Elavie Ndura and UW Tacoma “walk the talk” when pursuing equity and inclusion

UW Tacoma's Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion introduces the fall 2023 issue of Viewpoint.

Elavie Ndura was born and raised in Burundi. Witness to ethnic violence in her homeland and to socio-cultural factors that privileged some while disempowering others, she came to understand that education could help restore humanity and mediate peace.

Welcome to the fall 2023 issue of Viewpoint! My connection with the University of Washington started on a breezy spring day. I was settling into my role as an associate vice president and campus diversity officer in Northern California when a call caught my attention. At the other end was a search consultant representing the University of Washington Tacoma. I listened, but with hesitation. I finally had a strong team and a number of diversity, equity and inclusion allies engaged in the work on campus and in neighboring communities. I had just secured a robust Faculty Senate endorsement for the institutional anti-racism action plan that had taken months to develop and negotiate. I had just moved into my brand-new house, which had taken a year to build. And did I mention that I was within driving distance to my young grandson?

The consultant listened to all these explanations and then pressed on to tell me more about UW Tacoma and Chancellor Sheila Edwards Lange. Out of politeness and, perhaps, mild interest, I listened. And then I became intrigued. A few weeks later, I arrived on campus to meet with UW Tacoma students, faculty and staff. I learned that building community was a top priority. I found an instant connection to my future colleagues and community as my life mission is to empower muted voices and make my community better than I found it.

So here I am, in my second year as UW Tacoma’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion and professor of education. During my first year, I invested time deepening my understanding of UW Tacoma’s context, culture and people. I created cross-campus coalitions to support the planning and implementation of a DEI action plan. I launched the broad UW Diversity Blueprint so that UW Tacoma could carry it out locally. I contributed to the development of UW Tacoma’s Strategic Plan.

Equity is one of UW Tacoma’s five strategic priorities. This commitment to “promote and model inclusive excellence and social justice” anchors all of our work as we seek to elevate the wellbeing and success of all students, staff and faculty. Hence, an imminent task was to develop a shared understanding of inclusive excellence so everyone could see themselves as a contributor to and a beneficiary of UW Tacoma’s equity-centered mission. I brought forward my own pillars of inclusive excellence, which include a safe and welcoming community, equitable opportunities and outcomes, strategic partnerships, intercultural competency and cultural humility. At UW Tacoma, we do not simply talk about equity and inclusion, we walk the talk in pursuit of inclusive excellence and social justice.

This issue of Viewpoint highlights the leadership and work of UW Tacoma, communities, organizations and individuals. It opens with a story featuring the 2023 Canoe Journey hosted by the Muckleshoot Nation. A feature follows, painting a coveted portrait of UW Tacoma as a lively, urban-serving campus, a minority serving institution and home to a majority of first-generation students. UWAA president and UWT alum Joe Davis shares his experience as a Tacoma student. And you will read about a project to bring the history of Tacoma’s once-vibrant Japanese neighborhood back into view.

I feel your excitement about UW Tacoma and our neighboring communities. I invite you to visit the websites of UW Tacoma and UW Tacoma’s Office of Equity and Inclusion to learn more about what we do.

Enjoy reading and sharing!