Executive Dean's Message

Dear SEBS and NJAES community,

Last June, the SEBS and NJAES Executive Leadership Team posted a statement in support of racial and social justice in our community and our work. Words are not enough, therefore we are providing this update on our current actions and those planned in the coming months.

As stated in our last letter, our community – students, staff, faculty, alumni, visitors, and program participants – includes individuals whose race, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, culture, and economic status shape their experiences of and outlook on the world. Collectively, we must acknowledge that our entire community is impacted if any individual within it is treated unjustly. As we actively address bias and racism, we must look both inward at our own community and outward to how we educate, serve, and empower others.

Our actions, to date, include the following:

  • A restructured administrative leadership team that includes more staff and faculty representation (this is ongoing).
  • Updating faculty membership in and providing charges to faculty committees that are listed in the SEBS bylaws. This includes reinvigorating the SEBS Committee on Diversity, Communication, and Philanthropy.
  • Regular 'listening sessions' for the dean with small groups of faculty, students, and staff in order to hear concerns, share experiences, and gain better understanding of our common humanity. From these sessions, we have been able to address some immediate issues and have also identified larger concerns to be addressed, such as the need for faculty networking support, mentorship, and professional development.
  • Departmental Faculty Diversity Advocates have been identified for each academic department, with responsibilities that include being a departmental resource and conduit for communications for all activities related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. For more information about this role, please see: nbdiversity.rutgers.edu/facultydiversity/department-faculty-diversity-advocate.
  • Troy Roepke, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, has kindly agreed to serve as our SEBS Equity Advisory and serves as our central liaison with the Office of the Senior Vice President for Equity.
  • A new Staff Diversity Award and Faculty Diversity Award that will be advertised and presented in spring 2021.

These actions are helping us initiate dialogue, communicate concerns, and share good models that will continue to direct actions for change.

We are about to initiate a SEBS/NJAES diversity action plan. This effort builds upon the In Pursuit of Excellence Equity Audit and is being guided by Dr. Anna Branch, Rutgers Senior Vice President for Equity, and the Rutgers New Brunswick Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. The process that has been established is a phased approach that includes inventorying existing activities, articulating SMART goals, and developing evaluative metrics at the school, chancellor unit, and university levels. Troy will lead efforts, with the Department Faculty Diversity Advocates, to collect information on current activities. Our next step is to identify a steering committee to set our goals for the five priority areas developed by the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. If you are interested in being involved, please reach out to the Executive Dean.

In the coming weeks, the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement will release a Diversity Strategic Planning Assessment Survey for all stakeholders at the university. We encourage everyone to participate in the survey. We will share information about the diversity action planning for SEBS and Rutgers as we work through the assessment and goal-setting process this semester.

We have a lot more work to do in building a more diverse and inclusive campus. Our activities so far are just the beginning. Our long-term view is to develop an institutional infrastructure to drive change within and beyond our SEBS/NJAES community. Thank you for all you are doing in your work and life to support each other and to help us all achieve a more just society.

Thank you on behalf of the SEBS and NJAES Executive Leadership Team.


Laura J. Lawson
Interim Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Interim Executive Dean, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Interim Executive Director, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station