Thomas Easley, Director, Community for Diversity

NC State Belltower

Belltower under cloudy skies.

The Digest recently interviewed Dr. Thomas Easley, director of the Community for Diversity and instructor in the College of Natural Resources (CNR). Find out about the many diversity-related programs and activities happening in CNR.

What have been some of your major initiatives relating to diversity and equity?

  1. Teaching CNR’s Diversity and Environmental Justice course. Students who take this class get interdisciplinary and U.S. Diversity credit(s).
  2. Co-leading the Neighborhood Ecology Corps initiative that helps under-served youth in southeast Raleigh learn about natural resources and how to be good stewards of our resources. This program is taught through Recreational Activities. The children also learn about improving their neighborhoods and advocating for themselves. This program is possible because of partnerships between CNR, the National Park Service, Raleigh Parks and Recreation, North Carolina State Parks and the Center for Human and Earth Restoration.
  3. Leading/facilitating CNR’s Diversity Committee has been great. We’ve developed our college’s Diversity Plan, Diversity Statement/Vision and have been working on how to recruit and retain diverse candidates to the college.
  4. Leading a high-school mentoring program (Environmentors) that focuses on engaging high school students in research about natural resources. It exposes them to the fields of natural resources, NC State and other opportunities for undergraduate studies.
  5. Teaching our USC Course is very rewarding. All of my class earned above a 3.5 GPA this past semester.
  6. Helping to manage the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program. Scholars learn to use the natural and social science techniques that underpin inclusive conservation.
  7. Serving as the liaison for all diversity programming in the college and for teaching principles of diversity in classes across the college.
  8. Leading a church on campus called PEACE Church. PEACE stands for Peers Entering Acceptance Towards Christ Eternally. I work with students and help them see how faith, academics and other aspects of life intersect. Our church services are very interactive and open to all experiences.

How do you see the concepts and practices of creating and supporting diversity and equity in the university best implemented at NC State?

Diversity isn’t something that can be met through programs only. It must be integrated into everything we do at the institution. I think that almost every college having a position that is focused on diversity is a huge step in the right direction. Having an NCBI Team and the Opening Doors program as a model for people to learn more about diversity are examples of progress. Having Alternative Spring Break trips where people go and learn about other cultures and learn how they contribute (or don’t help) globally is something all students can participate in to learn about the world around them.

How would you like to see NC State continue on the path of welcoming a diverse community?

I would like to see NC State take an inventory of our practices and policies and start to think, which of these are inclusive and which are exclusive? Then develop a strategy (this will take time) for how we can augment these policies to be more inclusive. I would like NC State to look at itself as an organization of people with the focus of pushing a strong research agenda forward that puts NC State high among our peers; however, making NC State an organization of people; i.e., changing the focus to the human capital that we have and not just our research agenda.

It would be awesome if the leaders of each college went through an experience that helps them explore their own identities, biases and decision-making processes in order to learn how they can be more inclusive and supportive of their staff.

I would like to see NC State analyze how we are equally supportive of staff and faculty and make some very necessary changes to close that opportunity gap.