In new vice president role, Forbes primed to advance MSU’s success in diversity, inclusion, and access

Contact: Harriet Laird

Studio headshot of Ra'Sheda Boddie Forbes
Ra'Sheda Boddie-Forbes (Photo by Russ Houston)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State has named Ra’Sheda Boddie Forbes to the new university role of vice president for access, diversity and inclusion, a position designed to further advance the 142-year-old land grant’s work of inclusive excellence on campus.

Forbes, currently MSU’s assistant vice president for multicultural affairs, becomes a new member of MSU’s senior leadership team and continues her participation on the university’s Executive Council and President’s Cabinet. The appointment is pending approval by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum said he is thankful to Forbes for accepting this added leadership responsibility in service to the university.

“As our state’s leading research and land-grant institution, we must do all we can to increase access and degree completion for underrepresented students. I want us to be innovators in this and in supporting our students and faculty,” he said.

With this vice president appointment, Forbes' responsibilities include serving as a catalyst to leverage best practices and resources across the university’s campuses, promoting a culture of inclusion and student success where individuals from all racial and ethnic identities, ages, nationalities, social and economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religious, political and ideological perspectives, and physical and mental abilities can thrive.

Forbes said, “I am excited to serve in this role and believe it reflects a continued commitment to the university’s land grant mission to provide access and opportunity to students. In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, I see a renewed commitment to foster an inclusive community that is catalyzed by educational excellence and knowledge.” 

Forbes previously served as interim AVP for multicultural affairs from 2016-2017, and was named director of the MSU Holmes Cultural Diversity Center during that same time, having also held stints as its associate director and assistant director. The center offers training and programming to develop a university climate in which all cultures appreciated and valued.

Along with oversight of the student-centric HCDC, Forbes is responsible for the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. This unit develops and offers programming, services and initiatives that foster successful recruitment and retention of employees and students from diverse and underrepresented groups. Also, the student success and access programs Trio, Thrive and Promise will continue under her leadership.

Since the HCDC’s namesake Dr. Richard Holmes became the first African American to enroll at MSU in 1965, the university has nurtured ideas on programming and services for underrepresented students and turned these plans into concrete actions and solutions. Today, MSU enrolls a higher percentage of African Americans—by a wide margin—than any other university in the Southeastern Conference. By an equally large margin, MSU enrolls a greater proportion of African Americans than any other historically white land-grant university in the United States.

Recognizing student participation is key to this new division’s success, Forbes’ will administer organizations such as the Black Student Association, Black Voices Gospel Choir, Peers Assisting with Students, or PAWS, and a business-oriented group titled Intelligent Dignified Elegant Ambitious Leaders (I.D.E.A.L. Woman).

“I appreciate the work MSU is continuing to do to close equity gaps,” Forbes said. “Recognizing that we have more work to do, I enter this role ready to deliberately work alongside students, faculty, staff and administrators to enhance a campus culture that is inclusive and equitable.” 

Forbes’ contributions have earned her numerous honors, including the prestigious Zacharias Distinguished Staff Award she received in 2016. Her other recognitions include Day One Leadership Program Mentor, Outstanding African American Female in the Workplace by the campus chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Legend of Mississippi State University.

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