Yolanda Avent has been named senior director of Cultural and Community Centers at Virginia Tech.
Avent, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 1998 with a degree in history, is returning to her alma mater to oversee the six resource centers that compose the Cultural and Community Centers.
“I am really excited to come in at this particular time,” said Avent. “We have a wonderful opportunity to create milestone moments in Virginia Tech’s history in terms of how we make diversity and inclusion a tangible concept that constructs a new narrative shaped by the legacies of monumental cultural trailblazers at Virginia Tech.”
Avent believes her top five strengths — context, command, ideation, intellection, and learner — will serve her well in making connections, articulating a vision for the future, and maintaining a growth mindset as the leader of theCultural and Community Centers. Her approach to leadership can be described as student-centered and transparent, as she anticipates filtering every decision by asking what’s best for students.
“I want students who go to these centers to feel cared for and supported, like they belong at Virginia Tech,” said Avent. “That’s one of the biggest goals I have. I love being able to help students find their path and empower them to face the obstacles that may lie ahead of them in that journey. That’s what I’m here to do: dust off the mirror, so you can see a little better.”
Avent said the essential components of a successful community and cultural center are social justice and diversity education, leadership development opportunities, scholarship, and mentoring programs. She considers InclusiveVT, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Principles of Community, and Aspirations for Student Learning to be solid building blocks from which to begin her work. Her hope is that the program will become a center for engagement not only for students who identify as members of the six cultural and community centers but for the greater Virginia Tech community.
“I can’t imagine anyone better suited for this role than Yolanda,” said Angela Simmons, assistant vice president of student affairs. “Weaving diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our university is challenging and important work. I know Yolanda’s strengths will positively impact that work at Virginia Tech.”
Another big goal for Avent is to forge collaborative relationships with campus and community partners, a task at which she excelled while serving as director for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. Examples of collaborative projects Avent established are Diversity Scholars in Research Week — four days of résumé and research workshops, networking sessions, and a poster exhibition; Don’t Cancel That Class, an alternative presentation option for instructors; and LGBTQ Pride Games, sporting events at which athletes wear pride shirts prior to warmup.
Other notable accomplishments during her tenure at Virginia Commonwealth University include developing the curriculum for the course Exploring Diversity, Identity, and Social Justice, and establishing the African American Read In, the Multicultural Connections Mentoring Program, the Human Library Project, and the Lavender Empowerment Summit.
Prior to serving at Virginia Commonwealth University, Avent spent five years as director of institutional equity, diversity, and international student services at The Pennsylvania State University, Altoona. She holds a bachelor’s in history from Virginia Tech and a master’s in criminal justice from Armstrong Atlantic State University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the Virginia Tech School of Education.
Written by Tiffany Woodall