Selected after a lengthy search, William Lewis, the new vice president of diversity and inclusion, will arrive at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 to officially take up the position.
Lewis will be the top diversity officer at the university and answers directly to President Charles Steger. Lewis will lead diversity programs, including the recruitment of diverse students and faculty.
“This is the person who helps us facilitate and enhance our efforts in diversity,” said Ed Spencer, vice president of student affairs, in July.
The previous vice president of diversity and inclusion, Kevin McDonald, stepped down in January to take a job as the chief diversity officer at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Karen Sanders, associate vice president for academic support services, has served as interim vice president since McDonald’s departure.
Sanders said she chose not to apply for the permanent position, citing her work as associate vice president for academic support services.
“What I have prepared to do my entire career is to work to help students to be successful in college,” Sanders said. “That really is my calling.”
In the months since McDonald left, Tech conducted a search for a permanent replacement. Over the summer, the search committee narrowed the candidate list to Antonio Farias, chief diversity officer of the Coast Guard Academy; Melva “Cookie”
Newsom, director of diversity education and research at UNC Chapel Hill; and Lewis, who previously served as director of Bridgewater State College’s office of institutional diversity.
Each participated in a public forum at Tech during the interview process.
Lewis said he found out he got the position when Steger called him on Aug. 6.
“I am both extremely excited and extremely busy with this move and this transition,” Lewis said. “One of the things I am excited about is getting settled in and connecting with faculty, staff and students there. I am thrilled to be coming to Virginia Tech and becoming a Hokie.”
And though he is excited to be coming to Tech, he is also a bit nervous.
“Anytime you start a new position, you have to begin to interact with people that are new. That offers a tremendous opportunity but you can be a little anxious about that as well,” Lewis said.
He said he will continue with many of the things Sanders has done and will work with her to make the transition as smooth as possible.
“She and I will work closely during the transition period, and I suspect we will continue to work closely after that as well,” Lewis said.
Sanders said she would consistently be working with diversity initiatives.
“I’m going to be introducing him to many members of the Virginia Tech community as well as our surrounding community and the New River Valley,” Sanders said. “William and I will continue to work together as professionals. The academic support area and this office have a number of collaborative projects.”
Lewis said he agrees with the goals of Tech’s diversity strategic plan and intends to follow it.
“It is my hope that what I can do is help facilitate those plans, facilitate the dialogue, and steward the great work that’s been done by my predecessors and by the campus community at large.”