The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leads the college’s equity and inclusion efforts. We believe that we all contribute to making real and systemic changes by building strong foundations together and becoming equity leaders regardless of our role within the institution.

The Equity and Empowerment framework guides our foundational diversity, equity, and inclusion work for 2021–22. This action-oriented framework helps increase the organization’s capacity to make changes in structures, systems, policies, cultures, and behaviors.

We ground our efforts and initiatives in our five overarching goals:

  1. Establish VCFA’s inaugural Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  2. Examine institutional practices, structures, and programs to identify areas where barriers and biases exist and are reinforced.
  3. Start the first phase of a multi-year equity audit and planning process.
  4. Provide social and intellectual opportunities to BIPOC students and alumnx to share industry knowledge, professional connections, and community.
  5. On an ad hoc basis, amend practices and policies not aligned with the college’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and our Statement on Community Values.


(Featured work by David Przepioski, VA ’19)

Communication & Updates

Community Bias Response Program Announcement (March 11, 2022)

Dear VCFA Community,

As a community, we believe that “Each member of our community has both rights and responsibilities. Among these is the right to be treated with respect at all times and the responsibility to treat others with respect at all times, along with that of educating ourselves about what this means.” We all strive to be respected, included, and belong to a community free from bias and discrimination. The intentional and unintentional impact of bias and discrimination create inequities and barriers to having equal and equitable opportunities and outcomes in learning and working environments.

We are pleased to share our official VCFA’s Community Bias Response Program (CBRP) launch. CBRP provides this community with a single central system to report bias incidents and formalizes procedures and coordination of support efforts. The program does not serve as a mechanism for investigative or disciplinary action, nor does it supersede other procedures and protocols in place to resolve alleged college violations or violations of local, state, or federal laws. CBRP aims to create structural, cultural, and behavioral shifts through education and restorative practices.

We believe that VCFA is better equipped to track bias incidents, collect and aggregate data, identify educational responses, connect affected individuals with supporting resources, and support program and department leaders with CBRP. This program also allows us to monitor and analyze college climate trends and data, and will increase our capacity to be proactive with our strategies to safeguard and heal impacted individuals and communities. We must do better when we know better.

We encourage members of this community to explore further about the program on the Community Bias Response Program’s webpage. The webpage will provide you with:

  • Program overview & goals

  • Online Bias Reporting Form

  • Descriptions of the core teams

  • Visual process of what happens to your report after submission

  • FAQ and key definitions

We have much to learn and do; today marks another step forward for our community.

CBRP is designed in collaboration between the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Student Services, Human Resources, and the DEI Action Group.

With gratitude,

Howie LeBlanco, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
David Markow, COO & VP for Student Services
Matthew Monk, Academic Dean
Katie Gustafson, CFO & VP for Finance and Administration

Finding and Following Our Compass (Alumnx Magazine 2021)

Less than a year ago, I stepped into my role as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion surrounded by leaders, advocates, and allies with a spirit for change I have yet to experience elsewhere. Before my arrival, VCFA collaboratively developed its Statement on Community Values, providing a foundation for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and a compass for our work ahead. In my short time guiding this community, I have witnessed the shared responsibility faculty, staff, administrators, students, trustees, and alumnx have forged together, and that bond is the source for transformative equity and inclusion work past, present, and future.

This community brought VCFA to a pivotal point, one where the college, with a strategic financial investment, is examining and addressing the roots of barriers and inequities at all levels of the institution. Equity and Empowerment is the strategic initiative that guides the first phase of our becoming an anti-bias, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive organization. Each department, program, and community member has a role in this integrative approach to the work.

We cultivate inclusivity and belonging with intentionality. Human Resources has made great progress in strengthening our affirmative hiring process. Search committees now undergo implicit bias training and learn best practices for creating inclusion and equity. We are investing in staff development this year to combat bias and inequity in our work and understand their influence on our culture. Our DEI Committee on the Board of Trustees is developing themselves to become Equity Liaisons, bias disrupters, embedded and serving on all other Board committees to guide their peers during critical conversations and decisions.

In our academic programs, we build upon the progress of previous years by examining our admissions and financial aid award processes, continuing to welcome a diverse range of visiting artists, and setting guidelines and community standards to mitigate re-traumatizing experiences for our community members. We open conversations and opportunities to center the plurality of art traditions, canons, and narratives historically excluded from arts education. We want our curriculum and programs to reflect the diverse realities of our students and artists in the world.

We commit to the learning and growth of all students and alumnx. In that commitment, we also recognize the impact of systemic racism on BIPOC students and alumnx in the arts industry. We challenge ourselves to openly discuss the barriers that exist for BIPOC artists and offer empowerment opportunities for support. This year we will launch a BIPOC empowerment series, Industry and Me, in collaboration with the Office of Institutional Advancement, the Center for Arts & Social Justice, and academic programs. Through the series, BIPOC students and alumnx can connect with and learn from fellow BIPOC artists in the industry, share insights and knowledge, explore resources and tools, and foster relationships.

Periodically, we must pause to reflect on the milestones this community achieves together. These moments of reflection energize us on our long journey toward becoming an anti-racist, anti-bias, and anti-oppressive organization. With our shared responsibility, a compass, and renewed energy, we will continue to shape inclusive and diverse realities that reflect us all. This is our work and it is my privilege to have this dedicated community as my partner.

