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Dental school doctor leads SIUE search for first vice chancellor of diversity

A doctor at the Alton dental school has been named to lead the search for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s first vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

The search process has launched under the leadership of committee chair Cornell Thomas, SIU School of Dental Medicine diversity, equity and inclusion officer and assistant dean for Admissions and Student Services.

“We have a wonderfully diverse search committee led by Dr. Thomas (shown), and we anticipate an extremely strong pool of both internal and external candidates,” said SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook. “Serving on chancellor’s council, the successful candidate will be a strong and consistent voice for equity, diversity and inclusion on campus.”

Pembrook anticipates a re-organization or re-structuring of some diversity-related areas at SIUE. “The vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion will have broad latitude to help determine an effective organizational structure to make that synergistic approach happen,” he said. “We have so many wonderful initiatives already occurring at SIUE that will benefit from coordinated leadership.”

Pembrook said the search committee hopes to have finalists identified in early 2021.

Pembrook indicated that the VCEDI will serve an integral role in two important initiatives – the Anti-Racism Task Force and the Higher Learning Commission Quality Initiative focusing on anti-racism. The VCEDI will work closely with the SIU System and its new vice president for diversity, as well as its Diversity Advisory Council.

“The new position of VCEDI will provide leadership and guide SIUE forward in an ever-changing dynamic of our pursuits for inclusive excellence,” said Thomas. “The person selected will lead SIUE’s efforts and collaborate with SIU Carbondale in creating a space that promotes anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion as the norm in the core aspects of our hiring, teaching and retention.”

“There are myriad diversity and inclusion initiatives happening on campus, and SIUE needs someone in the Chancellor’s Council who will work explicitly towards equity, justice and inclusion,” said J.T. Snipes, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Black Faculty and Staff Association president and SIUE Anti-Racism Task Force member. “Also, the institution’s recent commitments to anti-racism require a position that is working strategically to build the institutional infrastructure to make that commitment a reality.”

Thomas cited qualities that the VCEDI candidate should possess. “The person should be a communicator, organizer and visionary who works extremely well with all groups,” he said. “Also, be able to ensure that people affiliated with SIUE in any capacity can thrive. The VCEDI will promote respect, success and a sense of belonging, while fostering well-being though policies, programs, practices, learning and dialogue.”

“The candidate should have a working knowledge of the scholarship of diversity, equity and inclusion,” added Snipes. “It is important that the candidate push for structural changes that will create greater equity at SIUE. While this candidate does not have to hold a minoritized identity, it is important they seek to understand and honor the experiences of those who consistently experience inequity because of their race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other social identity. This is critical, because their job is to support and advocate with and on behalf of those populations.”

The VCEDI’s direct responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:

•     Serving as the chief diversity officer for the SIUE campus

•     Leading the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, while mentoring its staff and monitoring its budget

•     Continuing the advancement of the recently developed Diversity Strategic Plan and being responsible for SIUE’s diversity goals and systems of accountability for reaching those goals

•     Implementing the ARTF’s recommendations in coordination with the HLC Quality Initiative

•     Coordinating the Institutional Diversity Leadership Team

•     Chairing the Bias Incident Response Team

•     Participating in certain functions of the Equal Opportunity, Access/Title IX appeals processes

•     Providing guidance in the Strategic Hiring Initiative

•     Leading efforts regarding diversity training for new and current employees

•     Ensuring compliance with federal affirmative action, equal opportunity and non-discrimination regulations

•     Providing support to SAFE Zone

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