U seeks leader to increase diversity

Four finalists from around the country are interviewing for the new vice president position.

by Jeannine Aquino

The University’s nationwide search for the newly created vice president for Access, Equity and Multicultural Affairs position is winding to a close.

As a member of University President Bob Bruininks’ executive leadership team, the vice president will be in charge of programs aimed at increasing the University’s ability to attract and support students from various cultural backgrounds.

The position is part of the University’s strategic positioning initiative, a plan that has drawn criticism for fear that it will decrease diversity at the University.

Four finalists have been invited to interview for the key leadership position. Roberto A. Ibarra, Robert Hampton and Mrinalini Rao will each speak at public forums this month.

The other finalist, Njeri Nuru-Holm, spoke last week.

The series of forums ” titled “The Role of Diversity and Multiculturalism in a 21st Century Research University: A Vision and Strategies for Achieving Excellence” ” will be at the Nolte Room in the Radisson Hotel Metrodome. The public is invited to attend.

The new vice president will oversee various departments within the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs, including the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, Disability Services and the Office for University Women. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office will also report to the new vice president.

“This position is really aimed at elevating our attention to issues of access, equity and multicultural affairs, and to provide leadership for the entire system on these issues,” said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the vice president search committee.

The search committee is looking for someone with “substantial experience in higher education, and someone with substantial success in making things happen,” Nichols said.

Nuru-Holm is the vice president for Student Affairs and Minority Affairs at Cleveland State University. Hampton is the special assistant to the chancellor at the City University of New York. Rao is vice provost for Faculty Affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

One of the reasons Nuru-Holm was attracted to the position was Bruininks’ goal to elevate the University to world-class status.

“Everything I heard during the interview enforced the belief that this is a commitment by the University to infuse diversity throughout the University,” she said.

Ibarra, who will be speaking at a forum Thursday, is an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. He is researching a new aspect of diversity called “context diversity” and is interested in applying it to the University.

“The timing for new ideas and putting them to play is right,” Ibarra said.

“I hope that whatever candidate is chosen has an understanding of all the diverse needs of all the cultural centers, not just a few,” co-chairperson of the Queer Student Cultural Center Jen Mohnkern said.

Bruininks and Senior Vice President for the Office of System Administration Robert Jones will make the final decision on the position.