Dear UVM community,
I write to share bittersweet news. Wanda Heading-Grant, vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, has been selected as Carnegie Mellon University’s inaugural Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. She also will serve as a faculty member in CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.
Wanda’s appointment to this important new role at one of the world’s premier research universities is testament to her many achievements and her stellar reputation. It is also indicative of the positive progress we have made at UVM under Wanda’s leadership. And it’s why we’re so proud to call her not only a colleague and friend, but also a UVM graduate.
Since coming to Burlington as a student in the 1980s, Wanda has left an indelible mark on the institution we hold so dear. Her thoughtful, yet strong, approach has helped to create space for important dialogue and meaningful change. From our nationally recognized onboarding program to the annual Blackboard Jungle symposium, Wanda has been the driving force behind initiatives that have advanced our university and kept us always focused on the values articulated in Our Common Ground.
Wanda’s ability to build understanding and bring people together is exceptional, and it has been a gift to our community during these tumultuous times. In the wake of the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others, she conceptualized and led the “Amazing Grace” and “Beyond Brave Spaces” events to help us move forward as a community. She has mentored those seeking to address injustice, she has modeled well how to speak with civility and respect when addressing even the most difficult issues, and she has taught us that commitment to equality is a central value we should never compromise. I am grateful for her partnership in the establishment of a permanent home for the Prism Center and the development of the Davis Center display dedicated to the positive impact of diversity. And I look forward to our Martin Luther King Day celebration featuring Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association.
While none of us want to see Wanda go, it should be a source of pride for us all when our colleagues and their successes are noticed nationally. Wanda has touched the lives of many at UVM, which is a better place because of her. I will always be grateful for her friendship and good counsel. We have much to do before Wanda concludes her UVM tenure on March 30. But even after she starts at CMU, I know Wanda’s heart will remain green and gold, and we can look forward to her friendship, and influence, for years to come.
A message from Wanda to our community is copied below. We will conduct a national search to identify her successor and will provide further details soon. Thanks to Wanda’s tremendous efforts, we have a great foundation to build upon.
In celebration of Wanda,
The University of Vermont
My Dearest UVM,
I arrived at the University of Vermont’s doors, all the way from Trenton, New Jersey, as a member of an inaugural cohort of the Summer Enrichment Scholars Program in 1983. Little did I know, or would I have believed, that I would proudly and fondly call UVM and Vermont my home for the next 37 years. I met my husband on campus and started a beautiful family. In pursuing my education and degrees, I encountered nothing but endless support. I feel especially blessed to have a family of colleagues and friends, who in my time of need, prayed for me, fed me, and laughed with me through my cancer treatments. Along the way, I have gained lifelong friends and colleagues. My experience at UVM proves that when you’re in the right place, with the right people having fun, time certainly does fly by.
During my studies, I became inspired by those around me to be of service to others, especially the great people in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I am so honored to be a social worker and educator and to have served as a faculty member in the College of Education and Social Services. My heart is full as I think of what a privilege it has been to study, work, and especially serve UVM’s amazing students.
Now, many years later, I am ready for a new adventure. So, it is with mixed emotions I share with you, my UVM family, my decision to transition from UVM to Carnegie Mellon University to serve as their inaugural Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer and as a faculty member in their Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy starting April 1. This is an awesome opportunity that would not be possible without so many of you. While, I know we will share tears, I hope you will wish me well on my new adventure. I look forward to and need as many (virtual) hugs as I can get right now.
Together, we have reached unimaginable heights in our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey. I am proud to say that together we weathered storms and stayed the course, weaving DEI throughout our great institution. From my early days in the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity providing sexual harassment and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) education to the impact of receiving a national award regarding my Division’s redesign of UVM’s onboarding program, and to the rollout of a comprehensive performance management tool University-wide that embraces Our Common Ground Principles, we have achieved much together.
Events and initiatives such as the University’s annual Blackboard Jungle Symposium, which I affectionately refer to as my “baby,” the formal dedication of the Andrew Harris Commons named in honor of the University’s first Black graduate and an ardent abolitionist, the Women’s Summit, Gender Inclusive Restrooms, the Framework for Inclusive Excellence, Campus Climate Surveys, creation of an Interfaith Center, and the relocation of the Mosaic Center for Students of Color and Prism Center to permanent homes on campus stand out as just a few of the many notable accomplishments that I will always look back on with pride and joy.
More recently, as our nation struggled to make sense of the video showing the death of George Floyd and the ongoing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we once again came together, as a University Community in the “Amazing Grace” videos, and Beyond Brave Spaces Teach-Ins and webinars. Together, we worked to actively address racism, lifted up the voices of those in our community who are actively anti-racist, and successfully used our educational platform to reach thousands of people all across the world. In short, we stood in solidarity with those whose lives we lost to racial injustice, and we collectively recommitted ourselves to help make this world a better place.
Over the next few months, I will continue to work closely with President Garimella, Provost Prelock, and the many other great people at UVM to meaningfully advance DEI and combat institutionalized racism. I know from working with President Garimella and Provost Prelock of their sincere and deep commitment to DEI and of their resolve to bring about positive change through action. This gives me great confidence in UVM’s future, and I foresee the University reaching ever greater heights in the years to come. I am a proud to be an alumna of the University, and UVM will always hold a very special place in my heart for many reasons. I will stay connected with the University, remain active as an alum, and continue to maintain many of the rich relationships I have formed with so many of you over the years.
UVM has been my home for 37 years, and it will always feel like home to me. I would like to close here by saying I am so proud of what I have accomplished here at UVM, and I thank all of you (you know who you are!) who have supported, mentored, sponsored, and cheered for me. Your faith and trust in me is something I will never forget.