With gratitude,

Howie LeBlanco, he/they
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

All-Staff DEI Development Series Announcement (September 9, 2021)

Dear Staff,

I’m writing to share with you some exciting DEI learning and training opportunities that the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) has developed in collaboration with the Steering Committee for Community Conversations as part of our Equity and Empowerment strategic initiative. These training sessions are intended to help our staff community actualize our Statement on Community Values, an effort that can only be achieved through the full commitment and participation of our entire community.

Since conducting their annual survey last Spring, the Steering Committee has listened to the needs of the community and thoughtfully created a DEI Development Series to further develop this community’s capacity to examine our policies, practices, and behaviors surrounding how we teach, what we teach, and the ways we support one another in the workplace. This nine-part learning series will give staff the tools and resources to establish a common language and understanding for how we can build an inclusive learning and working environment.

The success of this curriculum requires an integrated approach across the college, and for this reason we are asking that both full- and part-time staff attend each of the nine learning sessions. Our intentional decision to require full staff participation underlines the importance of this curriculum to the success of our Equity and Empowerment initiative. In the coming weeks, members of the Steering Committee will meet with departments and programs to provide a preview of the curriculum and answer questions from staff. In addition, a survey will go out to gather information to help determine the dates and timing for the first session scheduled to begin in November.

Where we are today is a testament to the strength, hard work, and critical self-reflection of this community. I want to thank the Steering Committee for this thoughtful next step in helping us find the skills and tools we need to move forward. I look forward to joining you in the DEI Development Series as we continue to build a strong foundation of equity and inclusion at VCFA.

With gratitude,

President Ward

Industry and Me Announcement (August 23, 2021)

Dear VCFA Students,

We are excited to announce a new initiative, Industry and Me, a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) empowerment series that grows out of VCFA’s commitment to life-long learning and empowerment of our students and alumnx communities. This offering lives alongside the many other ways we strive to support our community of artists, including our exceptional academic MFA programs, postgraduate and non-degree offerings, support for student groups, opportunities for connection at virtual and in-person events, and upcoming programming hosted by our new Center for Arts + Social Justice.

This series was created to address historical barriers to success for BIPOC artists created by a legacy of white dominated power structures in the arts. These power structures have systemically excluded and marginalized non-white cultures and peoples through canonical narratives upholding dominant voices. As the arts industry continues to reckon with how systemic racism is permeated and supported throughout the field, Industry and Me seeks to create a space for BIPOC students and alumnx to connect and learn from fellow BIPOC artists who have created their own paths of success. We envision our programming to be practical and empowering, offering stories of challenges and successes, industry tips and insights, exploration of tools and resources, networking, and inspirational moments.

Industry and Me will launch this fall in conjunction with the first event hosted by VCFA’s Center for Arts + Social Justice. The Center has invited Felicia Rose Chavez, author of The Anti-Racist Workshop, to engage with our entire community of artists across programs (full details forthcoming). In addition to a reading and workshop open to all, Chavez will host a dedicated workshop for BIPOC students and alumnx designed to center the experiences of artists of color. The workshop for BIPOC students and alumnx is open to BIPOC students and alumnx, and all students and alumnx who wish to support BIPOC artists.

Industry and Me takes a collaborative approach to its programming. We invite students and alumnx to get involved and receive information about upcoming events by opting into our Industry and Me email list. BIPOC alumnx interested in submitting a session proposal to present as part of the series can indicate so when opting into our email list.

Thank you to the students, faculty, and alumnx whose feedback and ideas helped form the basis for this program. We look forward to this collaboration between the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Institutional Advancement, the Center for Arts + Social Justice, and our academic programs.

With gratitude,

Howie LeBlanco
Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Jericho Parms
VP for Institutional Advancement
(Announcement updated on September 28, 2021)

Land Acknowledgment Announcement (August 17, 2021)

Dear Staff,

In our continued efforts to foster greater inclusion and belonging for our VCFA community and guests, I am pleased to share our institutional land acknowledgment statement with you. This statement represents an intentional and important step for the college towards recognizing our nation’s history with indigenous peoples and strengthening our relationship with the land.

VCFA’s land acknowledgment reads:

Vermont College of Fine Arts sits in N’dakinna [in-DAH-kee-NAH], the ancestral and unceded land of the traditional caretakers of Vermont lands and waters, the Western Abenaki people. As guests in N’dakinna, we recognize the dispossession and invisibilization of Indigenous communities, and their resiliency. We strengthen and celebrate our relationship with N’dakinna by honoring its past and finding our place in its future. We offer our respect and gratitude to the traditional caretakers for their stewardship by seeking to uplift indigenous peoples, cultures, and arts.

We invite you to take this moment of pause to consider our indivisible connection to this land, to the living world, to our non-human relatives, and to each other.

We seek to nurture this connection.

Since November 2020, a working group of the DEI Committee has stewarded the creation of this written acknowledgment. The results of their efforts reflect intentionality, community engagement, and deep learning guided by an indigenous consultant. Thank you to Jennifer Skinder, Jae Young, and Brittany Powell, with support from our consultant, Melody Brook, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The Land Acknowledgment page on our website details the complete guidelines and recommendations for usage and adoption. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion can support you in introducing the land acknowledgment in your work and program.

This Land Acknowledgement is just one of the important ways we are working to fulfill our commitment to “uplift indigenous peoples, cultures, and arts” as an arts community. We look to departments and academic programs, with history of past efforts and wisdoms, for guidance and leadership to continue this important work together.

With gratitude,

President Ward

Messages from the President