Dr. Robert L. Canida II has been named the University of Lynchburg’s new diversity and inclusion officer. A highly respected academic, administrator, and advocate for cultural competency, diversity, equity, inclusion, and diversity education, Canida joined the Office of Equity and Inclusion earlier this week.
With more than 25 years of higher education experience, both in academic and student affairs, and 16 years in diversity and inclusion, Canida knew instantly he would be a great fit for Lynchburg.
His experience, he noted, is “flavored with my love for diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. My vision will be of a holistic nature. My goal is for the University of Lynchburg to truly embrace diversity at its very core. I want my new colleagues to understand what Georgie Anne Geyer meant when she penned, ‘We should not and cannot change all our differences. Each of us brings from our own background things we should share. There is good in diversity.’”
Before coming to Lynchburg, Canida spent two decades serving the University of North Carolina System’s most diverse campus, UNC-Pembroke, through multicultural programs, student dialogues, and a plethora of activities promoting diversity and inclusion. He is the former director of diversity and inclusion at UNC-Pembroke.
Most recently, Canida served the institution teaching library research and information literacy courses. He held a variety of roles in the university’s library system and played a central part in advancing issues of diversity and inclusion as an advocate, advisor, and mentor.
“Dr. Canida’s arrival comes at an important time for our university, and I know that he will find a community that is both supportive and eager to continue addressing issues that affect our campus climate of diversity and inclusion,” Lynchburg president, Dr. Kenneth Garren, wrote in a campuswide email last week.
Canida’s appointment fills a vacancy created earlier this year when Dr. Aaron Smith, Lynchburg’s first diversity and inclusion officer, accepted his current role as vice president and dean for student development.
Smith said he’s “thrilled” Canida is here. “He brings a tremendous amount of experience to the position during a time when we need his expertise,” Smith said. “He’ll be able to truly build upon the foundation that was created within the Office of Equity and Inclusion, and propel our institution to one of inclusive excellence.
“I know that he’s going to be an asset to our campus community, and I’m looking forward to watching our community grow as a result of his presence.”
Just two days in, Canida is already thinking about specific programs and goals for the institution.
“I’m exploring the possibility of bringing a dialogue facilitation lab to our campus,” he said. “This lab is an opportunity for members of our Inclusive Excellence Team (Student Diversity Council, Staff for an Inclusive Community, and We Are INclusive team) to address difficult topics that may arise.
“Additionally, I would like to see our University be honored with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award. This award recognizes institutions of higher education that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
Canida is well-published and a frequent speaker and presenter at conferences such as the Southern Association for College Student Affairs, the North Carolina Civility Summit, the American College Personnel Association, and the Black Doctoral Network Conference. He also has extensive teaching and advising experience and has spent countless hours serving his community and university.
In 2017, Canida received 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.”
Canida earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at Xavier University in Cincinnati, where he grew up; his master’s degree in library science at the University of Kentucky; and his PhD in interdisciplinary leadership studies at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.