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Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence

Student Life: Get Involved!

Lili Listens. Lili Leads.

Meet vice Chancellor Liliana Rodriguez

liliana_rodriguezI never imagined I'd be a university administrator.  It's just not something you fantasize about as a kid. And while I never pictured it then, I cannot imagine my life without this work now.  As Vice Chancellor of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence, my job is to lead all the departments that support your life outside of the classroom and many of resources that help you do your best in the classroom.  And while I have always loved learning, my college and graduate school experiences weren't particularly easy.  As a first-generation student from a very low-income background, I had very little guidance from family and friends.

It took some time before I realized the key to success in education and professional life: this is not meant to be a solitary journey. You're SUPPOSED to seek out support and find quality mentors. These are essential skills to hone while you are here, and they will serve you well throughout your life. 

I am a social scientist and practitioner; my research investigates barriers to college access, retention, and success. I enjoy thinking about how young adults development their identity, especially how social identities are formed and influence the ways in which we see the world. I earned my B.A. with honors in psychology from Williams College, my M.S. and Ph.D. in psychology from The University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Along my career path I have been a professor, an educational consultant, a mental health and substance abuse counselor, the director of a cultural center, admissions officer, and researcher. All of those experiences influence the way I approach my work as your Vice Chancellor.

The most important thing for me to you.  What are you passionate about?  How has your experience at DU been?  What needs to improve?  What worries you most?  The more I understand you, the more I will understand how to build a community that helps you reach your full potential.

So come, accept my invitation. Let me buy you coffee, or join you for lunch, and come to my office hours.  I look forward to meeting you!

Get to know Lili

Q&A with Lili

Yours is a new position at the University of Denver, integrating campus life and inclusive excellence in a way that hasn’t been formalized here before. How do you view this integration taking shape over the current academic year?

I don’t see campus life and inclusive excellence as mutually exclusive; they should be one and the same. What I’m doing here is not an integration, it’s a re-commitment to inclusive excellence in all the practices we do. Higher education has traditionally kept diversity work in the periphery. Now, as a University, we are showing that we are firmly committed to putting diversity and inclusion at the core, which is where it belongs for the 21st-century education. What’s exciting about the draft strategic plan is that it puts culture in the curriculum and lets us take an interdisciplinary approach. This will guide me in my work.

What trends/phenomena are driving your move to integrate campus life and inclusive excellence? 

There is an exciting trend that is reversing how we think of cultural awareness. For a long time we thought about it as learning what’s different about the other. Cultural competency asks you to unpack yourself. It’s an individual journey that all of us have to take. What does it mean to be me? You look at your race, religion, politics, etc. and really get to why you believe what you believe. This process gives you empathy for others. When you start to realize how complicated and prejudiced you are, it gives you a sense of where other people are coming from.

Student Life at DU has traditionally served undergraduate students; how do you envision bringing together undergrads, graduate students, faculty and staff under the new Campus Life?

It really does take a village. In order to do it well we have to be doing it together.

I do very much want student life to more publically serve graduate students. We need to think about our resources and how we can make the experience better for grad students – they’re more than half our population. We haven’t integrated them as well as we could.

Faculty and staff set the culture; we’re the ones that stay. So, we need to be the best role models possible. We need to be able to mentor and advise. So what are we doing in terms of our own professional development? How are we evaluated on this? How are we growing? We need to develop the structures to make sure we’re becoming more culturally competent.

What does community mean to you? How will your division become a catalyst for a “one DU” community?

Tough question! Community means different things to different people. A community needs to be nimble enough that people feel supported and challenged. It won’t be easy, and it shouldn’t be a particularly “safe space.” We can’t ever guarantee that. We don’t know where people’s heads are, so we have to go for “safe enough.” It has to be okay to be vulnerable. You have to know that everyone has your back.

What are you most excited about here at DU? What programs or initiatives inspire you?

There isn’t one thing. I’m super excited about the strategic plan, that it’s articulated and student-centered. I’m excited that we have a leader in Chancellor Chopp who is 100 percent behind diversity and inclusion. She’s developed this uncommon structure – with Frank Tuitt in his new role, me, and an Equal Opportunity director in Human Resources – that is a trifecta of diversity inclusion. This is putting inclusive excellence at the core. The energy is here, now it’s about whether or not we’re going to tip the scales and go. We’re perfectly positioned and the moment is right – that’s why I took the job!

Anything else you would like to share with the campus community?

We have to define what inclusive excellence means to us at DU. We need clear plans and goals, and a way to be accountable. This is a University wide project; there’s an advisory group to build this definition that will resonate with our community, while being specific enough to have real meaning.

Read The First to Belong, a January 2018 essay by Dr Rodriguez in the DU Magazine.

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