Dr. Sharnnia Artis comes from California school to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus


Dr. Sharnnia Artis has a track record of creating programs to improve diversity and inclusion in higher education. 

Most recently, she served as assistant dean of Access and Inclusion for two Computer Sciences and Engineering schools at the University of California, Irvine. There, she established the Stacey Nicholas Office of Access and Inclusion — created to guide diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism initiatives for the university.

On Sept. 1, Artis officially brought her experience to Mason when she was named vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and chief diversity officer.

Artis describes her job as “providing strategic leadership and support to enhance the diversity and inclusion of Mason’s students, faculty and staff.”

“I plan, guide and advise Mason’s leadership when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as affirmative action matters and anti-racism activities,” Artis said, adding, “It’s an important mission. It’s a core principle of our institution. It’s a big charge and it requires a lot of us to be involved.”

Mason ranks first in ethnic diversity among public universities in Virginia. Artis believes Mason is already committed to being an inclusive institution, with several programs, initiatives and curriculum changes having been implemented prior to her hiring. 

“It’s a really exciting time to be at a place like Mason,” she said.

Artis said her goal during her tenure is to “provide the vision, direction and accountability for diversity, equity and inclusion here at mason.”

“I want to make sure that we embed DEI in everything that we do. It could be our university curriculum, our infrastructure, our policies, our programs … my vision is for DEI to be integrated into everything that we do, instead of looking at it as a separate entity,” Artis said.

She stressed that her office strives to be strategic and intentional in making sure all students, staff and faculty feel welcomed and included at Mason. Bhe does not believe the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion can achieve this alone.

“There’s a role for everyone to be part of this vision; to help us achieve these goals. Especially if we want to be a national exemplar for inclusive excellence,” she said. “We have to have collective impact. We have to coordinate our efforts; we have to communicate our vision and our plans. People can get involved in initiatives that are taking place, people can get involved by sharing their experiences that they’re having so that we can educate and increase awareness in our Mason community.”

Artis recommended that students visit the website for the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Task Force.

“There are several recommendations that have been identified for our campus and these recommendations are related curriculum and pedagogy … one of my goals would be to make sure that our Mason community is aware of these recommendations, to talk about the progress that’s being made for each of those recommendations,” Artis said.