Effective Sept. 19, Rashida Willard advances as the Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence on Ball State University’s campus.
While Willard is excited to advance to this position, at first, she said she had to complete a tedious application process with multiple steps along the way.
“I applied to the position, received a first interview with the search committee, then was invited out to campus for the day-long campus forums,” Willard said. “This process included seven different stops from PACIE [President’s Advisory Council for Inclusive Excellence], to the Cabinet, to the President, the Chief Strategy Officer and the Office of Inclusive Excellence to name a few. It was a long day, but I got to know the values of the university and the wonderful people within it.”
Chief Strategy Officer at Ball State University Charlene Alexander, along with a committee, announced Willard’s hiring. The committee put in a great deal of effort to make sure everything ran smoothly for Willard.
“Ball State University engaged Spelman Johnson to support this search,” Alexander said. “We had two consultants from Spelman Johnson who worked closely with the search committee chaired by Ro-Anne Royer Engle, vice president for Student Affairs.”
During her time as assistant vice president for Inclusive Excellence, Melinda Messineo worked on the PACIE, conducted High Education Data Sharing, as well as submitting Ball State’s application for the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. Although Dr. Messineo won’t be holding her position as interim associate vice president much longer, she said she feels as though Willard will be a great addition to the program.
“We have been working with other units to implement the Inclusive Excellence and strategic plans,” Messineo said. “We have a very small team, so having her energy and experience will be extremely helpful to help move the work forward. I think she will design programs that leverage the strengths of the unit and help units reach their inclusive excellence goals.”
Members of the Inclusive Excellence programs have been informed of certain plans that Willard intends to execute when she comes into the position.
“I know her first task will be to engage in a listening tour of campus,” Alexander said. “She will meet with various stakeholders across the university to better understand how the Office of Inclusive Excellence can continue to advance the incredible work already underway.”
Even with new ideas in mind, Willard still plans to take the community’s ideas into account before starting.
“Of course, I have a lot of ideas, however, I am not going to come in changing things just yet,” Willard said. “My philosophy is to listen to the community, assess the needs and build upon the great work done by Dr. McGriff and the Inclusive Excellence team.”
Staff members in the program are providing a warm welcome as Willard enters the office.
“I am extremely excited to welcome Dr. Rashida Willard to Ball State University,” Alexander said. “Dr. Willard brings with her more than 20 years of experience in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion [DEI]. She was a first-generation college student and has a unique perspective and understanding of the needs of first-generation students. She is a strategic leader and very skilled at developing initiatives to support the recruitment and retention of employees and students. I know the Ball State community will join me in welcoming Dr. Willard.”
As well as the staff members of the Inclusive Excellence Office, Willard said she is over the moon to be joining the small but sturdy team.
She said it will be an adjustment, since she is moving from the Pacific Northwest and is an empty nester, and she is hoping to “build a community here in Muncie.”
“All of the colleagues and people I have met at Ball State have been so great,” Willard said. “I went home after the campus forum really feeling as if I could make a home here. I look forward to getting to know students, staff and faculty and collaborating on initiatives that further inclusive excellence at BSU.”