Our New English Diversity Endowed Scholarship: A Conversation with Bruce Dick

The idea for an English Department inclusivity scholarship at Appalachian State was originated by Dr. Bruce Dick during a meeting of the Anti-Racism Working Group, an ad-hoc committee formed by Dr. Leonardo Flores in the Summer of 2020. This committee consisted of five faculty members– James Ivory, Tammy Wahpeconiah, Alexander Pitofsky, Bruce Dick, and Peaches Hash– and a student, Aayanah McCreary. The committee had been called to discuss issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the English Department and to propose concrete actions. Among its achievements, it proposed and the Department approved a resolution on inclusive pedagogical practices and an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement, both of which came with a commitment to action.

This scholarship is one of the first actions the department has collectively undertaken, under Bruce Dick’s guidance, who stated that,

It’s one thing to write up documents about equity and inclusion and post them on a department’s web page—that’s the safe approach to important race issues that, tragically, still affect our country today– it’s another thing to contribute tangibly to a cause.

Dr. Dick is far from being the only one to have worked on bringing this scholarship into fruition. “There’s a certain awkwardness that you have to balance when soliciting funds—for any cause, I imagine,” he admitted, then continued, “But if you believe that your scholarship is in the right place and worthwhile, you take the plunge and go for it, no matter how awkward it feels asking folks to contribute.”

Harry Williams, a former App student and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and his wife Robin donated $5,000 to the endowed scholarship followed by another $5,000 later. An English alum who is now the co-owner of The Cardinal and Lily’s restaurants in Boone, Seth Sullivan, and his wife Lindsey donated $2,000; McFarland Press also pledged $5,000 to the scholarship. Many faculty members of the English Department contributed to the scholarship through an internal fundraising drive. Family and friends of the Department also donated funds. However, the donation that Dr. Dick considered the loudest came from a student who contributed $5 with a $3 service charge; “To me, the donation signaled the student’s genuine interest in diversity and a sincere willingness to contribute to the cause.”

Dr. Dick also worked with Carey Fissel, who is Director of Development in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Department Chair Dr. Leonardo Flores in getting this endowed scholarship established. This scholarship needed to reach a goal of $25,000 in donations in order for the money to be invested in the UNC system, which would guarantee around a 4% return. “That return is how the scholarship lives on, in perpetuity: the interest earned each year keeps the scholarship solvent,” Dr. Dick explained, “The funds will be there long after English department faculty retire.” Securing the money to establish this endowed scholarship took “a year, almost to the day, to raise”; “thankfully we had enough faculty and community buy-in to accomplish the goal.”

North Carolina has almost 22% African American/Black and 11% Latinx, according to the 2020 census, and Dr. Dick argues that those numbers are not “nearly reflected in our English department’s student body” and wishes to target those two groups to help diversify App’s student population. That being said, he acknowledges that “under-represented populations” is a term that includes many more than those two groups alone, and hopes that a wide variety of students will apply for the scholarship.

The language of the scholarship will be posted on our department’s web page and will read something like the following:

To provide scholarship support to undergraduate students who have declared their major in English or incoming graduate students in the Department of English within the College of Arts and Sciences. In the interest of promoting the university's educational interest in attaining a culturally diverse student body, it is the Donors’ request that special consideration in the awarding of scholarships be given to students from underrepresented populations as defined by the university, consistent with university policies and practices aimed at increasing diversity of its student body and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

When I reached out to Dr. Flores for comment, he said,

I am very grateful for Dr. Bruce Dick’s leadership and perseverance in getting this endowed scholarship established. He leveraged relationships with alumni, colleagues, students, and members of the community cultivated over the course of a long, fruitful career to make such an important contribution to diversifying our student body. This is an enduring legacy.

Written by Benjamin Rivers

Photo credit: University Communications

Photo of Bruce Dick
Published: Jan 30, 2023 2:41pm