Donna M. Davis, J.D. — recently named the senior director for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Benny Agosto, Jr. Diversity Center at South Texas College of Law Houston — said she learned the value of education, a high work ethic, empathy, and communication early in life from her mom and dad.
“They modeled exemplary leadership in their professional and personal lives, and they required excellence with love,” Davis said. “They showed us what was most important in life: faith, family, hard work, communication, service to the community, and being kind to other people — not just saying it, but showing it. Growing up under that type of positive leadership was instrumental in helping me become who I am.”
In her current role, which she began in January 2023, Davis focuses on the DEI strategic vision, training initiatives, programming, and internal collaborative opportunities for the law school. She engages all stakeholder groups through the Benny Agosto, Jr. Diversity Center and carries out the mission to educate law school community members on issues related to DEI, access, and social justice.
“Our students and alumni are interfacing in the legal profession with clients from a variety of different backgrounds,” Davis said. “And whether clients’ socioeconomic status is at the poverty or millionaire level, and regardless of their education, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or neighborhood — they need to be seen, heard, and understood. That means we must help our future attorneys understand our diverse community and be able to invoke empathy with every client.”
Davis is being featured during STCL Houston’s celebration of Black History Month. “This recognition holds a special place in my heart, and I find value in all the recognitions and celebrations of identities,” Davis said. “When we show support to individuals based on their identity, it helps build community around cultural competencies as we are able to learn from one another. That being said, of course, I celebrate my identity 365 days a year; we all live in our social identities year-round.”
Davis brings 22 years of experience in higher education to STCL Houston and has held various key positions at law schools and university systems nationwide. Immediately prior to joining the law school, she was the DEI officer for a large community college system, providing her expertise to seven colleges and 13 centers of excellence.
Her personal mantra is “conversation over confrontation,” and she approaches the topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice in a way that creates a safe space for people to share their experiences. “I am interested in the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of people’s perspectives and conclusions. Those types of conversations open the door for further education and greater understanding.”
Previously, Davis served as director of institutional equity and Title IX coordinator at Kennesaw State University. She is a nationally certified civil rights investigator, diversity officer, executive coach, organizational development consultant, and holds multiple designations in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Davis also is a recognized speaker in the areas of cultural competency, unconscious bias, privilege, microaggressions, and a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
She served as the faculty diversity officer in the Office for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity at Case Western Reserve University, and also held positions at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, The University of Texas School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, and Case Western Reserve University School of Law — as adjunct faculty, assistant dean, and director — and she participated as a board member with a range of professional organizations.
Davis holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Southern University Law Center, a Master of Science in positive organization development and change from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, and a Bachelor of Arts in business management from Dillard University.
“We are the intersectionality of all our social identities, and a mosaic of differences,” Davis said. “We are not one-dimensional. When we are able to think broader about the many ways we all identify and describe ourselves — and when we really listen to one another — we are able to affirm people and respect differences in a way that makes everyone feel important and included.”