Umbrellas were given to new faculty and staff at a recent reception and they came in handy when the event concluded and it came time to depart into a rainy night.
The timely gifts capped an evening of networking.
Henry Odi, vice provost for academic diversity, had greeted the guests with an instruction.
“I want you to connect with two people tonight,” Odi said, “Then, it’s your responsibility to stay in touch.”
Provost Pat Farrell told the new employees that they had “a whole community rooting for your success.”
President Alice Gast encouraged them to take part in campus activities so they could feel at home and draw inspiration from students.
“Attend a concert, an art exhibit, a soccer game,” she said. “You’ll be a tremendous optimist for the future of the world.”
Fostering a greater sense of community
The reception was co-sponsored by the new Faculty and Staff of Color Committee, which was formed after last spring’s Town Hall ignited efforts to improve Lehigh’s sense of community and inclusiveness.
Leon Washington, dean of admissions and financial aid, co-chairs the committee with Jennifer Swann, professor of biological sciences.
The idea for a reception was proposed by Courtney Jones, assistant director of multicultural affairs.
“If we find ways to work together,” she said, “we’ll be better positioned to serve our students.”
Taking one’s own advice
Lyndon Dominique, a new assistant professor of English, said he has felt warmly welcomed by his department but has had little time to mingle on campus. He attended the reception to remedy the situation.
Ayanna Wilcher, assistant director of career services, agreed.
“In our office, we’re constantly telling our students to network,” she said.
“We should take our own advice.”
Wendy Abrantes, a research scientist with Lehigh’s ADVANCE project, attended the reception to meet people who might benefit from the federally funded project, which seeks increased participation by women in the sciences and engineering.
Tapping into shared strengths
Members of the Faculty and Staff of Color Committee were pleased with the event.
“We have amazing talents and abilities here,” said Swann. “This new network can foster collaboration. We have strengths in the sciences, in theatre and art, in so many places—but we have to know what our colleagues are doing to take advantage of these strengths.”
Veronica Hunter, assistant director for Greek life, agreed.
“When I arrived five years ago, we didn’t have this,” she said. “This type of joint effort by faculty, staff, the human resources office and senior leadership is a great practice.
“I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.”