U making second try for diversity VP

Karen Dace and Katrice Albert gave presentations this week as part of the interview process.

U making second try for diversity VP

Emma Nelson

After a months-long search and a two-year vacancy, the University of Minnesota is one step closer to choosing a new vice president for equity and diversity.

Last week the two finalists for the position gave public presentations on the Twin Cities campus.

The search marks the second round for the University. Three finalists were selected in April, but after the public interview process, Robert Jones, senior vice president for academic administration, announced that none were suitable for the position.

The vice president for equity and diversity is responsible for diversity initiatives across the University’s five campuses.

The candidate, selected by President Eric Kaler, will likely assume the position in 2013.

Finalists Karen Dace of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Katrice Albert of Louisiana State University both currently work in equity and diversity administrative positions.

Both candidates spoke about their work and ideas for the University in their presentations, which focused on the role of equity and diversity in a land-grant research university.

Irene Duranczyk, chair of the University Senate’s Equity, Access and Diversity committee and a member of the search committee, said Dace and Albert stood out because of their experience, commitment and sense of humor.

‘The new, fresh mind’

Before working at the University of Missouri, Dace was a professor and administrator at the University of Utah.

The Rev. France Davis, an adjunct associate professor who worked with Dace in the communications and ethnic studies departments at Utah, said she was “the new, fresh mind and had great insights.”

Her departure from the university, Davis said, “was absolutely a loss for us.”

In her presentation, Dace focused on the link between including underrepresented groups and improving the University community, giving examples from her own work and the work of others.

“One of the most important truths about inclusion in the academy — or inclusion anywhere — is that it doesn’t just happen,” she said.

Land-grant research institutions in particular must be intentional in inclusion efforts, she said, and keep a focus on retaining diverse students and faculty members.

This includes incorporating diversity into the classroom, she said, and communicating to University members that “a commitment to inclusion isn’t a move away from rigor.”

Dace’s ability to communicate and invite participation from a variety of people was her strong suit, Davis said.

“She based her work on the need for everybody to appreciate and participate in diversity whether you were diverse yourself or not,” he said. “She was able to reach across the aisle.”

Speaking ‘truth to power’

In her 12 years at Louisiana State University, Albert has also worked simultaneously as both an administrator and a professor.

Roland Mitchell, assistant director for Louisiana’s school of education, said he met Albert during his own interview process.

She invited him to sit down and talk with her, Mitchell said, and later connected him with other people of color — faculty members, graduate students and even local churches.

In her presentation, Albert discussed creating programs and goals for recruiting and retaining underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members.

“Just when you think that you’re there and you’ve done enough,” she said, “you have to redouble your efforts.”

She also outlined key areas where diversity efforts should play a role, including diversity education, working with alumni and creating vendor relationships between the University and minority-owned businesses.

In order to do this, Albert said, leaders across the University should be involved.

“She speaks truth to power, but it’s not the kind of clichéd thing,” Mitchell said. “She asks the hard questions even in the places her office has been successful.”

Making a decision

Members of the University community gave input in surveys after both presentations. Both Dace and Albert also met with various stakeholder groups and with members of the Office for Equity and Diversity.

Duranczyk said she thinks the outcome of the meetings with OED staff will be crucial in making the final decision.

Peg Lonnquist, director of the University’s Women’s Center — which is part of OED — said members of the office are excited to have a new vice president in place.

“One of the things we try to do in [OED] is to work across identities, and I think they both have a good understanding of that,” she said. “I think either of them would be really strong leaders for us.”