Adrienne D. Davis, vice provost for faculty affairs and diversity and the William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, is stepping down May 31 from her position in the provost’s office.
Davis is also the inaugural director of the university’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity (CRE²), which was announced in February 2019 and formally launched last month. The center will serve as a catalyst for collaboration among the university’s faculty studying issues related to race and ethnicity and nurture the next generation of scholars in the field.
A national search committee to identify candidates to succeed Davis as vice provost will be announced later this fall.
“In her nearly 10 years as vice provost, Adrienne has tremendously enhanced Washington University’s faculty recruitment, retention and development initiatives and has made incredible strides toward our diversity and inclusion goals,” said Beverly R. Wendland, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Her commitment to improving diversity on this campus has been extraordinary.”
Wendland noted that over the last decade, Davis has helped increase the number of Danforth Campus Black tenured and tenure-track faculty by 133%, to 8% of the faculty, and the percentage of underrepresented faculty of color by 110%, to 12% of the tenured and tenure-track faculty.
Davis also chaired or co-chaired the recruitment of several key senior administrators, including Assistant Vice Chancellor Nicole Hudson, Associate Vice Chancellor Mark Kamimura, and, most recently, Amy Hauft, director of the College & Graduate School of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.
“Adrienne is a highly respected colleague who is known throughout the university for her commitment to making the university a more equitable place for all to work and learn,” added Wendland. “As the first person to hold the role of vice provost for faculty affairs and diversity, she has built a strong foundation to continue the critical work she has started.”
“I am grateful for Adrienne’s numerous, important contributions in the provost’s office, including her leadership from 2015-17 of the Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, which provided a universitywide roadmap to a more diverse, inclusive community,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said.
“She has been the architect of an infrastructure to support diversity, inclusion and equity at the university while helping cultivate its next generation of leaders,” Martin said. “I wholeheartedly thank Adrienne for her dedication and the countless ways she has helped create and strengthen diversity and inclusion initiatives at Washington University.”
For her distinguished service and dedication to the university as well as for her outstanding research and scholarship, Martin recently awarded Davis the Arthur Holly Compton Faculty Achievement Award. She also received the St. Louis Business Journal’s Diverse Business Leaders 2020 Award.
“Recruitment will be a huge part of her legacy,” said Rebecca Wanzo, chair and professor in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and affiliate professor of American culture studies, both in Arts & Sciences. Wanzo notes that while there is criticism in higher education outlets and on social media that ‘diversity’ administrators don’t make an impact at universities, she said that is not the case at Washington University because of Davis’ contributions.
“No one, at any other institution I know, has had the stunning gains over the last decade that we have seen. Many, many people have worked at this effort, but most of us recognize that the difference between us and many other institutions has been Adrienne’s tireless efforts at recruitment and retention.
“She is a force of nature in recruiting, available day or night and on weekends for phone calls, putting together countless intimate dinners at her home to convince people they would have community here, giving city tours, and even, on one memorable occasion, babysitting. As another colleague described it, her impact on the university is indelible,” Wanzo said.
Throughout her vice provost tenure, Davis has worked closely with deans, department chairs and hiring chairs to support their efforts to increase — and retain — the percentage of Black and Hispanic/Latinx tenured and tenure-track faculty, including conducting workshops for all faculty search committees.
She also designed and oversees academic pipeline programs as well as academic mentoring and leadership development programs for faculty, including the Underrepresented Faculty of Color Mentoring Seminar, Women Faculty Leadership Institute, Faculty Leadership Development Seminar (fondly known as The Breakfast Club), Realizing Your Full Potential, and most recently, junior faculty “Write on Sites.”
Davis works closely with many university members on policies, initiatives and programs to support students and staff as well, including overseeing the Professional Leadership Academy & Network, a biannual staff development program.
Davis, who holds courtesy appointments in several departments in Arts & Sciences — African and African-American studies; history; sociology; and women, gender and sexuality studies — also has served on implementation teams for key campus LGBT initiatives, including the preferred names policy; gender-inclusive restroom policy and bathroom policy committees; Safe Zones training for faculty and staff; and a review of the Campus Pride Index strategy.
Within the provost’s office, she also helped facilitate and oversaw important campus gender-equity initiatives, including the Work/Life Balance Committee; Lactation Rooms Task Force; Academic Women’s Network (Medical Campus women faculty); and serving as liaison to the Association of Women Faculty (Danforth Campus).
“The last decade has been the most rewarding of my career,” Davis said. “I have been able to apply my scholarship on race and gender to test innovative approaches to diversity and inclusion. I have loved every minute of it — designing a robust infrastructure, collaborating closely with colleagues, and, most of all, helping to build the community I love.”