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Better together

Lori McDonald, vice president for Student Affairs, and Mary Ann Villarreal, vice president for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, focus on building an inclusive campus.

Dear University of Utah community,

As senior leaders, we are committed to creating an environment where all of us can thrive, where belonging and safety matter, and where we work together in a spirit of respect and openness.

We know that we are stronger together, because diversity of experience elevates our research and educational goals. To ensure that our community benefits from everyone’s talents and experience, each of us must commit to equity-minded practices.

Efforts to enhance our campus environment are underway, including bringing together a group of committees focused on creating a more inclusive community, hosting an upcoming panel discussion series, and using outside experts to facilitate trainings and gather information that will inform the development of an institutional diversity plan.

Key to our success is finding ways to transform divisive narratives and eliminate obstacles to engagement and inclusion. We have challenges to overcome, to be sure. For example, this past July, within days of stepping into our new roles as vice president for Student Affairs and vice president for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), we encountered an anonymous email calling for racist, hateful action. Weeks later, many campuses around the country, including ours, were targeted by recruitment flyers for white supremacist groups. These and other incidents stand in stark contrast to our core values and illuminate the urgency of our work. We will not ignore them, nor will we let them derail our efforts to heal together as we acknowledge our past and rebuild a community that values each other’s diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

As we have engaged in this work, it is important to recognize that prior to the formation of EDI, the Office for Equity and Diversity laid decades of groundwork, creating vital relationships, sponsoring events and developing programs and processes aimed at supporting underrepresented students, staff and faculty. When President Ruth Watkins established the inaugural vice presidency for EDI, she created new opportunities for the office to weave these values across the entire university and into the everyday fabric of our institution.

Please join us as we strive to disrupt the hateful narratives that are plaguing institutions of higher education across the nation, which reinforce fear and hinder collaboration and innovation. We look forward to deepening our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion together.

Mary Ann Villarreal, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Lori McDonald, Vice President for Student Affairs

“Reframing the conversation”

An upcoming panel series brings together experts from across campus and the community to spark important conversations around racism, othering and safety.

In conjunction with Black History Month, the first panel, titled “Reframing the Conversation: Expanding the Portrayal of Black Men,” will be on Feb. 24, 2020, from 12-1:15 p.m. in the Marriott Library, Rm. 1150.


  • Sarah Projansky, professor of gender studies, University of Utah School for Social and Cultural Transformation
  • Liz Adeola, Emmy Award-winning Journalist, PBS Utah
  • Meligha Garfield, director, University of Utah Black Cultural Center
  • Marlon Lynch, chief safety officer, University of Utah Department of Public Safety
  • Byron Russell, co-chair, Utah Multicultural Commission

Moderator: Chris Linder, special assistant to the president for Violence Prevention & Education