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Hakeem Leonard’s Path to Making Shenandoah a Place of Inclusion, Diversion, and Equity

Josephine Vaccaro

Hakeem Leonard, professor of Music Therapy at Shenandoah, became the Assistant Provost for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in September to enhance the inclusiveness in the way professors teach their students.

Dr. Leonard accepted the position because to him gender, disability, race, and LGBTQ experiences are not included in a lot of the way professors teach.

This goal is carried out through his meetings with academic officers, faculty, and staff along with Human Resources.

Dr. Leonard said he believes that it’s important to create a shared language in which to talk about anti-racism and anti-oppression. 

“I am trying to create a culture of belonging,” he said. He said he believes that in order to do this “we actively have to shift, we have to grow in who we are.”

When asked if this position was at Shenandoah before or if it was newly added, he replied, “This is definitely a new position and it definitely has a new emphasis because it’s seen as central to curriculum ….”

As a professor of music therapy, Dr. Leonard took his students on trips to Guatemala and Uganda in partnership with an organization called the Highland Support Project to support local Guatemalan and Ugandan businesses. 

He believes that it’s not about going there to necessarily help or fix the people and their culture but instead to support their communities, increase that understanding, and to grow as individuals.

“…It’s about deciding, ‘I want to value people. How do I do it? How do we do it together?’”

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