Blue Jay Q&A with Dr. Charles Lu, Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion

Students perform a Bollywood dance number during Culture Show

Every Blue Jay should feel a sense of belonging on campus, no matter their background or identity. JHU’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion is at the forefront of a university-wide effort to create and sustain an environment where students are empowered to be true to themselves. The Center brings together the offices of LGBTQ Life, Multicultural Affairs, Religious & Spiritual Life, and Women & Gender Resources, and will offer programming and resources that support students’ personal development.

This summer, JHU welcomed Dr. Charles Lu as our new Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion. We spoke with Dr. Lu to learn more about his plans for the Center and to get his advice on how parents and families can support students as they explore their identities.

What’s your vision for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion?Dr. Charles Lu headshot

Given the academic rigor of Hopkins, our students oftentimes talk about “surviving at Hopkins” as opposed to “thriving at Hopkins” because they feel that they need to sacrifice parts of their cultural values or identities in pursuit of excellence. My vision is that our center will empower our students to understand that their diverse identities only enhance and improve our university community.

To do this, the center is working towards creating programs and opportunities to build a more cohesive and pluralistic student experience. In my short time here, I noticed that undergraduate and graduate students have virtually no interactions despite occupying the same space and facing a lot of similar challenges (e.g., family obligations, social isolation, imposter syndrome, etc.). Through the intergenerational mentorship and community-building that we will be creating through our programs, I believe that all our students will be able to bring their fullest identities and thrive at Hopkins.

What advice would you give a parent and family member who may have a student struggling with their identity?

My first piece of advice would be to normalize this feeling because all students, in some form or fashion, should be struggling or questioning their identity in college. In fact, I would argue that if a student sails through college without questioning who they are at some point, then we have not done our jobs as university professionals. Next, I would urge parents and family members to encourage their students to reach out to us at the Center for Diversity & Inclusion or any of the many wonderful resource centers that Hopkins has to offer. Our staff members, in particular, conduct 1-on-1 consultations with students and our Chaplain is one of the few confidential resources within the Hopkins community. Your students are the reason why we chose to be in this work and their interests are at the heart of what we do.

What support, programs and resources does the office provide?

Our office provides programs and resources across three primary domains: 1) belonging and community; 2) access, retention, and success; 3) education and training. Some examples of services that we offer include coordinating university-wide heritage month celebrations, planning and implementing trainings for staff, faculty, and students, and advising underrepresented student organizations (e.g., racial/ethnic, LGBTQ, gender, faith-based, disabilities, etc.).

How are diverse identities celebrated throughout the Hopkins culture?

During heritage months (e.g., Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Black History Month, etc.), we celebrate our students’ identities through various programs that bring together invited speakers, food, art, and hands-on activities that spark discussion, build community, and generate learning. We also believe that identities should be celebrated all the time and not just during designated months; as such, we also partner with student leaders to provide programs and events that celebrate identities throughout the year.