The Interview USA
Towson University
Vice President of the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity 

Patricia Corey Bradley

In the field of higher education, student engagement stands as a cornerstone for academic success and personal growth. In her role as Vice President of the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity at Towson University, Patricia Corey Bradley has overseen her institution’s efforts to engage all students with DEI issues. 

Patricia sat down with GoodCourse, to discuss topics ranging from the challenges faced during the pandemic to the importance of free speech and respectful dialogue.

Patricia's Journey

GoodCourse: Let’s kick off with a quick introduction to your current role and institution.

I currently serve as the Vice President of the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity at Towson University. This office has existed for about seven years now, and I’m the second person to hold this position. 

GoodCourse: So what brought you to the world of DEI work? And how did you arrive in your current position?

I’ve always had an interest in Civil Rights, particularly Civil Rights Law. I’m an attorney by trade, and I started at Towson University as the Assistant Vice President for Equity and Compliance. In that role, I was responsible for the enforcement of Title VI, Title VII, and Title IX laws, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I oversaw our policies for discrimination on campus, making sure we had preventative measures in place along with staff who could investigate any complaints. My predecessor as Vice President departed for another opportunity, so I put my name in the hat, and I was promoted into my current role. My interest in DEI is fueled by my own upbringing, and I want to ensure that all students have equal access to opportunities.

GoodCourse: Recent guests on The Interview have been discussing the need to advance cultural competency to create a welcoming environment on campus. What initiatives have you been working on to this end — and what challenges have you seen? 

I first took over this role during the pandemic, so student engagement was a huge challenge. It was very difficult to build engagement: but now, students are back on campus, and they’re eager to get more involved. One of the departments I oversee is the Center for Student Diversity, which creates a safe space to engage students and help them get to know each other. We also run a dialogue program where we model how to talk about sensitive issues and have difficult conversations. It's important for people of different identities to spend time together so we can all learn about each other’s backgrounds and cultures. When our students graduate, they are going to enter a diverse, global workforce, so we have a responsibility to prepare them for that. 

When our students graduate, they are going to enter a diverse, global workforce, so we have a responsibility to prepare them for that. 
GoodCourse: You mentioned that you started your role during the pandemic. That was a time when a lot of underrepresented communities suffered disproportionately. What challenges did this present for your DEI work, and have you noticed any lasting effects?

For me, a lot of my work comes from my upbringing. It was useful to have someone at the table who had experienced some of the same hardships that our students were dealing with. Towson University is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and there are some communities here that lack basic internet access. So we needed to deliver portable devices so they could access our online resources. We also have a lot of international students, and many of them were unable to go home, so we needed to make sure they had a place to stay. Virtual learning created new challenges for students; for example, some students did not have shared space in their homes, which made participation in online classes difficult. We had to think carefully so that our policies didn’t create unintentional barriers for students. 

GoodCourse: You lead the Center for Student Diversity, as well as many other services. How do you promote engagement and make sure students know about which resources are accessible to them? 

The most important thing is being present. My office is based in the Students’ Union and is front-facing so students can drop in at any time. We know that students don’t always answer their emails, so we make sure to have an active social media presence to reach as many people as possible

GoodCourse: Freedom of speech has become a contentious issue on college campuses. What’s your approach to getting students comfortable with differences of opinion and challenging ideas? 

Three years ago, when I was still in my previous role, we hired a Hate Bias Coordinator who was responsible for investigating reports of discrimination and hate speech on campus. So we developed some programming for our students and faculty to discuss difficult issues: hate speech, bias, and the First Amendment. We also have an advocacy team that explains our policies around free speech and advocacy; for us, the key is to build dialogue in a respectful way. 

GoodCourse: Student safety is a huge concern among many leaders. What’s your approach to cultivating a safe environment on campus?

The key thing is to listen to students. It’s important to intervene before issues escalate or degenerate into violence. To do that, we need to provide spaces where students can be heard: whether it’s the community center, the Center for Student Diversity, or our disability and mental health services. Those resources allow us to identify who might be in distress; if we aren’t capable of providing the necessary support, we can point them toward the right place.

GoodCourse: Student engagement is a challenge for many institutions. Where do you see students engaging the most — and the least?

On our campus, our students are highly engaged and proactive. They want to make sure everyone feels a sense of belonging. They willingly enroll in our DEI courses because they want to learn more about diversity and inclusion. I’m always learning so much from them. 

GoodCourse: What’s your top tip for engaging students on DEI topics?

Always have an open mind. Be willing to listen to understand, instead of listening to react. People don’t always reach out because they want you to fix their problems: sometimes they just need to be heard. 

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