SCAD’s new director of inclusion wants to help positively impact metro Atlanta
Previously the student success advisor and admission records specialist at SCAD, Lace Walker has now been named the college’s new director of inclusion.
By Allison Joyner
Ensuring a culture where everyone feels welcomed, valued, respected and empowered to thrive, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) appointed Lace Walker as the university’s new Director of Inclusion.
“It is my intention to ensure every member of our SCAD community feels seen, celebrated and cared for. It is important that we continue to engage in a culture that accepts all people with respect and open arms,” said Walker.
Her duties will include administering and developing diversity and inclusion learning opportunities for the institution like implementing programs that engages diverse ideas and perspectives, broadening recruitment and hiring practices,and researching and implementing policies, procedures and programming to eliminate demographic disparities throughout SCAD’s three campuses in Savannah, Atlanta and Lacoste, France.
Walker, who also attended SCAD for her M.A. in creative business and B.F.A. in sound design, told SaportaReport that SCAD has “so much to engage in.” The following is a lightly edited Q+A with Walker.
Q: Why is diversity, equity and inclusion important to you and what does it mean to you personally and professionally?
A: Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are important to me because they are essential aspects of what it takes to truly respect, value and love people. We as human beings long to be loved, accepted and to have a sense of belonging. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, these entities are vital for us to self-actualize and be motivated. The concepts of DEI have naturally evolved over the years and now they are engraved in my personal and professional life. I strive to treat everyone (colleagues, students, neighbors, etc.) with the same respect. At SCAD, we are a community that views ourselves as family. We are unique and united through this positive, innovative and enriching environment. These commonalities bring us together as one.
Q: Why is it essential to have DEI in higher education, especially for an already liberal arts institution like SCAD?
A: There is a significant amount of research about DEI in higher education that demonstrates the benefits students receive from seeing themselves mirrored in front of the classroom and/ or being introduced to other cultures, backgrounds and perspectives. It is especially of paramount importance for marginalized individuals to see someone who looks like them, who has done the work before them, and to hear from people who have been successful as the likely commonalities resonate with them. The support from the SCAD Office of Inclusion is intended to give our students hope that they can achieve the dreams they have set out to accomplish.
The services and resources provided through SCAD’s Office of Inclusion are offered for faculty and staff as well. Human nature is to gravitate towards affinity in one another, which helps us find an instant connection. Having someone to grow with throughout our journey is not only meaningful but necessary. It is essential not only to provide equal access for everyone but also to present the resources available to each individual that would aid them in being successful.
Q: What changes will students see when they return for classes in the fall?
A: The SCAD community is dynamic, and some students may have had a different college experience in the past couple of years due to COVID. At SCAD, we always have them in our minds when implementing activities, events and workshops. As students return for classes, they will be able to join conversations with many departments across locations, they will be able to attend multiple in-person events to build connections, gain knowledge and be motivated by industry professionals who may possibly share the same culture and also learn from inspiring diverse voices.
Q: As the former Student Success Advisor and Admission Record Specialist, you are not a newcomer to SCAD but new to this post. How has it been making this transition? How should the students interact with you now that you are in this new role?
A: This transition has been amazing! I get emotional just thinking about it. It brings joy to my heart that I get to continue to come to work every day to enhance students’ lives through the mission of our university, which is to prepare talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented university environment, but in a unique way. Through my lens, the institutional mission, paired with the direct mission of the Office of Inclusion, sets the stage for multiple levels of success and strives to engage students, faculty and staff to ensure a culture in which we all feel welcomed, valued, respected and empowered to thrive. These attributes create a foundation that will enhance the framework for creating and sustaining a positive university environment that embraces and sees DEI as an asset that will help propel SCAD forward for many years to come.
Q: When you got this opportunity for this position, you said that you saw this as “a chance to extend my heart, care and concern for the greater SCAD community.” How are those efforts continuing?
A: The scope of my work at SCAD assisting and guiding others has broadened in this new position. In this new role in the Office of Inclusion, I am instrumental in supporting the full range and spectrum of groups and individuals of the SCAD community with a platform to be seen, and recognized, with their voices heard. I get to not only be an active listener but an empathic listener. I have the honor and privilege to be an effective change agent throughout the university. I am fortunate to have a great support system — my SCAD family — to collaborate with as we collectively continue fulfilling the goals and objectives of advancing DEI throughout SCAD.
Q: How is SCAD an active partner with the Atlanta community?
A: Through the university’s community-oriented initiative, SCAD SERVE, we bring together our SCAD network of students, faculty, staff and alumni to work collaboratively with local Atlanta leaders and neighborhoods to create meaningful design solutions that improve quality of life. One facet of this is through our recently launched Design for Good interdisciplinary studio course to research and formulate innovative design solutions. Our inaugural partner for Design for Good was the non-profit Sweet Auburn Works, where our students collaborated on a multi-faceted implementation project reimagining and elevating the neighborhood’s commercial corridor and new SPARK Innovation Lab. SCAD is proud to be an arts leader in the community and has also launched the “Paint Our Parks” initiative in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Our talented alumni and students recently completed an incredible and brilliant large-scale basketball court mural at Arthur Langford Jr. Park and will continue throughout the fall to enliven and beautify other public park spaces throughout the city with murals that represent the collective soul of Atlanta’s vibrancy and diversity. Art brings positive and creative energy to communities and the benefits are long-lasting.
Q: What can the community expect to see from SCAD in the next semester and beyond?
A: The community can look forward to continuing to see the innovative ways that SCAD contributes to and positively interacts across the metro Atlanta area over the next quarter and beyond. We are excited for the fall return of one of our most thrilling SCAD events, SCAD AnimationFest with insightful and exciting programming that will explore what’s next in animation, visual effects and digital media. Our SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film is presenting a thrilling and glamourous exhibition running through the fall for fashion designer Christian Siriano that celebrates body positivity, inclusivity and LGBTQ+ heroes — it is a must-see and we welcome anyone in Atlanta to experience the magic of arts, entertainment, fashion and culture through SCAD!