Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Robert L. Canida II has been appointed vice president for inclusive excellence by the University of Lynchburg’s new president, Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar, in one of her first official acts.
“Since the announcement of me becoming your 11th president, you have heard much of my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Morrison-Shetlar wrote in an email on Monday.
“I have also heard you in asking for a more equitable and welcoming community — a university where our underrepresented and marginalized students, faculty, staff, and alumni can thrive and succeed, a university that fully realizes the commitment to have respect for the inclusion of diversity found in our mission statement.”
Canida’s promotion to vice president will ensure Lynchburg continues its progress in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion, Morrison-Shetlar said.
“My decision to elevate this position is to reaffirm the University’s commitment to student, faculty, and staff success within an equitable, inclusive, diverse, and supportive campus culture,” she said. “Since Dr. Canida’s arrival, he has been actively engaged in providing courageous and wise leadership on issues involving diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Canida will report directly to the president. His responsibilities will involve all campus units, Morrison-Shetlar said, and he will “continue to provide transparent leadership on our progress in the important goals related to becoming an institution of inclusive excellence.”
Canida brings more than 25 years of experience in higher education. His goal: to have all campus stakeholders embrace diversity at its very core.
“Working for an institution — and a leader — that truly values equity, inclusion, and diversity has been a dream come true for me,” Canida said. “When I started working in diversity and inclusion over 20 years ago, I had no idea of the journey I was embarking on.
“However, I knew that as a servant leader, it would be my moral responsibility to be the voice for those who feel voiceless and ensure that every campus stakeholder understands why there is good in diversity.”
Since coming to Lynchburg in December, Canida has been that voice in countless conversations, from his own Office of Equity and Inclusion to meetings with University leadership. Going forward, his voice will be heard just a little louder.
“As our beloved University continues on the road to inclusive excellence, I will ensure that the success of our students, staff, faculty, and administration is evident through the continual integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Canida said in an email.
“I appreciate the support of President Morrison-Shetlar, the Executive Council, students, staff and faculty, as I continue doing the right things, for the right reasons. Our University will be known as a diversity, equity, and inclusion trailblazer in Lynchburg and the great state of Virginia. I am proud to be a Hornet. I am glad to be Home.”
Before coming to Lynchburg, Canida was director for diversity and inclusion and a tenured library faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, the only historically American Indian university in the southeastern region of the U.S.
There, he created the first Social Justice Symposium and offered leadership on these matters to faculty, staff, and surrounding communities. He also served on the first major Strategic Planning and Resources Council, co-chaired the Diversity Task Force, and was a writer for the university’s Institutional Distinctiveness statement.
Canida played an active role in Pembroke’s community relations, serving as the first African American Chamber president in 2008. In 2017, he became UNC Pembroke’s first recipient of the Erskine B. Bowles Staff Service Award, given annually to a staff member who has shown “exemplary understanding, empathy, and devotion to mankind,” and whose accomplishments are consistent with the goals exemplified by former UNC President Erskine Bowles.
He is a published author of numerous articles and a book chapter, and a regional and national presenter and speaker on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Canida earned his Ph.D. in leadership studies from North Carolina A&T State University, a master’s in library science from the University of Kentucky, and a bachelor’s in political science from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.