L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs


Promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion

The Wilder School and the Center for Public Policy have a long history of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within our community and across Virginia. By consolidating these efforts, we further develop our capacity and offerings in leadership development, training, and research activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These programs leverage the expertise of Center for Public Policy faculty and researchers as we work with state and local governments, as well as with businesses and nonprofits, to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive commonwealth.

Leadership Development

The Minority Political Leadership Institute (MPLI) is a collaborative initiative of The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. It is an intensive eight-month experience designed to promote leadership development for individuals interested in issues important to minority communities including: community economics, political climate, civic engagement, and equity. MPLI offers insights regarding leadership legacy and culture, personal leadership, policy and legislative processes, responsible stewardship, public service, and integrity for future leaders. Each program year, participants engage and interact with communities across Virginia and learn about unique strengths and issues facing different regions of the Commonwealth


The HIGHER Ground Women’s Leadership Development Program, held through our Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, is a five-month leadership development experience for current and emerging women leaders who are committed to investing in themselves and their organizations. The program is designed to benefit women at all career levels in public, private, nonprofit, and entrepreneurial positions. Training opportunities promote personal and professional growth through leadership development, education, coaching, and networking. By engaging in intellectual and experiential workshops, participants learn key principles aimed at enhancing their leadership styles to help them successfully leverage opportunities for advancement.


Our Land Use Education Program (LUEP) helps planning commissioners, BZA members, professional planners, planning students, and interested citizens to make decisions related to land use that are legal, fact-based, community-oriented, and equitable. LUEP's offerings include 10-week certification programs for planning commissioners and BZA members, as well as one-day seminars on special topics such as affordable housing.

Impact Analysis and Training

Expanding upon existing frameworks, we have established the Impact Analysis and Training program to assist state and local agencies in advancing equity and inclusion within their organizations. This program consists of four training and evaluation options that may be conducted individually or in phases. To learn more, please contact Brittany Keegan, Ph.D. at keeganbs@vcu.edu.

  • Policy review: Current agency policy reviews are conducted through an equity and inclusion lens; this includes policies related to service delivery, hiring practices, budgeting, and grievance procedures. Following this review, the agency receives a report and list of recommendations based on findings. Policy reviews typically last one to three weeks per division.
  • Agency-wide climate survey: Agency-wide climate surveys gauge employee opinions and perceptions of the agency’s climate and culture, and provides an understanding of how employees view the agency’s mission, vision, and goals as they relate to equity and inclusion. If desired, the results of this survey, along with information gathered during the policy review, may be used as guidance during the creation of targeted trainings. These surveys and the subsequent report of results are provided within one month.
  • Targeted training: Aimed at both agency executives and agency staff, targeted training addresses issues identified by organization members and provides a better understanding of how the organization can promote equity and inclusion moving forward. The timing and length of these trainings will vary based on agency and need.
  • Evaluation: Evaluation conducted following the implementation of recommendations and targeted training show initial results and can provide a plan for moving forward. Two additional climate surveys, one at six months and one at one year, can also be conducted to provide a more comprehensive evaluation.


Our multiple units often engage in research and sponsored work related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Examples of this work include:


Research through our Center for Urban and Regional Analysis

  • Addressing Eviction: CURA is working with the Wilder School's RVA Eviction Lab to help meet eviction data and research needs and supporting the work of local government, community-based organizations, elected officials, and other advocates. The RVA Eviction Lab takes the necessary deeper dives into the qualitative and quantitative aspects of evictions. Because this problem and the associated research questions will continue to shift both regionally and locally, we make data public, reliable, and responsive to the needs of the community, region, and the state.
  • Promoting Food Access: Supported by a planning grant from the National Science Foundation, this project entails working working with a team of researchers from across the university, as well as with multiple community partners, to identify solutions to food barriers in the city of Richmond. 


Research through our Division of Research and Outreach

  • The Wilder School Commonwealth Poll: Multiple times a year, our statewide Wilder School Commonwealth Poll provides policymakers with an up-to-date snapshot of public opinion on current policy issues in the commonwealth. Issues covered in the poll include social equity, public health, housing, and education.


Research through our Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory

  • Identifying Root Causes of Crime: Nineteen focus groups were conducted by the Office of the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney between the end of November 2017 and mid-March 2018 that focused on capturing insights into the root causes of crime. The offices of the Virginia Attorney General and the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney contracted with SERL to transcribe, analyze, and report on the information captured in the focus groups.  All participants were Richmond City residents, with most recruited from selected areas within the City that are significantly affected by crime or individuals who have been personally touched by crime.  Through the analysis, SERL evaluators identified  themes that emerged across all focus groups and created next step recommendations highlighting these themes. 
  • ADVANCE-IT: Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, SERL is working with others at VCU to increase recruitment, retention, and advancement of underrepresentation groups of women faculty (e.g., by race/ethnicity, disability status, sexual orientation, foreign­born and foreign­trained status, and faculty appointment type). To achieve tthis, several initiatives that are currently being implemented across VCU: 1) Council of STEM chairs which brings together chairs from 33 departments to increase their understanding of intersectionality within their female faculty and to create a strong network among chairs; 2) Protocol and procedure teams working on creating more equitable and inclusive policies around work-life and promotion/tenure at VCU; 3) Mentoring and network building programs for intersectional female faculty in STEM fields; and 4) Programming that works towards identifying and decreasing immunities to change that may exist within STEM departments that interfere with increasing recruitment, retention, and advancement of intersectional female faculty. 
  • Increasing Student Success: SERL is serving as an evaluator on a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to increase success in students transferring to VCU in a STEM field from local community colleges. Most of the students are underrepresented minorities in STEM fields and first-generation students.
    There are three core activities being initiated at VCU by the grant team: 1) Creating a community of STEM faculty who are working towards creating a more inclusive classroom by incorporating inclusive pedagogies in their classrooms; 2) The STEM Transitions Transfer Success Program for students transferring from a local community college; and 3) The Science Hub. Currently, this is where students can get additional help from faculty members. In the future, it will also be a place where STEM students can find additional resources for success and begin to develop networks.