Last May Deneeese Jones was selected to serve as vice president for academic affairs.
Jones recalls her early memories of Trinity, describing it as being well respected, but unaffordable.
“I remembered what I knew about Trinity when I was a high school senior exploring going away to college. This was a place that I looked at, but dismissed because it wasn’t in my price range. Even back then, in the dinosaur age, I couldn’t afford it; I needed to go to a public institution, and I needed a place where I could get an academic scholarship,” Jones said.
Jones has spent the first few months of her time at Trinity getting a feel for the culture and climate of the community on campus.
“What I’m doing through the roving coffees and through my listening tours through the various units is trying to get an understanding of the present culture so that I don’t make any assumptions based on my history, or what I’ve been told, or what I’ve read. I want to listen to multiple voices because that enlarges my mindset of the culture here. I’m also getting more of a sense of the climate. Those, to me, are different. The climate is what it feels like at an institution, the culture is what that institution values,” Jones said.
Jones finds it of the utmost importance that people get out of their comfort zone, learn from others and grow as a result.
“I’m very passionate about people getting outside their concentric circle, because I think that’s what allows people to grow. That’s certainly what expanded my experiences. I moved away from that inner-city environment that I had growing up in Dallas, and I’ve been privileged enough to travel, not only within the United States through the various jobs I’ve had, but also internationally. It has expanded my realm, and so I’m very passionate about that for students, faculty and staff,” Jones said.
Jones spreads a message of inclusivity and the importance of visible inclusiveness.
“I’m passionate about the importance of being inclusive. I think we have some tenets of inclusiveness, but it’s not visible. I’m passionate about that visibility; if it’s in your face, you can’t ignore it. We all have different strengths that can be helpful when used together. If we’re not inclusive, if we’re not intentionally inclusive, we miss those opportunities. To me, that is the educational process,” Jones said.
Jones’ thoughts on the educational process are influenced in part by W.E.B. DuBois, a leader in the civil rights movement and the first African American to obtain a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
“I’m also passionate about the mindset of the “˜Talented Tenth,’ and this is a mindset that comes from W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois wrote about fostering a ten percent of individuals who can take things back to the masses. I think it’s important that we keep our eye on the ball, not in an elitist fashion because I think they need to be inclusive of people with different experiences, who bring different things to the table, who offer another point of view. I’m very passionate about us creating that “˜Talented Tenth’ who feel the urging and the need to take back to the masses. That’s how I think we change culture. That’s how I think we get better as people are challenged beyond their concentric circle,” Jones said.
Jones will continue to explore Trinity’s culture through her Roving Coffee Campus Tour and will work to strengthen Trinity as an institution by helping to make it a standard for its peer universities to aspire to be like.