Clyde Pickett, a 2017 graduate of the Doctor of Education (EdD) program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, began his new role as Pitt’s Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in July 2020.
Since then, he has been working to make Pitt more welcoming and inclusive to all students—especially Black students and other students of color who at times may face discrimination based on their race.
This charge took on new urgency after the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Their deaths sparked protests against racial injustice around the world, including Pittsburgh, which are continuing to this day.
Pickett, for his part, participated in the community response to Floyd’s death around the Twin Cities area in Minnesota.
As the former Chief Diversity Officer of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, where he guided the policy for Minnesota State’s 54 campuses, Pickett was living in the Twin Cities at the time that Floyd, who was unarmed, was killed by police on May 25.
The ensuing days of protests against police brutality, which demanded structural change, saw unrest and damage to multiple neighborhoods across the Twin Cities. Pickett felt compelled to participate in the community response for change. He helped organize and lead community-based discussions on the opportunities to use education as a catalyst for change and also participated in community cleanup projects to the areas impacted by damage. There he saw people of all ages and races lending a hand.
“To see the outpouring of people who demanded an appropriate response was a transformative experience. The support was multi-generational, it was multi-racial,” says Pickett.
In his role as Pitt’s senior-most diversity officer, Pickett plans to address the underlying systems and structures of power to help bring about meaningful and lasting change within Pitt.
“Education is about informing, preparing, and negotiating change. It is about us being willing to examine policies and procedures at the university to advance social justice,” says Pickett.
Community engagement will also be fundamental to his approach as vice chancellor.
“I see our diversity and inclusion efforts as pillars in the broader opportunity to engage in the community. I’m also someone individually who believes in being involved in the community,” says Pickett.
Pickett credits the Pitt EdD program for helping him grow as a higher education leader. At the time he enrolled in the program, he was working as the Chief Diversity Officer of the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pittsburgh.
His Pitt EdD cohort exposed him to educational leaders from other areas, including K-12 education, who had insights from other work environments. It also gave him an inside look into the operations of the University of Pittsburgh through his interactions with professors and senior staff.
“Having the opportunity to work with colleagues in different settings, the chance to look beyond my own sphere and explore together, was a transformational experience,” says Pickett.
Now Pickett looks forward to the opportunity to bring about positive transformational change at the University of Pittsburgh. His education in the EdD program will help him do that.
The Doctor of Education (EdD) program at the Pitt School of Education is currently accepting applications.