Spotlight on Andrea Simpson

October 5, 2021
Q&A with UR's inaugural associate dean of thriving, inclusivity, diversity, and equity (TIDE)

Dr. Andrea Simpson is a scholar of United States politics with concentrations in Black politics and the politics of gender and intersectionality and the inaugural associate dean of thriving, inclusivity, diversity, and equity (TIDE) for the School of Arts & Sciences.

This is the first spotlight in a new series from the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office that highlights faculty and staff whose roles advance our shared goals of representation, belonging, and capability.

What excites you most about your new role as associate dean of thriving, inclusivity, diversity, and equity (TIDE)?

I am inspired by the possibilities for creating a campus where every student feels that they belong and will find themselves here. We limit ourselves when we do not explore awkward spaces. The campus climate here is quite pleasant for most people. Still, there are people – students, staff, and faculty, who feel as if they are not part of the "life" of the university. The rewards are great if we can make the campus more cohesive by encouraging relationships across racial, ethnic, religious, and gender lines. Big ideas come from the collaboration of people from different circumstances. The more we learn about the lives of others, the better we will be able to build consensus and cooperation wherever we find ourselves later in life. My goal is to approach ideas of thriving, inclusivity, diversity, and equity through teaching how we develop our unconscious biases and why they are difficult to dislodge. We all need to understand the consequences of implicit biases. When they are at work in decision-making, their lives are sometimes affected in devastating ways.

What are your priorities for your first year?

My priorities are to implement activities and workshops to elevate TIDE as an Arts and Sciences priority, build stronger relationships with departments, and work on ways to gauge the success of TIDE initiatives.

What are important steps for UR to take in order to advance thriving, inclusivity, diversity, and equity (TIDE)?

It is important for our campus community to be open to dialogue. There are many differences among human beings, and they are not all about race. One of the questions we must ask ourselves is what difference does difference make? The answers could be surprising. When we bring everyone into the circle, it makes what we do better. Every human being brings something different to our community, and more often than not, that something can make all the difference in our future. Of course, we will have to think of how to increase dialogue and interaction. The “how” must come from input from all of us – faculty, administrators, staff, and students. Planned, managed, and formal arrangements for exchanges can be effective, but we need organic, spontaneous, and fun ways to get to know each other better. We need to understand that speaking or talking to different people does not really increase cultural competencies. We need to meet each other’s families, visit homes, find out what that person and their communities value. We must find a way out of judging the differences we observe.

How can our entire campus community support this work?

All of the pockets of affinity groups, the Greeks, the athletes, the faculty, the staff, and administrators can be thinking about how to facilitate relationships that create One Richmond. When we find something that looks promising, we need to implement it. Maybe we should visit places of worship in communities. Maybe students could organize a week that rewards students for “hanging out” with someone different for an entire week that they have never actually met, or they have met casually. These are just a few off-the-cuff ideas. Students can probably come up with better ways to facilitate building relationships.