Vernese Edghill-Walden wearing a blue cardigan, red shirt and glasses
Photo: Wade Duerkes

‘Equity is Everyone’s Work’

Vernese Edghill-Walden ’87 returns to Bucknell to lead equity and inclusion efforts
by Mike Ferlazzo
Bucknell University is committed to making its campus a welcoming place for all, and Vernese Edghill-Walden ’87 will lead that effort. In July, Edghill-Walden will become Bucknell’s inaugural vice president of equity & inclusive excellence. Edghill-Walden currently serves as vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Northern Illinois University (NIU).

Edghill-Walden has more than 30 years of higher education academic leadership experience. She has served in her current position at NIU since June 2020, and also served as interim chief human resources officer for a year during that tenure. She previously served at NIU as senior associate vice president for academic diversity and chief diversity officer for five years.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Edghill-Walden is returning to lead us in the area of equity and inclusive excellence, particularly since she played such a significant role in that area as a student leader,” says President John Bravman. “She brings a vast amount of academic leadership experience, and we look forward to her guidance as we address key strategic goals in equity and inclusive excellence.”

The vice president of equity & inclusive excellence will plan, lead and coordinate all of the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion resources for students, faculty and staff.

“I am honored to return to my alma mater,” says Edghill-Walden. “As an undergraduate, Bucknell sparked my passion for student-centered advocacy and social justice. I was an engaged student leader and through that engagement I found my career path to diversity, equity and inclusion work in higher education.”

Edghill-Walden earned her bachelor of arts degree in sociology with minors in counseling and human service systems from Bucknell. She went on to earn both a master of education degree and certificate in community economic development from the University of Delaware, as well as a doctorate in philosophy and sociology from Howard University.

Prior to her time at NIU, Edghill-Walden served for five years in the City Colleges of Chicago, District Office, where she held positions as provost and chief academic officer; associate vice chancellor, general education; and executive director, academic development. She was associate director of research & evaluation for the City Colleges of Chicago, Richard Daley College.

She has also held positions as assistant dean and director of the Center for Black Culture and Multicultural Programs at the University of Delaware, and alternative housing coordinator and minority student adviser at Franklin & Marshall College.

Edghill-Walden led efforts that garnered NIU national awards including the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine in 2021 and 2022; the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation grant from the American Association of Colleges and Universities in 2021, and the National Association for Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) Institutional Excellence Award, Honorable Mention in 2020. She was also the recipient of the Bucknell University Multicultural Student Services Center’s Founders Award in 2012 for spearheading the creation of the Multi-Culture Center (now called Multicultural Student Services) at Bucknell in 1986.

She co-authored a chapter in the new book The Experiences of Black Women Diversity Practitioners in Historically White Institutions (2023). She is also co-author of A Framework for Advancing Anti-Racism Strategy on Campus (2021), a publication of the NADOHE, where she has held membership since 2015.

“I am excited to return to the community where I discovered my passion and purpose for this work,” she says. “It is definitely a full-circle moment for me. Equity is everyone’s work, and I look forward to chartering a vision for us to advance institutional equity and inclusive excellence together.”