July 22, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I am absolutely thrilled to join the Amherst community as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. I believe strongly in the mission of liberal arts education and its service to democratic values. Amherst’s academic excellence and the value it places on equity drew me to this institution. Over the coming months and years, I look forward to working with you to achieve three clear overarching goals that are embedded in the seven institutional priorities set forth in the College’s strategic plan. These priorities will guide the work of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI):

  1. Work collaboratively with the Dean of the Faculty, department chairs and faculty members to diversify the faculty and to establish solid programs and initiatives that will increase retention and provide support to pre-tenured faculty.
  2. In partnership with the Dean of the Faculty and academic departments as well as the Office of Student Affairs, provide leadership for the building of a more inclusive and rewarding Amherst student experience.
  3. Become familiar with and appreciate the nuances of difference across all segments of the staff population to ensure that diversity training, climate assessment, leadership development, and employee engagement initiatives are as inclusive, useful, and accessible as possible.

Accomplishing these broad goals requires that we build on the work that has been done over decades. The work belongs to all of us. Diversity is about difference—differences we all carry, differences between and among us, but also the differences within identity groups and individuals. A community that takes the time to explore and appreciate the ways in which we live in the world and are affected by it is a community willing to do the work of understanding and change.

Students are at the core of my vision for the ODI’s role in advancing the work of diversity and inclusion. Openness and attentiveness to a variety of student perspectives allow us to better understand our own community. From orientation to graduation and beyond, so much of the work and community-building that students do depends on how the student experience is framed and a recognition that “the student experience” never looks or feels the same twice. It is different for each and every student.

I have appreciated the many wonderful exchanges I’ve had with faculty across a variety of disciplines who are dedicated to sustained conversations about faculty diversity and inclusive pedagogies. The commitment at the College to thinking creatively and proactively about how students can integrate their in- and out-of-classroom learning inspires me.

I am here to bring subject-matter expertise to the table as we make decisions about our shared work and sustain efforts to enliven and invigorate a sense of community for all students. I will depend deeply upon your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions and urge you to share them with me now and throughout the work we will do together.

In Community,

Norm J. Jones, Ph.D.
Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer