June 13, 2024

Updates on the Chief Diversity Officer and the future of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Dear Colleagues,

During the closing weeks of the spring semester a workgroup consisting of faculty and staff researched, discussed, and developed recommendations for UMW’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan as part of UMW’s commitment to the One Virginia Inclusive Excellence Framework mandated by HB 1993 and further elucidated through specific responsibilities and guidance for higher education. This workgroup’s efforts included developing a structure for a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC); preparing a timeline for the development of a five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion; and creating a vision for the future of the Chief Diversity Officer position following Sabrina Johnson’s retirement. The workgroup’s insights, produced under a tight deadline, were excellent and I am grateful for their contribution. Please join me in thanking Chris Foss, Malcolm Holmes, Sabrina Johnson, Jessica Machado, Leslie Martin, Cedric Rucker, Marion Sanford, Debra Schleef, Beth Williams, Sharon Williams, Melissa Yakabouski, and Kimberly Young for their participation.

While our obligations under One Virginia are substantial, our most immediate task is to conduct a national search for our next Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). On this topic, the workgroup noted that different institutions have taken different approaches to this position, however it is typical for the CDO to report to the Provost or the President. Given our strategic objectives and the work that we need to do, our next chief diversity officer will report directly to the Provost. While the CDO will work closely with me and the Cabinet and will be a part of my senior leadership team, I fully expect them to be engaged at the core of our mission, working closely with the Provost, the deans, the Provost’s Academic Affairs Council and our colleges and academic departments.

Given the importance of this position and the competitive market for qualified applicants we will be using a search firm to conduct a national search. We have secured a list of firms that have recent successful experiences conducting searches for DEI professionals and hope to have that process complete soon so that the search may proceed expeditiously.

The search will be co-chaired by Rita Dunston (Registrar) and Anand Rao (Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies).

Other members of the search committee will be:

  • Pete Kelly, Dean College of Education
  • Andrew Dolby, Professor of Biology and Past Chair of the University Faculty Council
  • Tyler Frankel, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science
  • Chris Foss, Professor of English
  • Chris Garcia, Associate Professor of Business
  • Surupa Gupta, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Program Director of Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Leslie Martin, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Community Engagement
  • Cedric Rucker, Dean of Student Life
  • Marion Sanford, Director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center
  • Justin Wilkes, Director of the Student Transition Program and Chair of the University Staff Council
  • Beth Williams, Executive Director of Human Resources

The creation of this position description also provides an opportunity to develop the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, its resourcing, and what we need to put in place to set it up for success moving forward. One of the key items highlighted by the workgroup is the imperative to ensure appropriate coverage for important compliance areas with an equally strong and well-supported programmatic component to support DEI education, training, and programming. I expect that we will have an office that is capable of doing this important work in a way that meets our collective aspirations.

As the search process unfolds, we will provide updates as warranted including opportunities for members of the UMW community to participate in the search. If you have any questions or feedback, please share it with me, tpaino@umw.edu.

Troy D. Paino, J.D., Ph.D.