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You can’t help but to smile when you meet Altheia Richardson. Her friendly demeanor exudes a kind of warmth and acceptance that immediately welcomes you into the fold.
It’s that welcoming environment that Richardson wants to be pervasive throughout all levels of Clemson. She’s working to accomplish that through her role as assistant vice president for strategic diversity leadership.
The role, which she began last year, allows Richardson to engage with Clemson’s colleges, divisions and commissions that are developing strategic plans to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Her favorite part of the job is working with the people leading these efforts. “I call them my dream team,” she said. “I get to work with awesome people who are leading this important work. I feel like I’m the luckiest person at Clemson right now.”
Richardson said her role is unique because she’s leading a process where the entire institution is taking ownership in the responsibility of creating a diverse, welcoming and inclusive environment at Clemson.
“When you have a process where all areas of the institution are engaged, that shows leadership as an institution around diversity, equity and inclusion and that’s what makes what’s happening at Clemson so unique.”
While the role is new, Richardson’s tenure with the University is not. After graduating from the University of South Carolina, she took an entry-level position at Clemson. That was 28 years ago. Since then, she’s excelled at roles in Student Affairs and in the Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center. Richardson used the University’s employee tuition assistance program benefit to pursue her MBA, and is now working toward a Ph.D. in educational leadership.
Of the roles that Richardson has held at Clemson, she said her current position is ideally suited to her strengths, enables her to make a lasting impact and is crucial to meeting the diversity, equity and inclusion-related goals in ClemsonForward.
Additionally, her role will help strengthen the Clemson Family. “If we’re creating a family atmosphere here at Clemson, we want to create an environment that makes people feel welcomed, valued, respected and included. That’s why I’m excited about my position because I feel it gives us an opportunity to work toward creating that type of environment at Clemson.”
Family means a lot to Richardson, an Anderson, S.C. native. The youngest of seven children, there was a lot of competition in the household. Her dad, Charles, held down two jobs to provide for the family, while her mom, Sylvene, had her work cut out for her as she managed the household. Richardson learned at a young age, the value of bringing people together and tries to incorporate those values today with her husband, Taji, as they raise their daughters, Zari, 17, a senior at Powdersville High School and Akilah, 12, a seventh-grader at Powdersville Middle.
It’s important to Richardson that her daughters realize the value of diversity, equity and inclusion. She said “in higher education, all roads lead to the students.” Because of that, she explained, it’s also important that we set this standard for our students at Clemson.
“We’re trying to create an environment where our students can learn, grow and think critically about the world around them. Ultimately, our goal is to make them better prepared for the next step in their lives. It’s important for us to make sure they are appropriately prepared to enter a global workforce where they’re going to be working and engaging with people from diverse backgrounds. I think that’s our job.”
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