Deb Luckadoo is on the verge of retiring from a nearly 40-year career in higher education. During that time, she has been a leader and contributor to some momentous achievements. She will leave NC State this summer, but she will always be a Wolfpack member.
My first diversity awareness experience was in graduate school at Kansas State University. The day-long, intensive workshop was facilitated by MARC – Movement Against Racism for Change. My strong sense of justice was ignited that day, and ever since then, I couldn’t NOT be involved in education and activism to promote diversity and social justice.
In the nearly 40 years since then, I have incorporated diversity and inclusion in the work I have done with students and staff at four universities. I am especially proud of having helped to establish the Minority Affairs department at the University of Georgia (1986) and the GLBT Center at NC State (2008).
Helping all students feel connected to NC State was the goal of my work in student affairs for 18 years. In the Department of Campus Activities, we developed WolfCamp, Wolfpack Welcome Week and the Common Reading program. Student leader training, planning and executing programs that would attract and engage students of all identities and recruiting and retaining a diverse staff were all part of our everyday work to celebrate and enhance diversity.
Working with parents through the Parents and Families Services (PFS) program included hiring Spanish-speaking students to call families of incoming Latino students to talk to the students’ parents about the value of coming to Parents Orientation. This was just one example of the ways that diversity and inclusion were infused in everything that PFS did.
When Campus Activities was dissolved in the 2011 creation of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, I was glad to be provided the opportunity to focus on a different population within the university community: staff. As Director of Staff Diversity, I have had the same goal I have always had in my career: helping all staff achieve a sense of belonging and connection to NC State to maximize the benefits of their contributions for themselves and the university.
Using data gathered by the 2008 Staff Well-Being Survey as a guide, I worked with colleagues across the university to create programs and opportunities for staff. I formed the Staff Diversity Advisory Board to provide ideas and suggestions for tasks I should do. The group was made up of people of a wide variety of demographics, position titles and locations within the university. And, although I had recruited them to be a think tank, committing only their time for a monthly meeting, their creative energy produced “workgroup” content for the summers, with 6-8 workgroup members volunteering their time. The fruits of their labor included a staff diversity video (2013), the Connect with NC State “employee bucket list” (2014), and a review of and recommendations arising from the 2014 Staff Well-Being Survey (2015).
I enjoyed working with the African American Faculty Staff Organization (AAFSO), the oldest demographic affinity group on campus, and sought to provide similar opportunities for other staff to connect with each other, such as the Latin@ Student Support Network and the Asian American Faculty/Staff Community Network. The annual Conference on Leadership and Diversity offered a chance for employees, including leaders at all levels, to learn about diversity and ways to improve their effectiveness as members of an increasingly diverse workforce. I’m delighted that a planning committee has formed to continue the conference after I leave.
The Council on the Status of Women is another venerable organization on campus, advising the provost on ways to include and enhance the experiences of women faculty, students and staff. In addition to the work in such areas as lactation rooms, inclusive family leave policies, recruitment and retention of women and people of color at leadership levels and campus safety, a highlight of my CSW involvement was with the annual Sisterhood Dinner, where the goals are inspiration and celebration, through the dinner program and the bestowing of the Equity for Women Awards. The Sisterhood Dinner committee works hard but has lots of fun putting together an event that spotlights all the ways women make NC State great.
I am a better person for having the relationships I have developed with so many wonderful people in the NC State community. As I leave the university and my professional career, I know that my diversity work is not complete. From now on, my efforts will not be for pay, but they will be rewarded, nonetheless, when everyone in the NC State community and well beyond is welcomed and included, and supported to be all that they are intended to be.
Dr. Deb Luckadoo is director of staff diversity in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.