By Dr. Susan West, Pathway 4 Catalyst & Executive Vice President for Administration & Chief of Staff
When you look closely at the structure of any institution, you will discover where its priorities lie. As we think about the type of institution that Belmont University is and look to the future to envision the institution we aspire to be—aligning with our vision, values and mission—hope and inclusivity are at the forefront.
Reimagining how diversity, equity and inclusion look at Belmont means offering a seat at the table for all. But taking our efforts a step further to create a sense of belonging means extending an open invitation to express one’s authentic self, participate in dialogue, share experiences and inform the work that we do together. It isn’t just about coming to Belmont to be successful and support the University’s goals but is truly about all members feeling and understanding that they are an integral part of the campus community – to connect with others and be valued for the differences they bring.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are all inputs yielding the output of belonging for faculty, staff and students, which we believe creates engagement and promotes excellence and flourishing among our campus community.
Among and between all of these things is unity, which is best achieved through social connections – connections that become unexpected lifelong friendships. I’m grateful to share a friendship like this with Gary Hunter, Belmont’s Telecommunications Manager, and a dear friend of mine who I met in passing decades ago when we were two of only a few minority professionals at Belmont.
Since we met so many years ago, our friendship has cultivated a sense of belonging for me. We’re able to talk about issues and concerns as people of color in leadership roles at a predominately white institution, which has been so important as we’ve both progressed in our careers at Belmont. Having Gary as a friend and resource over the years helped to settle me because I had someone that I could share professional experiences with along the way.
Friendships like the one Gary and I share underscore the importance of community and ensuring all members of the Belmont team understand they are integral parts of the culture in which they work and learn.
I like to think of it as a symphony—there are various instruments with different parts, but they all come together to make a beautiful piece. Organizations and institutions of higher learning must commit to taking actionable steps towards diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, with the understanding that memorializing and even acknowledging the past is incomplete without changing the way we approach our present and our future.
Earlier this fall, we announced the establishment of the Office of Hope, Unity and Belonging (The HUB). The formation of this new department reflects our momentum and firm commitment to Strategic Pathway 4.
The HUB will serve as a centralized office dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives, carrying out the institution’s desire for all community members to experience a meaningful and authentic sense of connection.
It will build upon the established work of our University in this area, like Bell Tower Scholars, a full scholarship program designed to enroll high-potential students from Metro Nashville Public Schools who may not have previously been able to consider Belmont as an option, and our Faculty Inclusion Diversity and Equity (FIDE) Committee, designed to better engage faculty and staff in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
We remain committed to continuing to listen intently and creating open and safe spaces that foster friendships that promote creativity, innovation and flourishing. We are confident that this will propel our institution to the forefront of our industry, thinking beyond what higher education has thought of itself as.
- Learn more about Pathway #4: Embracing Hope and Inclusivity
- Give: Hope and Inclusivity Impact and Innovation Fund