Black Lives Matter protests have taken place from Atlanta to Amsterdam, Savannah to Seoul. The movement is worldwide. BLM slogans hung from U.S. Embassies, were worn on the backs of European soccer stars, and held high by U.S. congress members. The movement has continued to spark conversation and forced Americans to take deeper look at how we treat marginalized communities and our Black citizens. Those conversations have now bled into our school system, and specifically our universities. So how are colleges, professors, and administrators dealing with the calls for change?
The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has worked to be a leader in the field of Diversity and Inclusion. For more than 40 years, SCAD president Paula Wallace has committed herself and the institution she founded to helping aspiring creatives from across the world achieve their dreams. She founded the university on the belief that, “Every dream worth having is a dream worth realizing.”
Today, in the face of a changing world, President Wallace and her team are furthering SCAD’s commitment to ensuring diverse voices, perspectives, and artistic expressions are taught and nurtured in the classrooms of Savannah, Atlanta, and beyond. She recently posted to Instagram, “We stand with those who cry out against racial injustice. Our university is fortunate to have a strong Black community to help guide our progress in the struggle to shape the future for good,” and reiterated her commitment to the lives of her students by ending her statement, “We are taking action.”
This summer, SCAD hired a new, Savannah-based executive director of diversity and inclusion, (with plans to hire to hire an Atlanta based leader as well), created 15 new endowed scholarships for Black students, launched the SCADpro Engagements initiative, and awarded seven Rising Star scholarships to high school students in need of support.
Erina Tandy, the new executive director of diversity and inclusion, has been tasked with ensuring that each of these programs is focused on enriching and strengthening the diversity of the student body and faculty. Before being named to her new position, Tandy served in senior roles in external relations, giving, and community engagement where she developed strong connections with the Black community in Savannah over the past 17 years.
“I’m excited to continue the work we have been doing in our community,” Tandy said in a discussion with President Wallace. “I can’t wait to see the changes we can continue to make through our outreach both naturally and intentionally. This is a big job, but I am confident SCAD is on the right path to making a difference here in Savannah and across our broader community.”
One of the new initiatives Tandy will be overseeing is the development and implementation of diversity and inclusion academic curriculum. SCAD has prided itself on showcasing and uplifting artists and creative voices from across the art world. Going forward, the university will take steps to ensure students learn about the diverse voices that shape culture in a more structured way.
Tandy will also oversee two new outreach and scholarship programs. In June, SCAD announced and awarded 15 newly-endowed scholarships for Black students. These scholarships are long-term investments that will support students today and well into the future. The 2020–21 scholarships for SCAD tuition have been awarded to current and incoming students in recognition of their creativity, talent, and financial need.
SCAD has recognized that scholarships are essential resources for many in their community and believes this program will help diversify and strengthen the Savannah and Atlanta communities for years to come. To date, the university has invested $450,000 in these new scholarships.
The university has also awarded seven Rising Star scholarships to high school students in need of support. The SCAD Rising Star program is an immersive, five-week summer experience allowing rising high school seniors to earn college credits. The program is a pipeline to a future at SCAD and a subsequent competitive creative career.
President Wallace and Tandy are leading the charge, and the entire school community is behind the effort. In a letter to the SCAD community, John Buckovich, VP, SCAD Savannah, Audra Pittman, VP, SCAD Atlanta, and Victor Ermoli, executive director of eLearning, stated: “SCAD is a community of inclusion, acceptance, and love.”