Commitment to Justice, Equity, and Inclusion
Our Center, established in 2019, works at the nexus of food, agriculture, and society to explore and catalyze the conditions for a more just and sustainable food system so that all may thrive. We are housed within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension. Our location is on Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, which is situated on Tutelo and Monacan land, that was built through the labor of enslaved Black people. In our research and programming efforts, we embrace the inclusion of all identities based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, immigration status, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, age, or body type. We also assert the need for epistemic inclusion by valuing and uplifting diverse forms of knowledge and ways of knowing.
As a Virginia Tech Center, we acknowledge that we live and work on the Tutelo/Monacan People’s homeland and we recognize their continued relationships with their lands and waterways. We further acknowledge that legislation and practices like the Morrill Act (1862) enabled the Commonwealth of Virginia to finance and found Virginia Tech through the forced removal of Native Nations from their lands, both locally and in western territories (to learn more about land grant institutions complicity in land grabs, the High Country News article, "Land Grab Universities" provides a broad overview). With this knowledge, we understand that honoring Native Peoples without explicit material commitments falls short of our institutional responsibilities. Through sustained, transparent, and meaningful engagement with the Tutelo/Monacan Peoples, and other Native Nations, we commit to changing the trajectory of Virginia Tech's history by increasing Indigenous student, staff, and faculty recruitment and retention, diversifying course offerings, and meeting the growing needs of all Virginia tribes and supporting their sovereignty. For more information on Virginia Tech’s land acknowledgement, please visit the American Indian & Indigenous Community Center webpage.
We recognize that enslaved Black people generated revenue and resources used to establish Virginia Tech and were prohibited from attending until 1953. Through InclusiveVT, the institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (that I may serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence, we commit to advancing a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Visit Virginia Tech’s Black Cultural Center to learn more and to find resources to help create a welcoming and inclusive community.
Our team also created and agreed to a set of cultural practices to guide our work together. These guiding practices are designed to help create an organizational culture rooted in trust, dignity, compassion, and self-reflection with each other and those we engage with through our research and programming. Our cultural practices include:
- Collaborative planning and decision-making rooted in curiosity, deep analysis, critical inquiry, and consent.
- Fostering transformative teamwork by building our community through active, empathetic, and generative listening, and by engaging with one another with sincerity, dignity, honesty, vulnerability, curiosity, kindness, and humility. Our transformative teamwork also involves listening to voices that have been historically marginalized and being willing to sit in the discomfort when our privilege reveals itself; and by letting this experience change us.
- Using participatory approaches that prioritize the voices and experiences of the people most vulnerable* in the food system through our research and programming. This includes collaborating with and uplifting frontline organizations and individuals most affected by the issues with direct program development and fair compensation of time.
- Committing to transparency by sharing annual reports and by stating our intent (mission or cultural practices) at the outset of collaborations or events with our participants.
- Engaging critical inquiry by examining the position of the Center within the larger universe of food systems academia, as well as educating ourselves and exploring the concept of systems thinking as it applies to our internal processes and focus on community transformation and the food system.
These practices allow us to consider and embrace epistemic abundance, with many paths of realization toward advancing our goals. We review and discuss these practices at the start of every team meeting to reaffirm our commitment to them.
*By vulnerable we mean people and communities who historically and systematically have not been able to reach their food- and agriculture-related goals based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability and other forms of discrimination.