When Kevin G. McDonald takes over as UVA’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion on Aug. 1, his early days in a similar role at the University of Missouri-Columbia will inform his agenda.
Months before he started the job in 2016, Missouri’s campus was the scene of major student-led protests about racism at the school. Among students, McDonald found plenty of skepticism about his role and Missouri’s other administrators, so he listened to them.
“You need to engage early and often and be visible and transparent and attentive,” said McDonald, the University of Missouri-Columbia’s vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity and the University of Missouri System’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
There, McDonald eventually established the Inclusive Excellence Framework, which models how the system integrates inclusion into its operations. The work spurred 70 other organizations to make similar efforts.
“Members of the chamber of commerce and private institutions and city government and superintendent of schools, they all adopted our Inclusive Excellence Framework,” he said. “That was wonderful.”
McDonald, 47, will replace Dr. Marcus Martin, who announced his retirement in fall 2018. UVA President James E. Ryan (Law ’92) named McDonald to the post in April.
As they did at Missouri, listening and learning will top McDonald’s plans when he gets to UVA. “I don’t want to be prescriptive and suggest that what may have worked somewhere else may work at UVA,” he said. Building relationships is critical. “It really doesn’t matter what you know,” he said, “if nobody cares that you know it.”