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Update on diversity, equity and inclusion at DU

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Jeremy Haefner

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Dear DU community members,

I want to share some important news concerning our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at the University of Denver. In the spring, we temporarily paused the search for our new vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and inclusion (VCDEI) after receiving helpful feedback on what our faculty, students, and staff truly want from this role. We learned that DU yearns for a VCDEI that can speak to and represent the breadth of our community. As such, we changed the position description to more accurately reflect this shared goal. 

We also learned something useful about our broader DEI efforts. There is some confusion both here in the campus community—and, importantly, externally—about the structure of DU’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Our search firm’s research suggests that candidates for the VCDEI didn’t fully understand this role’s purview, as multiple leadership roles at DU contain “inclusion” in their titles. 

We all want to attract the most capable and dedicated individuals possible for this role, and if our expectations are unclear, we may miss out on a potentially exceptional candidate. With this new and important insight, we have decided to change the way we are organizing these important efforts, as well as some of the titles within senior leadership. The University of Denver will have a strong, central diversity, equity, and inclusion unit led by a VCDEI with a bold vision. This individual will execute the unifying vision for DEI at DU. In other words, DU needs a fully empowered chief diversity officer leading an office that is staffed and resourced effectively. This new model supports a sustainable infrastructure to clearly identify strengths, gaps, and accountability measures for DEI work. 

Although we want to magnify and strengthen the role of the Office of DEI, we also want to reinforce a shared DEI model in which we all have a role to play in DEI work. In this model, every division and major unit will have a lead position and/or committee that will serve as that division’s DEI thought leader while also holding the division accountable for their progress. Each unit will develop their action plan to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, so we can progress together as a University community. The VCDEI will then help bring all the campus partners together in a centralized way, instead of the decentralized approach we have now. 

To further clarify the central role of the VCDEI, the vice chancellor titles in Human Resources and Inclusive Community and Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence will be retitled as vice chancellor for human resources and vice chancellor for student affairs, respectively. This change does not represent a lessening commitment to DEI efforts, but rather an effort to reduce confusion among the roles among senior leadership. Human Resources and Inclusive Community will remain the divisional name and CLIE will be renamed Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence.

Through these changes, DU is positioning itself to recruit the best pool of candidates—especially at a time when competition for talent in this area is intense. (A frustrating but welcome challenge, as more and more institutions begin to take DEI work seriously across the country). 

This is just the beginning. Our Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni have long asked for meaningful changes, and this spring further opened our hearts and eyes to the progress we have yet to make. I am heart-broken when I hear about experiences of racism at DU. I am also inspired by the courage of so many to push us to be better. So we must act. 

I’ve asked Interim Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tom Romero, Interim Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Jerron Lowe, and Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Niki Latino to come together to propose an action plan for diversity, equity and inclusion at DU. We will meet with the Chancellor’s Diversity and Equity Advisory Committee and the Provost’s Diversity and Equity Academic Council to vet the plan with the goal to announce the details broadly by August 15, 2020. This will be a draft plan meant for community comment, which we will review and then develop a final plan to share with our community by the beginning of the fall quarter. We will also plan for a Zoom town hall to receive feedback on the draft plan in real time. Look for more details in the coming weeks.

We have far to go, but I believe through these changes and more, we are on the right path. 

Thank you, Michele Hanna and Paul Chan, who have agreed to co-lead the search committee for our new VCDEI. And thank you to the search committee members, listed below. 


Jeremy Haefner

Search committee for the vice chancellor of diversity, equity, and inclusion

  • Paul Chan, vice chancellor, legal affairs and general counsel, co-chair
  • Michele Hanna, associate professor, Graduate School of Social Work, co-chair
  • Ann Ayers, dean, Colorado Women’s College
  • Ramona Beltran, associate professor, Graduate School of Social Work
  • Nashwa Bolling, associate director, budget, research and analysis
  • Roberto Corrada, professor, Sturm College of Law
  • Valentina Iturbe-LaGrave, director, inclusive teaching practices
  • Mary Kudoadzi, undergraduate student
  • Lisa Martinez, professor, College of Arts Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Rode Molla, graduate student
  • Greg Moore, trustee
  • Nancy Wadsworth, associate professor, College of Arts Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Robert Willis, assistant vice chancellor & deputy athletic director, Athletics & Recreation