community that lived at the site for decades after 1803, when the buildings were converted for use as part of a plantation;
  • Began work into tracing the descendants of the individuals enslaved by John Robinson;
  • Partnered with the Office of Inclusion and Engagement and Admissions to talk with prospective and current students about Native and African American history;
  • Led campus history tours incorporating Native and African American history;
  • Delivered public lectures for the fall Chapel lecture series and Founders Day including the participation and contributions of African Americans on campus;
  • Began discussions with multiple partners, including Mount Vernon and Stratford Hall to more fully tell the story of African Americans at our sites;
  • Began the effort of partnering with community organizations to solicit insight and research questions, including the Coming to the Table group and the local chapter of the NAACP;
  • Taught a course on W&L history during spring term (Artifacts, Maps, and Archives) which included a discussion of generations of African American families at W&L;
  • Led a team of curators who created online exhibitions that showcase the creative work of African Americans (and other under-represented groups): Breaking the Chains, Photographs by Jack Mitchell, which includes Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, and we are working on several other online exhibits for summer 2020;
  • Developed a blog, Exploring W&L’s Past, to share information about themes from a wide-array of eras, with the goal of adding more biographies of under-represented groups.