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Chon Glover: 25 years of creating change through diversity and inclusion

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The needle on the scale of diversity at William & Mary has moved forward significantly, if not quite steadily, during the 25 years Chon Glover has served at the university.

In broad strokes, she counts major milestones: increased enrollment of undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds; institutional understanding of a definition of diversity that goes beyond race and gender; expansion to a more inclusive curriculum; an intentional decision to acknowledge and uplift the voices of communities whose presence at William & Mary had been omitted from the university's history to now expanding that history and making it more inclusive.

“This is not the same place that it was in 1996,” said Glover, the university’s chief diversity officer. “We have moved the needle. We’re not resting on our laurels. We're making progress and will remain determined to do more toward sustainable change.”

Recently Glover’s tenacious work as an advocate for increased diversity and inclusion at the university and in the Greater Hampton Roads community earned her the Peninsula Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

The award recognizes those who have made “significant contributions to the promotion of respect and understanding among people of diverse racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.”

She felt both honored and humbled—and, as a self-described person who does not do this work for recognition, she felt grateful to have the work made visible. Still, the texts and e-mails of congratulations and encouragement she received were greatly appreciated, she said.

Adding her name to those appreciative of Glover's efforts was W&M Provost Peggy Agouris.

“Chon’s leadership and commitment to curricular integrity and scholarly investigation has made her a true champion and conscience for the university and beyond. It is a privilege to serve with her as we advance our understanding of what it means to belong at William & Mary,” Agouris said.

The shoulders of others 

Those who seek to lead in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) arena will have to be steadfast, Glover said. Changing culture takes time.

"DEI work is much more of a marathon than a sprint," she said. "It's not for the faint of heart. You have to be committed and resilient. There are things that can be barriers, and there are things that can knock you off your feet."

William & Mary is a microcosm of the larger society, Glover explained. What happens outside the community impacts the community.

"We have to be proactive to keep moving forward," she said. "Inclusion must be intentional, and a diversity of voices is critical to creating a university that is centered on inclusive excellence."

Glover, no doubt, will continue to lead both in dialogue and in changes at the university, as well as in the greater community. Likewise, she will tend to deflect credit to others — those from the past and contemporaries who are battling for diversity and inclusion today.

“We do stand on the shoulders of others, and that will keep us humble,” she said.

At William & Mary, a moment of extreme pride occurred when Glover participated in the naming ceremony for Lemon and Hardy halls. Carroll F.S. Hardy, who between 1980 and 1995 served in numerous roles at the university, including as dean of multicultural affairs and associate vice president for student affairs, became a mentor to Glover, a role model and a friend.

“Even when I was speaking at the ceremony, I think I felt a little tingle in my throat. I’m sure there were tears in my eyes,” Glover recalled. “I was really happy that we could tell her story and share her legacy and contributions as new students matriculate at W&M."

Sustainable progress

When she arrived at William & Mary, Glover did not expect to remain for 25 years — maybe for two or three, she said. Then opportunities opened for her to move from student-affairs into a position where she was empowered to address diversity and inclusion issues from the “scope and perspective of the entire university.”

Despite setbacks, she has seen fruits of her work blossom at William & Mary. She points to the continuing research of the Lemon Project, a long-term effort to uncover the university’s involvement with slavery, segregation and discrimination, as being foundational to “acknowledging our history and our work toward reconciliation.”

Curricula changes she has championed are moving diversity, equity and inclusion discussions into classrooms, where “real learning” takes place, she said.

Likewise, the pending Memorial to the Enslaved, scheduled to be completed in 2022, and the ongoing milestones marking the commemorations of often hidden histories of marginalized populations are creating a more reflective and inclusive W&M, Glover said.

“I do believe in William & Mary,” she said. “I believe we have the potential to be a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion." In 2019, she served as co-leader in the university-wide process that saw a new values statement approved.

"As we commit ourselves to living out our core values of belonging, curiosity, excellence, flourishing, integrity, respect and service, together we will all build a university that is a great place to work and study for all members of our community," she said. "We will continue to move the needle."