Menah Pratt is the Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity at Virginia Tech. She is also Professor of Education. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Iowa, and a master’s degree, PhD, and law degree from Vanderbilt University. Author of four books, her most recent book, A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about race, gender, and class in America was awarded the American Education Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award for scholarship deemed to be outstanding in its field in 2018. She was selected as the 2021 Inclusive Excellence Individual Leadership Award recipient by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
Menah Pratt is the Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity at Virginia Tech. She is also Professor of Education in the School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, with affiliations in Africana Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Department of Sociology. She has almost 25 years of leadership experience in higher education, with a focus on large-scale institutional transformation. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, she held senior positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vanderbilt University. She was selected as the 2021 Inclusive Excellence Individual Leadership Award recipient by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa with a major in English and minors in Philosophy and African-American Studies. She received her master’s degree in Literary Studies from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in Sociology from Vanderbilt University. In addition, she earned her PhD and JD from Vanderbilt University.
Her research and scholarship focuses on diversity issues in higher education. In 2018, A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about race, gender, and class in America was awarded the American Education Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award for scholarship deemed to be outstanding in its field. Additional books include Journeys of Social Justice: Women of Color Presidents in the Academy and Reflections on Race, Gender, and Culture in Cuba.
Full Professional Bio:
Menah Pratt is the Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity, and Professor of Education (full professor with tenure) at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. With over thirty years of administrative, academic, legal, fundraising, advancement, and community engagement experience, Dr. Pratt envisions, leads, and manages large-scale transformational strategic initiatives, including diversity and inclusion efforts in higher education. At Virginia Tech, she oversees the Office for Inclusion and Diversity, the Office for Strategic Affairs, and the Council on Virginia Tech History. She was selected as the 2021 Inclusive Excellence Individual Leadership Award recipient by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
Dr. Pratt received a B.A. in English with high distinction (minors in Philosophy and African-American Studies) and a M.A. in Literary Studies from the University of Iowa. She earned a law degree, as well as a master’s and doctorate in Sociology, from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Pratt’s teaching and research interests include issues of race, class, and gender in education, with a focus on the transdisciplinary analysis of diversity issues in higher education. She has taught at Fisk University (English and African-American Literature); American Baptist College (English and Speech at the men’s and women’s prisons); Vanderbilt University (Sociology and College of Law); and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (African-American Studies and College of Law).
In addition to publishing several articles and book chapters, her first book was Critical Race, Feminism, and Education: A Social Justice Model. In 2017, Journeys of Social Justice: Women of Color Presidents in the Academy and A Promising Reality: Reflections on Race, Gender, and Culture in Cuba were published. A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about Race, Gender, and Class in America was awarded the 2018 American Education Studies Association Critics’ Choice Book Award for outstanding scholarship.
Dr. Pratt previously served for almost ten years as Associate Chancellor for Strategic Affairs, Associate Provost for Diversity, and Title IX Officer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was also Associate Professor (with tenure) in the College of Education. Before joining Illinois, she worked at Vanderbilt University for eight years, as the first University Compliance Officer (including oversight of the Vanderbilt University and Medical Center),Assistant Secretary of the University, and University Counsel. Dr. Pratt is licensed to practice law in Illinois and Tennessee. Her expertise includes real estate, commercial lending, public finance, construction, civil rights, affirmative action, and equal employment opportunity law. She is also a founding member of the Pratt Music Foundation, which has raised over $700,000 to support free classical music lessons for students with talent and need.
She is committed to excellence and helping to actualize the potential of individuals and institutions to advance and serve humanity.
