Elevating a purpose

Vice President of Inclusion Ernest E. Jeffries, who joined the College in January, talks to President Nicole Hurd about calling communities to work together.


NH: How would you describe your time so far?

EJ: It’s been welcoming. People have been very interested in the work that I’m positioned to do here.

NH: I see you at a lot of lectures, arts events, and sporting events. Seems like we both believe in the power of showing up.

EJ: It’s important that people see me. And, for what I’ve been assigned to do—be on coalitions, connect with people—I’m going to show up and be present as much as I can. I want to connect with this community on all levels, because I truly believe that for this work to be done it’s going to take everybody’s help.

NH: This position is so important because it’s not just about one person—it’s the job of communities to work together.

EJ: I felt a genuineness that Lafayette wanted to do this work because it was the right thing to do, and it was also understood that this is the way to get better.

NH: You have 33 years of experience in higher education. What are some of your early goals to encourage campus-wide inclusivity?

EJ: It’s important to establish a strategic plan for inclusion that elevates and connects everything.

NH: People across the College are doing great work, but now it needs to be amplified and codified.

EJ: Right. And for a lot of these efforts, the philosophies and ideologies behind them are spot on, but we need to scale some of those things. I’m seeing how efforts affect certain parts of the community, and I’m like, wow, what could this look like if everybody had access to this particular experience?

NH: Yes, access does not necessarily mean inclusion. Are there any programs or organizations you’re looking forward to connecting with in your role?

EJ: I’ll be working closely with student groups and the Division of Student Life. I’m also excited about meeting my peers across the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges.

NH: One of the things I love about these jobs is we get to keep learning all of the time.

EJ: And we have to ask ourselves: Are we where we should be for all constituencies or stakeholders to feel like they belong? When we look at the history of this institution, the initial structure was not built for inclusion. But we’re in a different place right now. And as we move toward the future, it’s going to be even more important that we get this right.

Get To Know Ernest Jeffries

Lafayette’s new vice president of inclusion was most recently vice president of student engagement at Mary Baldwin University in Virginia.


He has more than 30 years of leadership experience in higher education, including 22 years at Davidson College in North Carolina.


At Mary Baldwin, he co-founded the Coalition for Racial and Social Justice.

For Fun

The gospel musician likes to play keyboard and Hammond organ; he studied music and earned a master’s degree in education at University of South Carolina before receiving a master’s in divinity and doctorate in ministry.

Last Word

“Research tells us that the pool of future students is more diverse, low income, and first generation,” he says. “We have to ask ourselves if we’re ready for that.