Adrienne Davis
Adrienne Davis, WashU leader in DEI scholarship and research, joins Olin faculty

The WashU community is extremely fortunate to have in our midst a leading thinker, teacher, practitioner and scholar focused on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Now, that leader, Adrienne Davis, has joined the WashU Olin faculty as a professor of organizational behavior and leadership.

Adrienne’s joint appointment at Olin—in addition to her existing post as the William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law—became effective on January 1. She will split her time between Olin and the law school, and she continues as co-director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity, which she founded last year. More on that in a moment.

“I’m excited to take my institutional work over the last decade and pursue research into how diversity can be best implemented across different sectors,” said Adrienne, whose appointment is one-third with Olin and two-thirds with the law school. “I’m especially interested in diagnosing the distinct challenges of diversity in higher education.”

While I also know Adrienne is eager to get back into the classroom, that will wait while she completes a one-year leave—and a book she’s been working on. She’ll begin to teach Olin classes in the 2022-23 academic year, but I expect we will see her around campus—virtually, these days—while she continues her research.

Hitting the ground running

Indeed, she has already contributed profoundly to the Olin community through her insight and guidance on the DEI strategic plan task force I appointed last summer.

I’m gratified by the reception she’s already received from the faculty.

“Adrienne brings a depth of experience in the leadership arena as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Hillary Anger Elfenbein, chair of the organizational behavior area among the faculty. “She complements the research areas within the organizational behavior group. We are delighted to welcome her.”

I feel a sense of anticipation for what fertile new areas of inquiry await Adrienne and our existing faculty.

“I’m so impressed with Olin and with the OB team,” she said. “This will be a really wonderful place to learn a new mode of sharing my research—and sharing it with a different domain and audience.”

This is an exciting next step for both Olin and Adrienne, as she transitions from the administrative role she’s held for a decade as vice provost for the university. Among her many accomplishments in that role, Adrienne helped increase the number of Black tenured and tenure-track faculty on the Danforth Campus, and the percentage of underrepresented faculty of color among tenured and tenure-track faculty. She also designed a series of faculty development and leadership programs that have been producing outstanding new leaders, not only here at Washington University, but nationally.

Returning to her first love

At former Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s behest, former Provost Ed Macias appointed her for a two-year term in that role—and she stayed eight years beyond the appointment. “I’m a legal scholar and lawyer at heart,” she said. “It was exciting to test my research in critical race theory and feminism in the real world to see if they could drive meaningful institutional change. Now I’m excited to get back to my research and teaching full-time.”

And speaking of research, as I mentioned earlier, Adrienne continues in her role as co-director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity, which she founded and launched last year. The center is a forum for research collaborations across campus to study how race and ethnicity are integral to the most complex and challenging issues of our time.

“The nation is at a turning point in rethinking racial justice,” she said. “Many firms and other organizations are on the front lines of this. I’m delighted that I’ll have a role at Olin to lead these new conversations—and I know the business school can be a leading laboratory and incubator for this work.”

On a personal level, I’m also grateful for Adrienne’s willingness to be my special advisor on these issues as Olin builds and implements a strategic plan that allows our community to fully live into its stated values.

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