West Virginia University’s story is your story.  Our future is shared. 

How do we build the best environment and culture for success?

Google wanted to know this and studied their best teams to find out the secret to superior performance.

They measured a number of variables on these teams and ended up with a single differentiating attribute – these teams have more psychological safety for team members. They could be authentic, creative, dare to disagree or be wrong. They contributed evenly.

We all do our best when we are our true selves.  Many of the greatest scientists and physicians were able to excel and advance treatment and care because they felt welcome and safe in their work environments. 

Throughout history there have been many who did great things in spite of not having such freedom.  But imagine the unfulfilled promise of countless others who, although entirely capable, did not achieve their dreams because they simply because they did not feel safe or welcome.  They may have been subject to systematic oppression, tyrannical persecution, and even outright elimination… because their skin was a different color or they were from a different socioeconomic class or they worshiped a different god or they loved in a different way.     

Quite sadly, no one today has to do much imagining to think of such brutality.  Racial and sexual violence.  Terror attacks.  Mass shootings. For all that we have dreamt and realized in this world, why do such terrible things continue to happen at the hands of one another and where are we going wrong?    

My friend, Dr. David Fryson, vice president for Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, articulated this feeling very well in a recent op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail regarding police-involved shootings: “Our failure to communicate across cultural perspectives and background is often not a matter of right or wrong, but rather a lack of understanding of how we are all influenced and often limited by how we view events and circumstances through our cultural lens.” He goes further to end the op-ed with “We should all ask the profound question that Dr. King posed almost 50 years ago: Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community? Let’s decide to reduce the chaos and walk together in community.”

We cannot wait for news of yet another mass shooting or hate crime or terrorist attack or significant injustice to prompt us into consciousness of how we see the world, our actions and limited viewpoints may affect others.    

The time for change is now.

Above all as we start a new academic year, I want you to know that Health Sciences is a place of belonging, engagement, and achievement.  You are wanted here to be seen, heard, and understood; to discover and create; and to lift up others.  We are a community of learners. Researchers and patients, clinicians and staff, administrators and students – all are working toward our goal of a healthier and just West Virginia. 

Yet, simply stating that we are an inclusive community is not enough. 

Inclusion implies ongoing, authentic engagement. We must all commit ourselves to awareness of one another and the issues of difference.  We need to hold ourselves accountable for critical reflection and equitable change, not just when a national tragedy brings it to our attention, but every day as we teach and learn and conduct business. 

Anything less will fail in the realization of this goal. 

I want to commend the work of the HSC Diversity and Inclusion Committee under the leadership of Dr. Shelia Price for their work over the past year identifying opportunities to address issues of diversity and growing as a culturally competent organization.  We are working on implementing their recommendations, including the formation of a diversity advisory board and initiatives to enhance diversity recruitment and retention, link diversity to performance management, and infuse diversity awareness into HSC curricula and professional development programs.  Additionally, my office will begin coordinating events and activities to continue diversity dialog throughout the year.  

We’re going to kick off these new initiatives this October, but we need your participation now. 

WVU’s Diversity Week, Oct.  9-14, will give us the opportunity to get to know our community better and showcase our unique perspectives to our extended WVU family.  It’s also a time to examine our own lenses and open our hearts and minds to new ideas.  Help us tell our story, and start changing the bigger picture for the better, by sharing your experiences, customs, and traditions with us.

We are currently crowdsourcing suggestions from the community to build the schedule of activities on the HSC campus for Diversity Week 2016.  The theme for this year is One Mountaineer Family. 

I invite you to use the online form to submit your ideas.  Activities could include things such as food tastings, concerts, performances, demonstrations, interactive group sessions, presentations, panel discussions, etc. -- but be creative and collaborative in your suggestions. 

Diversity Week 2016 will also serve as the launch date of broader diversity initiatives aimed at ensuring sustained equity through ongoing, open communication and visibility at Health Sciences.  Dr. Fryson will be joining me for Connect with Clay on Wednesday, Oct. 12 to discuss diversity at WVU and resources and guidance available to us to continue growing as an inclusive community. 

I hope you will join me there and in our continuing effort to make WVU a safe place of love, understanding and inclusion for all.