Rhode Island College President Frank D. Sánchez
“It is a challenge for colleges and universities all over the country to attract not only more diverse students but more diverse faculty,’’ said RIC President Frank D. Sánchez. Yet this is a bar the new president has raised for Rhode Island College.
Inclusive excellence is one of the major goals of his administration, and it is an issue he recently addressed at a national conference in San Diego, where he was asked to moderate a panel discussion on the role of faculty in fostering an inclusive campus environment.
In his reflections following the conference, Sánchez noted how one of the panelists spoke about the isolation a new minority faculty member can face when joining a university.
Sánchez’s desire for Rhode Island College is that the transition be smooth for under-represented faculty and students. “When you have students and faculty who come with different values, attitudes, ethnicities, political positions, religious outlooks and sexual orientations, it creates an added complexity to how we build community,’’ he said.
But there are ways to breach these differences. Sánchez intends to establish cultural competency training at RIC as well as programs and policies that advance inclusivity. There are a number of private and public partnerships, foundations, nonprofits and community-based groups that RIC may look to for assistance, he said.
Already in place at the college are annual events designed to push the inclusion theme forward, such as Diversity Week, the Dialogue on Diversity conference and the Publick Occurrences forums.
Sánchez is also pressing ahead to attract diverse faculty and students. “What we have to do going forward,” he said, “which some of the leading colleges in the country are doing, is to preserve, strengthen and invest in the idea of what people call the ‘RIC family,’ and at the same time adjust to the changing demographics that many of our colleges are experiencing, particularly at RIC and within the state.’’
He noted that RIC’s strength is its mentoring, coaching and support of disadvantaged and first generation students. “That’s something we do very well because the faculty-student interactions are second to none,’’ he said.
And Sánchez is confident that RIC faculty will continue to “move the dial and make great strides’’ regarding inclusion matters.
“Our faculty have the core values that are very important to this institution and they genuinely and authentically care about student success,’’ he said. “That’s a great place to start. Still there is a lot of work to be done on the inclusion-excellence front, and it isn’t easy work; in fact, it can be very difficult. But for Rhode Island College to be a leading institution, we have to do it well.’’