Chancellor's Award for Advancing Equity

The Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Equity honors a faculty or staff member for excellence in contributing to a community of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging at WSU Vancouver. The award recognizes the individual for helping to infuse equity-mindedness throughout the campus and/or helping to build and maintain a safe, welcoming campus environment.

Thabiti Lewis

Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Professor of English

Thabiti Lewis

In the quest for a more equitable world, Thabiti Lewis has made a difference personally and professionally. A faculty member at WSU Vancouver since 2007, he has risen rapidly from an assistant professor to his current title as professor of English as well as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. His work is always collaborative and focused on uplifting the human condition and racial equity.

In his current role, for example, he co-chairs the Student Success Council, which seeks to understand the factors in students’ success and improve retention. He has worked collaboratively to revise the curriculum for the student success seminar to include identity, race and culture. He also co-chaired the Enrollment Council and works with faculty to create a more inclusive learning environment.

“The research, reading, teaching, enrollment, the work I do on campus, I don’t even see it as doing equity work,” Lewis said. “This is who you are—not what you do but what you are about.”

Before joining WSU Vancouver, Lewis earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Rochester and his Ph.D. at Saint Louis University.

Lewis has written widely on issues of literature, history and popular culture with a critical race lens that explores diversity and equity. His article “The 1921 Tulsa Massacre—What Happened to Black Wall Street,” published in Humanities magazine in 2021, sheds light on a little-known tragedy in American history. His book “Ballers of the New School: Race and Sports in America” (2011) focused on Black athletes of the hip-hop generation who insist on acceptance on their own terms. His most recent book, “Black People Are My Business: Toni Cade Bambara’s Practices of Liberation” (2020), explores how Bambara made way for innovations in Black women’s fiction. Along with Pavithra Narayanan, professor of English and academic director for the College of Arts and Sciences at WSU Vancouver, he co-directed and co-produced a documentary film, “BAM! Chicago’s Black Arts Movement,” which explored Chicago’s political and institutional contributions that are often overlooked. He and his wife, physician Marie Theard, have developed and presented workshops about curing institutional racism in academia and medicine.

In advancing equity, Lewis’s goals are far-reaching: “What I’d like to see changed is whenever discrimination and bias occur, people are not silent, but they have the courage to speak up and stand up and resist. I’d like them to stop being silent when discrimination and bias occur.

“I think of a quote by Gandhi: ‘No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive,’” he added. “I believe that true progress and freedom thrive when we allow diversity of opinion and diversity of voice to challenge our reality.”

“And when you meet someone different, you see it as a gift, not a threat.”

Past award recipients

Cynthia Cooper

Katherine Rodela

Luz Rocío Sotomayor

Shameem Rakha