A portrait of Nsombi B. Ricketts

In the Top of Mind Q &A series, Pratt.edu sits down with leaders around the Institute to gain insight into what they do and how they are working in their area to foster a welcoming environment, prepare students for success now and throughout their careers, and more. In this column we feature Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Nsombi B. Ricketts.

You are the first Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Pratt. Can you talk a little about the role and what your responsibilities entail?

As Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I provide thought leadership to our schools, divisions, and units on strategies to increase diversity in our community, make our campus a more inclusive environment, and ensure that we have equitable policies and procedures. I really enjoy collaborating with so many faculty, staff, student, and alumni stakeholders to implement Pratt’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. I also chair Pratt’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, oversee the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Center for Equity and Inclusion, sponsor the Bias Education Response Taskforce and our new Staff Council, and serve on the Accessibility Advisory Committee.   

During your career, you have worked in both higher education and corporate settings. What attracted you to Pratt? What is it like to work in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion at an art and design school?  

I have been doing diversity, equity and inclusion work for over 15 years—first as a student leader during business school, next in HR at a large financial services company, and then in multiple higher education roles at an Ivy League university and a Big 10 university. I was attracted to Pratt because this inaugural role was a cabinet-level position, and senior leadership proactively demonstrated its commitment to this work by developing an institutional diversity strategic plan. I was also inspired by the dynamic vision for Pratt’s future from our president, Frances Bronet, and very excited about returning to Brooklyn as a native New Yorker. What I appreciate most about working at an art and design school is the creativity, flexibility, and authenticity of our environment. At Pratt, I have an amazing team that I learn from every day, and our community actively supports diversity, equity and inclusion as important priorities.

The Center for Equity and Inclusion, which reports to your office, plays a vital role for students, faculty, and staff. Can you talk about the Center’s mission and programming, and how people can get involved?

The mission of the Center for Equity and Inclusion (CEI) is to educate, empower, and advocate for students, faculty, and staff to raise critical consciousness around diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. The CEI is located in the lower level of the Main Building, and serves as a safe space on our campus that celebrates all identities. The CEI also hosts a variety of different programs honoring various history and heritage months, Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Week, and a monthly community dialogue series on topics ranging from colorism to mental health to food insecurity to LGBTQ civil rights.

The easiest way to get involved is to attend one of our events, or join the conversation at a community dialogue. Pratt students, faculty, staff, and alumni can follow the CEI on Instagram to learn about our programming or sign up for our monthly newsletter by emailing cei@pratt.edu.  

What are a few of the key highlights of work done by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion since you joined Pratt in July 2018? What are you looking forward to in 2020?

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has made a lot of progress in the last year and a half. We created the DEI Council, established the Staff Council with Finance and Administration, launched Search Advocates for search committees with Human Resources, established a Food Pantry, Student Support Grant, and Student Diversity Advisory Board with Student Affairs, and partnered with the Center for Teaching and Learning to host the Fall Forum on Frameworks for Equity and Inclusion. We also collaborated with Institutional Research, Human Resources, and Student Affairs to administer our first integrated Campus Climate Survey for all students, faculty, and staff.  

Our most exciting initiative for 2020 is the launch of the DEI Allies Training Certificate Program for faculty and staff. This program was developed by Jazmin Peralta, our Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and will consist of four courses on Allyship & Intersectionality, Bias & Microaggressions, Cultural Appreciation, and Gender & Sexuality. We are also partnering with EVERFI on an online diversity, equity and inclusion course for students, and The Academic Network on a diverse faculty and staff recruitment workshop. These professional development opportunities will empower Pratt community members to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within their own spheres of influence.