University searches for director of diversity and inclusion


graphic by Tyler Herron

This week, two of the four finalists for the position of the director of diversity and inclusion visited Trinity’s campus to present their visions for Trinity.

The directorship is a newly elevated position on Trinity’s staff, replacing what had been an entry-level position, the coordinator for diversity and intercultural relations. This role has been vacant since January of 2016. Jamie Thompson, director of Student Involvement and co-chair on the search committee, was an integral part of the process from the beginning.

“In March of 2016, I brought to Dr. Anderson’s attention the idea that maybe we should examine whether or not that entry-level role was the best fit for Trinity, and should there be other permutations of that role,” Thompson said. “And so, in the summer of 2016, he convened an ad hoc committee that was representative of faculty, staff and a student rep, and that group examined best practices related to diversity, equity and inclusion staffing. That group looked at other institutions that are like Trinity. We did some benchmarking to see if other schools have a director of diversity and inclusion role, and what is it, at what level, what’s within that person’s scope, and so that helped us shape and formulate some recommendations to Dr. Anderson. What resulted was the elevation from an entry-level role to a director role.”

Thompson elaborated on the role of the new director.

“The focus and the priority for this role is going to be student-centered and on the ground, advising Trinity Diversity Connection, supporting campus-wide initiatives and programming, so things like the MLK march and lecture, other training and programming and workshops,” Thompson said. “Over time, this person’s scope will broaden to include advocacy in education and a systematic look at the institution and how it relates to the community, so not just students, but also faculty and staff.”

Rocio Delgado, professor in the department of education and co-chair on the search committee, said the role will also serve as a liaison between students and faculty.

“The person who is selected to serve in this position will focus primarily on students and help build bridges to connect students with faculty,” Delgado said. “One of the visions for example, is for the person in this position to continue to help identify possible faculty mentors for students from underrepresented groups and to promote and facilitate faculty participation and engagement in diversity related discussions across campus.”

Thompson also spoke to the importance of the role.

“The community at Trinity is really special, and that’s what many faculty, staff and students will say. And at the same time, it’s also a part of Trinity’s narrative that some people don’t feel that this is their home and their community, which makes this role even more important and critical and a priority for Trinity,” Thompson said. “It’s never one person’s job to create an inclusive environment. We all need to take part in that, and it is important for faculty, staff and students who are underrepresented to have that advocate, to have that voice, to have that space and that office to go to and vent and express fears and concerns and worries.”

Delgado highlighted the importance of the inclusion aspect of the role, as well.

“Trinity’s students, faculty and staff are diverse in many ways; however, one can have diversity and not inclusion or equity. The person in this position will be involved in both student and faculty diversity but also in promoting inclusion and equitable opportunities for people with diverse lived experiences,” Delgado said.

Thompson was sure to differentiate the role of the new director from that of the Admissions office when it comes to overall diversity on campus.

“Admissions is the one recruiting out students, so this person’s focus is going to be on that inclusion piece, first identifying and understanding the community in terms of its needs and where we are at so that inclusion piece can really be unique and specific to Trinity,” Thompson said.

Because the future director will be working closely with Trinity students, two students, seniors Haile Duplantier and Cristian Vargas, were included on the search committee, attending meetings and Skype interviews and influencing the selection process. Students have also been encouraged to watch the finalists’ presentations and fill out feedback forms.

“As student members, we have as much say as anyone else in determining which candidates we would like to interview,” Vargas said. “From a pool of about 90 total applicants, we narrow down a smaller list of about 12 candidates, and from there we decided on four candidates to come to campus. Our job also involves recruiting other students to participate in lunches with all four of the candidates who we bring to campus and encouraging students to attend their presentations.”

Vargas also spoke to the importance of the directorship as a step forward for Trinity’s administration overall.

“The subsequent authority and monetary power that comes along with the position also opens up new avenues for student programming, faculty training and university-wide initiatives to support and celebrate underrepresented students at Trinity,” Vargas said. “Diversity initiatives have typically been student led in past years with few exceptions, so the creation of the position shows that the administration is willing to put its money where its mouth is, so to speak.”

Duplantier spoke about her hopes for what the position will bring to campus.

“I think that it is important to have this position because it will serve as an outlet and resource for students. I also think that it will hold the university accountable when it comes to being inclusive of all students, staff and faculty,” Duplantier said. “I think that during my time here I definitely could have benefited from having someone in this role. To have someone whose sole mission is to focus on diversity and inclusion is very powerful, and I think that this will be transformative for Trinity.”

Vargas would like to encourage Trinity students to participate in the remainder of the selection process.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have student feedback on candidate presentations,” Vargas said. “Not only are they all fantastic candidates worth watching, but the individual who ends up filling this role will have a vast amount of influence in shaping the campus climate at Trinity for years to come, so it is important for students to have a voice in shaping this situation.”

The final two candidates present on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 11 a.m. in Northrup Hall room 318, and Thursday, Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. in Chapman Hall room 100.