New U VP to focus on diversity

Rusty Barcel

Yelena Kibasova

Rusty Barceló, the University’s new vice president for access, equity and multicultural affairs, said she hopes to liven up the campus’ diversity climate with her own bag of unique tricks.

Barceló said her primary job in the new position is to work on diversity issues that concern students, faculty and staff members, as well as issues such as the diversity climate on campus and in curriculum.

“Under the rubric of my office is issues of race, gender, sexualities, disability,” she said. “And I think we even need to look toward the global issues that affect students who come here from abroad.”

Barceló said her main goal is to collaborate with all parts of the University to increase and sustain diversity on campus.

“My hope is that diversity won’t just be seen as a responsibility of this office but (as) a University-wide responsibility,” she said.

Specifically, Barceló said she will be creating new diversity models for the University.

Programs such as the “bridge,” a five-week intensive program for high school graduates that helps them prepare for college, worked well at Washington University, she said.

After the program of intensive courses such as math and writing, Barceló said, those students achieved higher grade point averages in the entire freshman class.

Other programs such as Women in Science and Engineering and Upward Bound, a pre-college program, have succeeded as well, she said.

Robert Jones, senior vice president for system academic administration, said the closing of the General College will be one of Barceló’s foci because it has become a diversity concern.

“It’s interesting how GC evolved into being an issue of diversity in the first place,” he said. “It was never set out to be the place where the majority of students of color entered the University.”

Barceló said she wasn’t around for the decision-making for the General College but said that change isn’t always bad.

“What I am pleased about is that so many of the people who were faculty and staff of GC are still with the University,” she said. “So we’re going to be able to call upon their experiences and their knowledge to help us craft a new vision for the students that they served.”

Barceló said she is not happy with the University’s current graduation rates.

According to information provided by the Office of the Provost, 36.7 percent of students who entered the Twin Cities campus in fall 2001 graduated in four years. For the same term, only 9.6 percent of General College students graduated.

Barceló said one cure to these rates is pre-K through 12th grade initiatives.

“We need to increase the pool of college-bound students throughout the state of Minnesota,” she said. “We need to make them college-ready.”

Jones said Barceló is a good fit for the position because she previously worked at the University as associate vice president for multicultural and academic affairs and at Washington University as vice president and vice provost for minority affairs and diversity.

“I was very, very impressed with her vision and how thoughtful she is about diversity issues,” he said.

Barceló, who is Mexican-American and also a lesbian, said she has multiple identities, just as students do.

“I certainly have over 30 years of experience doing this,” she said. “I always like to say I’ve been doing this work since the day I was born.”

Erika Jensen, a family social science and addiction studies senior, who is a lesbian, said it’s “amazing” to have Barceló at the University because of her unique perspective.

“I think that people who are of a minority group or in the GLBT community will kind of take comfort in the fact that she experienced it and is a part of the community,” she said.

Barceló said she hopes to make the campus a friendly and welcoming place where students can succeed.

“Among the strongest students who succeed are those who have a strong sense of self,” she said. “I believe strongly that if we can increase the self-esteem of individuals, they can overcome barriers in remarkable ways because personally, that’s what I did.”