- Critical race studies
- Black feminism
- Critical race feminism, with a particular focus on issues of transdisciplinary analysis of diversity issues in higher education
- Ph.D., Sociology, Vanderbilt University
- J.D., Vanderbilt University, College of Law
- M.A., Sociology, Vanderbilt University
- M.A., English, University of Iowa
- B.A., English, with Minors in Philosophy and African-American World Studies, University of Iowa
Significant Achievements and Experience in Higher Education Leadership
- Virginia Tech, Vice-President/Professor of Education, 2016 to present
Senior advisor to the President and Provost on strategic affairs and diversity initiatives
- Founder, Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference (10 years)
- ·Lead and manage the Office for Strategic Affairs
- Led the creation and development of new strategic plan through 18 month campus-wide engagement, approved by the Board of Visitors in June, 2019
- First strategic plan to integrate diversity and inclusion as a strategic priority
- Overseeing strategic plans for 9 academic colleges and 20 administrative units
- ·Lead and manage the Council on Virginia Tech History
- Stewarded changing the names on two campus buildings
- Overseeing 10 Sesquicentennial campus-wide projects
- Lead and manage the Office for Inclusion and Diversity
- Conceptualized, developed, and oversee implementation of InclusiveVT – the institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (that I may serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence
- Developed and implemented new student diversity recruitment, retention, and graduation
- Significant increase in minority student applications, acceptances, and enrollment, including doubling entering class of Black students in 2021
- Developed Black College Institute summer program for rising high school seniors and juniors, resulting in 90% of seniors applying to Virginia Tech, with 71% acceptance rate, and 50% yield of students in entering class
- Created Student Opportunity and Achievement Resources (SOAR) Program to support strategic plan graduation goals for underrepresented minority and underserved students through an academic coaching model
- Developed and implemented new faculty diversity strategy, in collaboration with academic colleges, doubling new minority faculty hires
- For 2019: 22% of new hires were minority compared to 12% in 2016
- For 2021: 4% African-American faculty representation, representing an increasing from 2% in 2014
- Envisioned and stewarded three mandatory diversity curricular and co-curricular requirements through governance to implementation
- Required Diversity 101 pre-enrollment course
- Required academic course on critical analysis of equity and identity in the United States for undergraduates
- Required course on diversity for all graduate programs
- Developed advancement strategy to increase diversity giving, including new campaign focusing on Black alumni giving and engagement and new corporate diversity partners program
- Achieved significant increases in diversity-related fundraising
- Stewarded a resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Virginia Tech
- Envision and overseeing six community and cultural centers for students and a new living-learning community focused on the African-American experience
- Hosting annual HBCU/MSI Research Summit with almost 20 HBCU partners
- 50 seed investments generated more than $2.7 million in external funding
- ·Lead and manage the Office for Strategic Affairs
- Founder, Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference (10 years)
- University of Illinois at Urbana, Associate Chancellor for Strategic Affairs and Associate Provost for Diversity, 2006-2016
- Senior advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on strategic affairs, governance, and diversity
- Portfolio included leading, addressing, and responding to complex matters impacting faculty and academic affairs; student affairs; legal and compliance affairs; strategic planning; diversity; financial affairs; and community engagement
- Member of five-person Chancellor and Provost Budget Committee on strategic budget and financial planning priorities, including short and long-term budgeting; pension implications; procurement matters; tuition amount; and salary program
- Led Micro-Urban Transformational Leadership Initiative with mayors of Champaign and Urbana, and over 100 local community members and organizations
- Developed and implemented the signature diversity initiative, Inclusive Illinois
- Led and managed Stewarding Future Excellence strategic visioning and planning process
- Oversaw the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Access; the Office of Minority Student Affairs; and the Academic Senate Office
- Served as campus liaison to the Board of Trustees and University administration
- Vanderbilt University, Assistant Secretary, University Compliance Officer, University Counsel, 1998-2006
- Senior advisor to the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor/General Counsel, and Board of Trust on legal, governance, and compliance initiatives
- Served as the first Assistant Secretary of the University, supporting governance and management of 40-member Board of Trust and 10 committees
- Developed and created first Office of Compliance, and Vanderbilt University and Medical Center Compliance Program
