McIntire Associate Dean for Student Services Rebecca Leonard to Take on New Role as School’s First Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Rebecca Leonard was tapped to serve as the School’s first-ever Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Rebecca Leonard

Rebecca Leonard

Longtime McIntire Associate Dean for Student Services Rebecca Leonard was tapped to serve as the School’s first-ever Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, effective Aug. 1, 2016. In her new role, Leonard will chair the School’s five-year-old Diversity Advisory Committee, oversee implementation of the School’s strategic diversity initiatives, and seek opportunities to continue a long-standing tradition of consistently enhancing the culture and climate at McIntire. Leonard’s new role, as well as the School’s comprehensive Strategic Diversity Plan, was developed by a dedicated Diversity Task Force, assembled early in 2016 by McIntire Dean Carl Zeithaml.

“Striving to ensure equity, opportunity, and a voice for all members of our community has been a passion of mine for more than two decades,” says Leonard (McIntire ’82), who has taught numerous courses throughout the University on issues related to diversity and gender, and who holds the distinction of having been named, in 1990, McIntire’s first woman dean. “I am incredibly honored and excited to have been asked by Dean Zeithaml to take on this important new role, which is critical to ensuring the continued strength of McIntire’s supportive, close-knit community, as well as to the School’s ongoing leadership in global business education.”

Leonard will oversee a new Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as well as continue her responsibilities in managing the undergraduate admission process through a newly established Office of Undergraduate Admission. McIntire Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs Danny Steeper will assume the role of Associate Dean for Student Services and Academic Operations, effective Aug. 1, combining the undergraduate and graduate student services functions.

Strategic Goals and Plans
Describing diversity as “a collection of unique characteristics, both seen and unseen, that enrich our community by challenging assumptions, inspiring thoughtful discussion, and contributing to the development of innovative solutions,” the new McIntire Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion outlines its goals and objectives as

  • To actively recruit students, faculty, and staff who enrich our classrooms through a diversity of thought and experience, to challenge assumptions and biases, and to add a respectful dialogue about the meaning of success and responsibility as business professionals and leaders
  • To empower students, faculty, and staff to acknowledge unique experiences; to engage more fully in and out of the classroom; and to collaborate in breaking down barriers that limit potential and impede success
  • To educate our community to acknowledge and respect differences and to learn from the unique talents and perspectives of all members of the McIntire School

Long-Term Commitment
Pointing out that McIntire has offered coursework on diversity-related issues for more than 20 years, Leonard says the creation of the new role marks only the most recent and formal manifestation of the School’s commitment to the subject. “We’ve collected and analyzed a range of data on various student populations over many years, always with the aim of ensuring that the voices of all community members are appropriately recognized and valued,” she says.

In the case of student organizations or academic concentrations that tend toward overrepresentation by members of one group (for instance, men or women), Leonard says the School works hard to help students understand the value of diversity within organizations and groups. “Research demonstrates that businesses characterized by diverse teams and work forces outperform their less diverse peers,” Leonard says. “We want students to understand that the inclusion of different views, values, and perspectives leads to better processes and better outcomes.”

Valuing Diversity
This fall, all third-year McIntire students will participate in a new ICE Seminar during the first week of classes on “valuing our COMMunity of differences,” aimed at enhancing their appreciation of people’s differences, as well as offering a foundation for how to work productively together in McIntire’s highly team-oriented environment. In fall 2016, Leonard also will teach a first- and second-year elective, “Managing Diversity in a Global Economy.” She says, “I hope to grow this elective, to look for more opportunities to teach diversity and expand its presence in our curriculum, and to continue the process of faculty and staff development.”

The new office will also strive to ensure that the School’s faculty members speak and act with sensitivity to the breadth of backgrounds from which McIntire students come, recognizing the different sets of experiences that students bring to the School. “We were very fortunate to have sponsorship from Altria and PwC, which allowed us earlier this year to host a training session, geared toward valuing differences, for faculty and administrative leaders as well as 50 student leaders,” Leonard says. “We will continue this training next year, expanding it to all supervisors.”

Building Community
Importantly, too, the new office will seek to design and implement strategies aimed at improving recruitment of students, faculty, and staff from historically underrepresented groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, and women, across all programs.

“I’m very focused on developing community,” Leonard says. “At McIntire, we always really worked to build a community where people care for and support one another. In a rapidly changing, increasingly diverse world, we want to make sure we continue to excel in creating a productive and harmonious community of excellence, and that we’re not leaving anyone out.”

McIntire offers its special thanks to the members of the Diversity Task Force for their outstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at McIntire. Task Force members included McIntire Director of Graduate Student Life Sally Armentrout; Associate Dean for Commerce Career Services & Employer Relations Tom Fitch; Professor Sherri Moore; Professor Adelaide Wilcox King; Professor Andrea Roberts; Professor Suprateek Sarker; Professor David C. Smith; and Assistant Dean for Budget Rob Tharpe. Senior Associate Dean Jim Burroughs and Leonard served as Task Force co-chairs.

By Mary Summers Whittle

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