Denise DeCou, Director, Diversity and Inclusion/Content Development and Program Delivery

Denise DeCou has been a leading figure in diversity awareness and anti-bias efforts in the nonprofit sector of the St. Louis community for more than 25 years. At Washington University, she has conducted highly popular diversity training sessions with more than 8,500 employees and supports efforts to improve the university’s workforce diversity.

DeCou has dedicated her professional life to healing divides as an effective administrator and anti-bias educator. She was executive director of the National Conference for Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis, ran the largest education program of the Anti-Defamation League–St. Louis for 10 years, and held positions with the United Way and East-West Gateway Coordinating Council. She founded and still runs the consulting firm Loretta’s Work, aimed at developing young leaders.

As a nationally certified diversity trainer, DeCou has facilitated anti-bias/anti-oppression trainings for children, youth, community-based organizations, community leaders, the workplace, law enforcement, and institutions of higher education here in the United States and abroad. She is also a nationally certified consultant in Social & Emotional Intelligence.

DeCou graduated from Fordham University, Rosehill Campus in New York with degrees in modern languages and is trilingual.


Facilitated by Adrienne Davis, Vice Provost and William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law

As vice provost, Davis focuses on faculty diversity and development, consulting and collaborating with Washington University’s seven schools on their goals for diversity and leadership development and also managing a suite of programs in the Office of the Provost. From 2015 until fall 2017 she chaired the university’s Diversity Commission, which was charged with designing a university-wide plan for diversity. She also works closely with other stakeholders at the university, including Public Affairs, Facilities, Student Affairs, Alumni & Development, and Human Resources, on a range of institutional policies, initiatives, and programs, including ones that support students and staff.

As a legal scholar, Davis is renowned for her scholarship and teaching on gender and race relations, theories of justice and reparations, feminist and critical race theory, and law and popular culture. She has written extensively on the gendered and private law dimensions of American slavery, the legal regulation of intimacy, and how culture and law converge to distribute justice. A Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Davis directed the Black Sexual Economies Project at the School of Law’s Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work and Social Capital from 2009 to 2013. She also founded and is co-director of the Law, Identity & Culture Initiative.

Davis is the past recipient of a Bellagio Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation and two research grants from the Ford Foundation on such topics as black women and labor, and women, slavery, sexuality, and religion. She also is actively involved in several civic institutions: she is a member of the Links Inc., St. Louis Chapter, and serves on the Board of Trustees of Opera Theatre St. Louis, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Our Little Haven, December literary magazine, and is currently the secretary to the Board of Commissioners at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Closing Reflection and Charge

Lori S. White, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Professor of Practice of Education