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Introducing SVA’s New Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Dr. Jarvis Watson
December 9, 2020 by Maeri Ferguson
A portrait photograph of a man in a suit and glasses, smiling and looking at the viewer and posed against a solid gray background.

Dr. Jarvis Watson, SVA's first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

Credit: Stony Brook University

Dr. Christopher J. Cyphers, provost of the School of Visual Arts, has announced the appointment of Dr. Jarvis Watson as the College’s first director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). As DEI director, Dr. Watson will lead the effort to build a more inclusive, equitable and welcoming campus and SVA community. He will also head the DEI Task Force—comprising members of SVA’s academic and administrative leadership and staff—which was formed in 2018 to prioritize and address longstanding inequities in the experiences of SVA’s Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community members and to foster antiracist progress at the College. 


An accomplished veteran of higher-education administration, Dr. Watson joins SVA after 14 years at Stony Brook University, where he most recently served as assistant dean for Student Support Services. He brings nearly 20 years of experience to his role, with a distinguished career in advocacy for students from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.


With Dr. Watson at the helm, the DEI Task Force will continue pursuing the long-term goals laid out in the College’s current Strategic Plan, which include expanding representation in and training opportunities for the College’s faculty; a curriculum that includes historically underrepresented communities and global perspectives; and initiatives to encourage a range of pedagogical approaches that accommodate diverse learning abilities. SVA has also committed to a number of near-term actions, including expanded mental-health resources for BIPOC students and the investment of resources necessary to support BIPOC students’ academic and social needs. One such investment is Fund the Change, a recently announced scholarship and mentorship program created in partnership with Deutsch NY, which will be awarded to two incoming students in the BFA Advertising or BFA Design programs for fall 2021. (For more information on SVA’s efforts, click here.)


"I'm excited to begin a new chapter in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with the School of Visual Arts,” Dr. Watson says. “Provost Christopher Cyphers and members of the Diversity Task Force have been amazing in welcoming me to the campus and sharing their vision with me. In order for SVA to be successful, I believe we need to have a shared and collective commitment toward creating an inclusive campus climate that involves students, faculty, staff and administrators as key stakeholders. In my first 100 days, I look forward to meeting campus community members individually and collectively. Together I know that we can meet each other where we are, and as a community, reimagine what Diversity, Equity and Inclusion means for us." 


“I believe we have in Jarvis Watson a change agent, whose approach to his work can be characterized, as he would say, by ‘meeting us where we are,’” Dr. Cyphers says. “Dr. Watson has an accomplished record of success in bringing together in common cause a diverse range of constituencies to identify and work through challenges and difficult topics in a collegial and non-judgmental manner. He has also found innovative ways to use technology to broaden the discussion on race and racism in America and on American college campuses. I am eager for members of the SVA community to meet Dr. Watson, and for the hard and rewarding work of defining and carrying out our DEI goals to continue.”


Dr. Watson has a long history of creating progressive higher-education initiatives with a holistic approach toward engagement, academic success, retention and graduation of diverse student populations. He began his extensive experience at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, where he helped provide access and awareness for college enrollment to historically marginalized populations, and worked with the local community to build sustainable pathways to college. Recently, with Stony Brook University, he focused on student-crisis issues specifically related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Prior to his appointment as assistant dean, he was an interim chief diversity officer at Stony Brook, integral in unifying the campus through centralized diversity funded initiatives, statewide faculty-recruitment initiatives, student-equity initiatives and the development of DEI task forces.


Dr. Watson is a member of the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, the American College Personnel Association and the National Association of School Personnel Administrators, among other organizations. He is also a board member of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness of Suffolk County, New York. A frequent public speaker and presenter, Dr. Watson has given keynote addresses, received numerous leadership awards and provided presentations on diversity, equity and inclusion at more than 15 regional and national academic conferences and events. He co-hosts two podcasts: The Rejected Stone Podcast and Trusted Voices of the Community.


For more information on diversity, equity and inclusion at SVA, visit sva.edu/dei.