The College of Education at the University of Florida has appointed Erica D. McCray, Ph.D., as its first Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement (ADFAD). Her selection follows an internal search to identify an innovative, engaged leader among the college faculty.
“Dr. McCray has been a wonderful contributor to the college’s positive momentum, excelling at each role in which she’s served,” said Dean Glenn Good. “I am thrilled to welcome her to this new leadership position and look forward to working with her in this capacity.”
McCray joined the faculty of the College of Education in 2007 and became a tenured associate professor in 2013. In October 2019, she assumed the role of director of the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies (SESPECS), following three years as associate director. Before entering academia, McCray worked as a special educator for students identified with behavioral and learning disabilities.
“I have been working as SESPECS director for a little over two years,” McCray said. “I started with a grand vision and had to adapt and learn about crisis management, keeping people moving forward and recognizing that we have to take care of ourselves and our families to do this work. But what I have enjoyed the most and found the most rewarding is supporting faculty, students and staff.”
In addition to her work with SESPECS, McCray is also the co-director and co-PI on the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR) Center a federally-funded technical assistance center project, which supports educator development to ensure students with disabilities can achieve college- and career-ready standards. She also serves as co-PI on The (In)authentic Experiences of Black Engineers, a multi-year National Science Foundation-funded project for broadening participation in engineering by understanding workplace climate. Beyond research, McCray serves as the coordinator of the Holmes Scholars program at UF, the largest such program in the nation.
Lessons learned from these projects have prepared her for this new role.
“A lot of my research is qualitative in nature because I believe that there is so much to learn from lived experience,” she said. “We can learn so much from people telling their own stories and making interpretations of what the experiences have meant to them or could mean for them.”
“Much of my work has looked at the experiences of students at the intersections of racial, cultural and linguistic diversity and disability. My own lived experience influences every aspect of my work, which has been framed around the question, ‘How do we make people’s lived experiences better?’ That’s a lot of the challenge with diversity, equity and inclusion work—a lot of it happens in silos, but we could be doing exponentially more if we have clear connections and community.”
She looks forward to serving as a connection facilitator. As ADFAD, McCray will work with the faculty, staff, and leadership in the college as well as with other colleagues and departments around the university, including the Office of the Provost, Human Resources and the Chief Diversity Officer.
Additionally, she will serve as the primary contact for the Collective for Black Student Advancement (CBSA), launched in June 2020. A group she notes is currently essential, but that “ideally, we will get to the point that the Collective is obsolete. That everyone (in the College of Education) is so in tune, so attentive, that everyone is always addressing diversity, equity, inclusion, and moving towards belonging for all students, faculty and staff.”
“I share Dr. McCray’s vision and applaud her efforts up to this point,” Good continued. “Her continual pursuit of growth and improvement will benefit everyone here—students, faculty, staff—at the college that will have ripple effects across the university and into the field.”
McCray knows there will be challenges ahead, “to quote Shonda Rhimes, being the first, only, or different isn’t necessarily ideal…I don’t intend to be a figurehead. I don’t intend to drag people along. I’m hoping we have a critical mass—which it appears we have—that is committed to these efforts, and they just might need support.”
Sharing her excitement for this new role, McCray said it “just felt like the right position. It is all of the things that I really enjoy and am passionate about—and I’ve grown to see how I can be a champion for people. This opportunity to be in leadership allows me to add a different perspective to conversations, so I can advocate for people who don’t always have someone advocating for them.”