Empowering Students Toward a Future of Diversity and Inclusion
Photography by Daniel Smyth
Dr. Janice B. Walker served as Xavier University’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for 17 years. In October 2016, Dr. Walker assumed the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the school. Now fully immersed in the position, Dr. Walker shares her aspirations for the students, faculty and staff of Xavier.
Venue Magazine: You were the first female and the first African American to serve as Dean in Xavier University history. How does your experience as Dean influence your current role?
Dr. Janice B. Walker: My job as Dean was challenging and demanding and required courage, persistence and resilience on an ongoing basis. Those 17 years taught me many skills including how to get things accomplished, how to collaborate and when to empower others. I found the work highly rewarding and the skills I learned transfer directly toward my current role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
Venue Magazine: What makes you passionate about diversity and inclusion?
Dr. Janice B. Walker: As a female and an African American, I encountered all the challenges you might expect living in small towns in the Deep South. I clearly recognized the obstacles I faced, but could never dwell on them because then I was standing still and not moving forward. Attending graduate school in mathematics at the University of Michigan afforded me more opportunities, but I still had to work very hard to advance into positions that were not normally held by African-American women.
Venue Magazine: How does Xavier University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion translate to its students?
Dr. Janice B. Walker: Diversity and inclusion are essential to fulfill our institutional mission of providing a high-quality education in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. Students learn from those whose experiences, beliefs and perspectives are different from their own. They’re challenged to think critically and examine their own thoughts and beliefs, thereby preparing them for lives of reflection and informed action in an increasingly diverse and complex world.
Venue Magazine: What programs are offered through the
Center of Diversity and Inclusion?
Dr. Janice B. Walker: We offer curricular (academic) programs, such as Gender and Diversity Studies and Africana Studies, and many co-curricular programs. Specifically, Smooth Transitions is a competitive first-year student peer-mentoring program that helps underrepresented domestic students transition to college. Underrepresented domestic students includes first-generation, low-income students of any racial background, multi-racial students and students of color.
Venue Magazine: What do you hope to see in the future?
Dr. Janice B. Walker: My first hope is this: that every student who enrolls at Xavier, whether undergraduate or graduate, and every faculty and staff member will experience a welcoming environment where they feel supported, valued and respected. Someday, it would be fantastic if Xavier is held up as a model organization for how diversity and inclusion should work.
Quick Facts about Xavier University
- Students (4,563 undergraduates,1,959 graduate students) from 48 states and 47 countries
- 96% of students employed, in graduate school or volunteering within six months of graduation
- 82% of applicants accepted into medical school
- 22 years ranked among the Top 10 Best Midwest Regional Schools by U.S. News & World Report
- More than 90 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degree programs
Xavier University is located at 3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207. For more information, call 513.745.3000 or visit www.xavier.edu.