‘Getting things right’: Clyde Wilson Pickett reflects on past year


Image courtesy of Ceisler Media

Clyde Wilson Pickett is Pitt’s vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion.

By Elizabeth Primrose, Staff Writer

After joining Pitt’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in 2020, Clyde Wilson Pickett said he looked forward to supporting the Pittsburgh community as part of his work as vice chancellor and the office’s leader.

He said while joining Pitt in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult, it also prompted him to be innovative in ways such as hosting the Diversity Forum fully online.

“I have always embraced the opportunity to work with the entire community to realize positive change,” Pickett said. “The chance to advance this work at a university and a community I love is a perfect marriage between my passion for this work and my commitment to the communities it involves.”

Since joining Pitt, Pickett started new initiatives and programs around campus, including a website to centralize the social justice work and commitments the office has undertaken. Pickett said he is excited about continuing to build connections between students, faculty, staff and the broader community to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at Pitt.

Before starting at the University, Pickett served as the chief diversity officer for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and in a similar role for the Community College of Allegheny County. But Pickett, who received his doctorate from Pitt’s School of Education, said his experience at the University “planted the seed” for him to return.

According to Pickett, OEDI has worked closely with and made significant hires in the Civil Rights and Title IX division. Pickett said the combination of these hires and the OEDI’s sexual violence and prevention education allows the office to increase efforts to prevent and address sexual and gender misconduct.

Katie Pope, the associate vice chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX, said she leads a team dedicated to supporting a campus environment where everyone feels welcomed, valued and respected. According to Pope, the office is working to partner with the local nonprofit Pittsburgh Action Against Rape to offer members of the Pitt community confidential, on-campus support and services for sexual assault survivors.

Pope, who has worked in OEDI since 2015, said Pickett is a helpful contributor to her work.

“Clyde is a great leader who is also a strong sounding board for our work in Civil Rights and Title IX,” Pope said. “With his background and experience, I’m able to talk through complicated situations, and having his perspective helps us move the work forward.”

Beck Barrett, a sophomore political science major, has worked for OEDI since April 2021. They lead initiatives inside the office to elevate student voices, such as the “My Voice Has Power” program, and create content for and run the OEDI social media. Barrett said Pickett helps amplify OEDI’s programs, including on social media.

“Dr. Pickett is super excited and engaged with our social media channels, because as we talk about a lot in the office, if no one knows about our programs what we do doesn’t really matter,” Barrett said. “He’s super encouraging of all we put out and amplifies all of our work to his own networks, as well as suggesting content we promote.”

Barrett also helps with planning the annual Diversity Forum, which they said is four days of workshops and featured sessions surrounding one topic about equity, diversity and inclusion. Pickett said more than 15,000 people have attended the Diversity Forum in just the last two years.

He added that this forum, which happens every year near the end of July, is quickly becoming one of the largest diversity conferences in the country.

“As a team, we continue to partner with schools and units around the University to expand education and competency development for diversity, equity and inclusion,” Pickett said. “We have several new training and education series for the entire Pitt community.”

New series include the Diversity Consciousness Series and the Racial Equity Consciousness Series, the latter of which kicked off the 2021 Diversity Forum. Barrett said Pickett added the Racial Equity Consciousness Series to help people understand where they fit into anti-racist and racial equity work, and help people break down their understanding of bias.

“By including sessions about racial empathy and trauma, it also allows people to go beyond just wanting to be anti-racist for others and understand their own relationship to racism and race,” Barrett said. “It was certainly an important addition because so often diversity programs are just focused on how to get more ideas or people from different backgrounds to engage with each other, and not focusing on the barriers on why those people can’t connect in the first place.”

Pickett said the scope of OEDI’s work is diverse, and it’s hard to single out any single initiative as the most important. He added that OEDI’s priority is getting things done correctly, and not just quickly.

“I know students, faculty and staff often expect immediate action, but it’s important for us to move forward with strategy, vision and intention,” Pickett said. “Getting things right — and not just getting things done fast — is our priority here.”