- Compliance portfolio included accreditation, student affairs, academic affairs, governance, human resources, information technology, police and security, athletics, financial aid, environmental health and safety, grants and contracts, affirmative action, animal and human subject research, and technology transfer
- Served as real estate and construction lawyer; negotiated $500M in construction contracts
- Drafted and managed the University Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy as an university-wide initiative for members of the Board of Trust, executive administration, and 19,000 employees, including annual training, disclosure, and review
- Watkins College of Art and Design, 1999-2006
- Member of the Board of Trust
- Member of Executive Committee and Budget Committee
- Assisted in development of fundraising strategy for a new residence hall for students; addressed curricular matters and accreditation
- 2021 National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education Inclusive Excellence
- 2020, 2021 Insight into Diversity Editorial Board Member
- 2018 American Education Studies Association Critics’ Choice Outstanding Scholarship Award Winner for “A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America”
- Facilitated the recognition of Virginia Tech by the INSIGHT into Diversity “Higher Education Excellence in Diversity” (HEED) Award for colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion (2016-2021)
- Facilitated the recognition of the University of Illinois by the INSIGHT into Diversity “Higher Education Excellence in Diversity” (HEED) Award for colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion (2013 and 2014)
- 2012 Larine Y. Cowan “Make a Difference Award” for Visionary Leadership in Diversity (a campus-wide award recognizing significant contributions to diversity at Illinois; received inaugural award for visionary leadership)
- 2011 "Outstanding Research Contribution in African American Studies Award" for Critical Race, Feminism, and Education: A Social Justice Model
- 2010 Professor William H. Creswell, Jr., Humanitarian and Community Service Award (a campus-wide award recognizing contributions to Illinois that impact the campus community)
Pratt-Clarke, Menah, Andrea Baldwin, and Leticia Brown. (2020, October 27). Urban Teaching and Black Girls' Pedagogies. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.013.1349
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. Foreword in Standpoints: Black Feminist Knowledges. Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Press (2020).
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. A Critical Race Feminist Autoethnography: A Narrative about the Academy, a Father, a Daughter, and a Search for Love. Journal of Colorism Studies. Vol. 3:1 (2018).
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. A Black Woman’s Search for the Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice model: Encounters with Critical Race Feminism, Black Feminism, and Africana Studies. Journal of Pan African Studies. Vol. 5:1, 83-102 (2012).
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. A Radical Reconstruction of Resistance Strategies: Black Girls and Black Women Reclaiming Our Power Using Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice©, Ma’at, and Rites of Passage. Journal of African American Studies: Special Edition on Black Women and Girls. First published online on May 17, 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s12111-012-9221-6.
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice and Africana Sociology: Intersections and connections. Critical Sociology: Special Edition on Africana Sociology. First published online on June 11, 2012 as doi:10.1177/0896920512443140.
Pratt, Menah. (in progress). Revolution to Revelation: From Black Girlhood to Black Womanhood.
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. (2018). A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
Pratt-Clarke, Menah and Maes, Johanna. (2017). Journeys of Social Justice: Women of Color Presidents in the Academy. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
Brown, Venessa and Pratt-Clarke, Menah. (2017). Reflections on Race, Culture, and Gender in Cuba. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. (2010). Critical Race, Feminism, and Education: A Social Justice Model. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Postcolonial Studies in Education Series.
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. (in progress). A Black Women’s Blog Posts: Writing for Empowerment, Manifestation, and Healing. In Reinekke Lengelle & Katrin Den Elzen (Eds.). Writing the Self: Theory, Research, and Practice in Writing for Healing
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. (2014). Racial (and Gender) Battle Fatigue: The Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice Approach. In K. Fasching-Varner and K. Albert (Eds.), But You Can’t Take Our Souls: Racial Battle Fatigue in Higher Education. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield.
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. (2013). Higher education leadership: The path of a Black critical race feminist. In C. Chaney and D. Davis (Eds.), Black women in Leadership: Their Historical and Contemporary Contributions. New York: Peter Lang.
Pratt-Clarke, Menah. (2013). Doing Sociology. In K. Korgen, J. White, & S. White (Eds.), Sociologists in Action: Sociology, Social Change and Social Justice. 2nd edition. Newbury Park, California: Pine Forge/Sage.
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