On the morning of July 13, University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD announced the appointment of Teresa Nance, PhD, as Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In the same email to the community, he also announced the establishment of a new University task force, Aequitas: The Presidential Task Force on Race, led by Dr. Nance. The Aequitas Task Force is charged with assessing the racial climate on campus, identifying areas for improvement and creating a plan for developing the cultural competence for all students, staff and faculty.
Before he explained Nance’s appointment and the establishment of the Task Force, Father Peter acknowledged the popular instagram account @BlackVillanova, which was created almost a month ago that has detailed student, staff and alumni encounters with racism at the University.
“These are conversations that are long overdue in our country, our world and especially, in our Villanova community, as evidenced by the experiences shared on the @BlackVillanova Instagram account,” Father Peter wrote. “ If you have not seen or read these posts, I encourage you to read them. They reveal a different side of life at Villanova. I have read the posts and many of the experiences shared are heartbreaking. To all the students, faculty, staff and alumni who have posted to this account, please forgive us. I promise that Villanova can and will do better.”
Father Peter then transitioned to explaining the importance of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) at the University, along with the appointment of Nance as Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“We are at a pivotal time in our nation’s history, and these are important actions that need to be taken at Villanova,” he wrote. “This University was built on the premise of inclusivity, and I believe it is critically important, now more than ever, that we remain true to this foundation. Villanova must be a place where all feel welcomed, included and valued. Dr. Nance’s institutional knowledge, leadership and insight have been invaluable to our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. I can think of no one better to lead Villanova in this important work in the weeks, months and years to come.”
Given the University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion sitting at the forefront of the University’s Strategic Plan: Rooted. Restless., Father Peter’s decision comes at a time “to give ODEI an even more prominent position within the University,” he wrote in his email.
As Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Nance will report directly to the Office of the President. She previously held the position of Associate Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“I am honored by the trust and respect that Father Peter and the Board of Trustees have in me and the work of diversity, equity and inclusion at Villanova,” Nance said. “There has never been a more challenging time to accept the responsibilities of Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Never has the work been more important, never have the chances to make a difference been more real.”
Nance will also lead the newly created Presidential Task Force on Race – named Aequitas, the Latin word for equity. The Aequitas Task Force will consist of a cross section of students, faculty, staff and alumni. Among the goals of the task force are:
To encourage all departments and academic programs to undertake a systematic evaluation of the underlying assumptions of their disciplines related to race.
To work with relevant constituencies to develop a University diversity course experience that includes a dialogue component, and adjust the University’s Learning Goals to include a goal on anti-racism education and cultural competence.
In conjunction with the University’s new 10-year Strategic Plan, Rooted. Restless., set goals for increasing the numbers of Black and minoritized members of the Villanova community, particularly students, senior staff and faculty.
To identify and isolate areas of concern – based upon climate data related to the perceptions of Black and minoritized people on campus – to develop both long and short term goals to accomplish required change
“The Aequitas Task Force is committed to identifying the barriers to success that have impeded the progress and satisfaction of Black and minoritized members of our University community,” Nance said. “Diversity is more than just a number. Authentic diversity provides inclusive and equitable opportunities for all to prosper.”
Nance’s career at the University spans more than four decades, during which time she has served as an administrator, teacher, scholar, activist and support system for students, faculty and staff at the University. She was the first Black tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Communication at Villanova, where she established an African-American rhetoric course and created the multicultural leadership course. In addition, The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education recognized Nance with the Frank W. Hale, Jr. Distinguished Service Award — an honor given to individuals who have “contributed substantially to diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education.”
As a researcher, Nance has investigated the perceptions and stages of interracial relationship development, diversity, inclusion and intergroup dialogue. She was the founding Assistant Vice President for the Center for Multicultural Affairs.
In 2015 — to further elevate the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion — the University created the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (now called the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), led by Nance, who was then named Associate Vice Provost of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. That year, Father Peter moved ODEI from Student Life to the Office of the Provost, as the Office oversaw University initiatives and training
Led by Nance, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) supports the University’s continuing efforts to create a welcoming and diverse community at all levels, including students, faculty, administrators and staff. The office works with academic, administrative and other units of the University to develop strategies aimed at fostering a community where individual differences are acknowledged and appreciated.
Most recently, ODEI launched a new campaign called Living Race—Transforming Community. The initiative is focused onorganizational systemic change and high-impact community engagement to facilitate opportunities for Black and minoritized students, staff and faculty to succeed and thrive within the University.