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.
â€œI 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 wasnâ€™t in my price range. Even back then, in the dinosaur age, I couldnâ€™t afford it; I needed to go to a public institution, and I needed a place where I could get an academic scholarship,â€ 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.
â€œWhat Iâ€™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 donâ€™t make any assumptions based on my history, or what Iâ€™ve been told, or what Iâ€™ve read. I want to listen to multiple voices because that enlarges my mindset of the culture here. Iâ€™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,â€ 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.
â€œIâ€™m very passionate about people getting outside their concentric circle, because I think thatâ€™s what allows people to grow. Thatâ€™s certainly what expanded my experiences. I moved away from that inner-city environment that I had growing up in Dallas, and Iâ€™ve been privileged enough to travel, not only within the United States through the various jobs Iâ€™ve had, but also internationally. It has expanded my realm, and so Iâ€™m very passionate about that for students, faculty and staff,â€ Jones said.
Jones spreads a message of inclusivity and the importance of visible inclusiveness.
â€œIâ€™m passionate about the importance of being inclusive. I think we have some tenets of inclusiveness, but itâ€™s not visible. Iâ€™m passionate about that visibility; if itâ€™s in your face, you canâ€™t ignore it. We all have different strengths that can be helpful when used together. If weâ€™re not inclusive, if weâ€™re not intentionally inclusive, we miss those opportunities. To me, that is the educational process,â€ Jones said.
Jonesâ€™ 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.
â€œIâ€™m also passionate about the mindset of the â€˜Talented Tenth,â€™ 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 itâ€™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. Iâ€™m very passionate about us creating that â€˜Talented Tenthâ€™ who feel the urging and the need to take back to the masses. Thatâ€™s how I think we change culture. Thatâ€™s how I think we get better as people are challenged beyond their concentric circle,â€ Jones said.
Jones will continue to explore Trinityâ€™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.