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La Verne to hire chief of diversity

Annunciata Williams
Staff Writer

The University is in the process of hiring a chief diversity and inclusivity officer, a newly-created position here, whose charge will be to address a range of diversity and inclusivity issues that arise on such a diverse campus.

“We are sort of playing catch-up, but I feel we’re moving in the right direction,” said Provost Greg Dewey, a member of the search committee for the position.

Diversity and inclusivity have long been a concern of the University, and departments have strived to increase diversity in curriculum and hiring.

Efforts to work on issues and curriculum surrounding diversity and inclusivity were scattered and handled separately.

With the new position, those scattered issues or plans can be concentrated, and departments can collaborate through this single diversity chief position.

“(It) centralizes the responsibility in one office,” Associate Professor of Sociology Hector Delgado said.

Delgado was one of the people who originally introduced the idea.

Members of the search committee began looking for a CDIO two years ago.

The search was put on hold then extended because of last year’s the search for and inauguration of President Devorah Lieberman.

“Some of the most important qualities (for the position) is that they are very personable and engage lots of people – someone who deeply understands the many issues related to diversity and inclusivity,” said Zandra Wagoner, University chaplain and member of the search committee.

The committee discussed, among other things, whether the chief diversity and inclusivity officer should report to a dean, a provost or directly to the president.

Members decided that the CDIO will report directly to the president and sit on the president’s council.

Damon Williams of the University of Connecticut and Katrina Wade-Golden of the University of Michigan researched the role of diversity officers on university campuses and found:

“The emergence of these offices in higher education is not without historical precedence, as some institutions had ‘vice president for minority affairs’ roles in the 1970s, when the first large group of African Americans enrolled at what were nearly all-white colleges and universities,” according to their paper.

Among their suggestions, the paper said the CDIO should have a mastery of diversity issues, an ability to cultivate a common vision, an understating of the university culture, and good interpersonal skills.

Finalists for the position are visiting campus this month.

Each candidate is giving 20-minute to 30-minute talk about his or her goals and plans for the position.

The candidates are Eric Bishop, Joy Lei and Erik Malewski.

Bishop is a La Verne alumnus, who is now dean of physical education/athletics at Chaffey College. Previously he was dean of Chaffey’s Fontana campus.

Bishop also spent many years as a faculty member and administrator at ULV.

Lei is currently the assistant campus diversity officer in the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UC Santa Cruz.

Malewski is an associate professor of curriculum studies at Purdue University, a position he has held since 2010.

Dewey explained that the first person chosen to hold this new and key position will be instrumental in defining the position and its importance on campus.

“It’s a very exciting time, because it signals the University’s desire to institutionalize diversity,” Wagoner said.

Annunciata Williams can be reached at annunciata.williams@laverne.edu.

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