Cultivating a “better world” is Dr. Valerie Kinloch’s ultimate goal as an educator.
“The work we do in the world is so important,” Kinloch said, describing her hopes to advance equitable policies and practices that benefit students, teachers, staff, communities of people in schools, school districts and universities around the world.
“Advocating just policies that are based on education means understanding people’s full humanity,” she said. “It’s understanding who people are, what their dreams and hopes are, [and] what people want.”
Kinloch does this work in her leadership role as Renée and Richard Goldman Endowed Dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s (UPitt) School of Education, a position she has held since July 2017. At the time, Kinloch said she sought to enhance fairness and equity. at school.
For this work, she was surprised to receive the university’s inaugural Dr. Prize in November 2022. Larry E. Davis Excellence in Leadership Award.
“I won the Excellence in Leadership Award, I think because of my vision for education, the efforts I’ve made to not only shape education, but to reshape education with a more equitable perspective and engage people in this collective effort to ensure that higher education responds to the needs of people in communities around the world,” Kinloch said.
One such effort was Kinloch’s major initiative to lead strategic direction conversations that culminated in a strategic plan she led that involved faculty, staff, students and external partners.
Kinloch said that when asked about how to move UPitt’s School of Education forward, “some of the things I heard included focusing on community engagement, thinking about policy, thinking about practice in relation to teaching and teacher education. “
Kinloch said there are questions about how to do the work more equitably, “by involving more voices, more people, and really understanding the need for our school of education to be a space and a place where we’re addressing educational issues, thinking about educational trends, and engaging diverse groups of people.”
UPitt’s strategic plan focuses on equity, justice and innovation, Kinloch continued, noting that she has created a new position, associate dean for equity, justice and strategic partnerships. The person in this position reports to her. In addition, the school’s bylaws and governance structure have been reworked to make them fairer, more engaging and inclusive of perspectives especially from people whose voices are often not heard in higher eds, she said.
“If we can do this work right,…by humanizing collective frameworks that simply see the beauty in human beings…then I really think we can beautifully change and transform a world where so much is encompassed by all of who we are and people they can engage in the work their souls are meant to do,” Kinloch said.
Having served for six years as associate dean for diversity, inclusion and community engagement at The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE), Kinloch is well-versed in the administration of diversity in higher education. She also served as director of the EHE Office of Diversity and Inclusion and was program chair of the National Council of Teachers of English and was named to the RHSU Edu-Scholar 2023 Public Impact Rankings.
Kinloch holds a Ph.D. in English and an M.A. in English and African American Literature from Wayne State University. She received her BA in English Language and Literature/Letters from Johnson C. Smith University.
While diversity and inclusion are important, Kinloch also focuses on equality and fairness.
“I need people to understand that diversity and inclusion are fundamentally important, but these things have to lead to equality and fairness across education and across societies,” Kinloch said.
Kinloch radiates optimism and invites people to come to the table to talk, to listen, to work together for a brighter future.
“I would like people to enter these conversations with open minds, open ears, open hearts and ask things they may not know, as opposed to assuming that the work of equality, justice and innovation…” It’s bad,” Kinloch said. “Because it’s not, it’s really fundamentally important to change the world for the better.”