Trinity establishes New Advisor for Inclusive Excellence

Juan Sepulveda takes on advising role for TU Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council

As part of their work to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, Trinity has created a new staff position called the Special Advisor for Inclusive Excellence. As of 2022, Juan Sepulveda has taken on the interim position until Trinity’s next president finds someone permanent for the role. Figuring out the job duties is still a work in progress, which is being led by Sepulveda.

“President Anderson, as he was announcing he was retiring […] asked me if I would step in for this interim year, knowing we’re in transition with the new president to kind of get things moving and then to figure out what we really want it to be,” Sepulveda said.

This job was created by a special task force chosen by Trinity President Danny Anderson. Known as the “Trinity University Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council,” these individuals were tasked with identifying the diversity and inclusion work that is currently underway and the work that still needs to be done.

Juan Sepulveda was chosen specifically for this role because of his previous experience working in diversity, equity and inclusion positions at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Additionally, he has created many cooperative initiatives on campus since his arrival, four years ago.

“I had started a Latinx leadership class, and that was one of my ideas around diversity and inclusion. And in this case, it was really around, what if there are some students that don’t feel 100% like they belong here, they’re new students, they’re first-gen, and what can we do to help them? What can we do to make them really feel like this is their place?” Sepulveda said. “And so we created this community-building class to do that.”

As the interim Special Advisor for Inclusive Excellence, Sepulveda is figuring out ways to use this role to maximize inclusivity efforts at the university, while looking at the more technical side of bringing in a new position.

“There’s a lot of action pieces that we’re getting moving right now but then the question is moving forward, what does the infrastructure look like? What is the office? What is the budget?” Sepulveda said.

Danny Anderson and Juan Sepulveda have been researching similar roles at other universities. They called schools to ask questions about efficiency within the role and what the schools would do differently.

“One of the real concerns I have is, you can create positions and they will often have no impact. So the real question is: what is an approach, what is a structure that will really help Trinity have a genuine impact so that we are ensuring students, faculty and staff really have that experience of inclusion and belonging?” said Anderson.

One of the most important facets of the Special Advisor for Inclusive Excellence is the way the role interacts with the community. To hear the voices of Trinity and the broader San Antonio community, Anderson established an advisory council made up of 70 students, faculty and staff.
“Their job is to give us feedback and also, some of them wanted to do projects themselves. Some of them are thinking about how to take their current work and infuse it with inclusive excellence pieces,” Sepulveda said.

Though there is a lot involved in the University expanding its diversity and inclusion initiatives, Anderson stresses the importance of having a leader look over all of the different parts of the campus community. This will likely fall to the Special Advisor for Inclusive Excellence.

“One of the things I hope this role will do is coordinate the variety of things that are underway to change the culture of Trinity, and that means there will be people in some of the roles doing the work, and that means the cabinet position empowers them, enables them, making sure that we’re working effectively across different areas …” Sepulveda said. “It’s important to have someone who sees the bigger picture because they can help connect the dots.”

Sepulveda believes the role can only be effective if it is embraced on every level, including in administration, the person in the position and others on campus. The next step in Trinity’s plan is allowing the council and Sepulveda to pitch ideas together for the productivity of diversity initiatives on campus.
“So we’re going to do the planning, all three levels moving forward when the permanent person is on but for right now, just activate the folks … think about what we can actually do to take some action together. That’s the stage we’re at next,” Sepulveda said.