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UNH searches for new chief diversity officer

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) has begun the search for a new chief diversity officer (CDO). A search committee of students and faculty has been tasked with filling the position. The hope is to have the new CDO in place by the start of classes in the fall. Dr. Wanda S. Mitchell served as UNH’s first chief diversity officer before passing away in 2017. 

The CDO’s role is given by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education “the CDO provides senior administrative leadership for strategic planning and implementation of mission-driven institutional diversity efforts.”  

Shari Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the search committee for the new CDO as well as the director of Psychological and Counseling Services at UNH. 

“This person is the one who is responsible for the strategic diversity plan for the entire campus,” Robinson said, adding that the CDO would also be there to make sure the diversity plan was being integrated campus-wide.  

President Dean has four strategic priorities the first one which is academic success and wellbeing. Robinson said that President Dean has said he incorporates diversity equity and inclusion into that first priority.  

“Our new CDO coming in will have an opportunity to really operationalize that,” Robinson said. “There’s no specific goals or objectives tied to these strategic areas… specifically for diversity.”  

Robinson iterated the importance of the CDO position.  

“I think at a predominantly white institution like UNH you need a senior administrative role,” she said. “Someone who’s primary responsibility is attending to the diversity, equity and inclusion of the institution… I don’t think a predominantly white institution can really thrive without that [a CDO].” UNH is over 85 percent white according to a 2010 census.  

Robinson also detailed the process of finding the new CDO and that “It’s following a traditional search process.” That process begins with creating a search committee that includes four faculty, senior administration and students. The committee then meets and reviews applicants. The committee then decides who they will interview via video conference. There are usually six to eight of these interviews. After the online interviews are conducted three candidates are invited for an on-campus interview that can be up to two days long. After the three interviews take place the search committee will meet for a final time. They then make a recommendation to the president of the university for who they have chosen for the job. “Search committees are a lot of work, let me tell you,” Robinson said.   

Monica Chiu is a UNH professor of English, and an author of two monographs and three collections, in the areas of Asian American studies and graphic narrative. Chiu served as the interim associate vice president for community, equity and diversity at UNH from. While in the post, Chiu focused on overseeing the diversity, community and equity of the entire campus.  

“A lot of my job involved following up on the 14 demands filed by students of color after the 2017 Cinco de Mayo and then the results of the 2019 campus climate survey; encouraging the institutionalization of diversity and equity through competitive grant funding; running the monthly meeting of the chairs of diversity communities across campus units; and supporting people’s ideas to institutionalize diversity.” Chiu is looking forward to the impact a new CDO will have at UNH.  

Chiu worked with students, faculty and staff to help UNH become a more inclusive campus and to educate campus colleagues and students about best teaching practices for an equitable classroom; supporting faculty of color; and advocating for more funding for our first-generation students of color, among other projects. She worked with colleagues through the AirDrop incident from last March in which a photo of a high school student in blackface was shared with another student high school student, both visiting for an annual jazz festival for regional secondary schools. She said her main concern was making sure the university took steps to make sure this didn’t happen again. Chiu said sheis eager to see ideas that a new CDO could bring to UNH.  

“Wouldn’t it be exciting to have someone come in from the outside who has these really new and innovative ways of thinking about change at UNH and to have people open to change so that we don’t bump against some of the same challenges or obstacles we have in the past.”  

As of now, the search committee is getting ready to start the online interviews. Robinson said the goal is to have those interviews completed during March and then the on-campus interviews completed in April. The recommendation will then be made to the president in May. 

“We hope that there will be somebody in place by the next academic year,” Robinson said.  

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