Hiring process for DIO Director near completion

Photo+credit%3A+Nadia+Crawford

Photo credit: Nadia Crawford

Photos provided by Trinity University.

Since Alli Roman, former director of Diversity and Inclusion, announced her resignation in January of this year, a university search committee has been seeking qualified and passionate candidates to fill her role. Formed in the spring of 2020, the committee of Trinity administrators, faculty and student representatives evaluated candidates with the hope of hiring an individual to take on the role of Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion.

The committee is co-chaired by Esther Kim, assistant director of Student Programs, and Michael Soto, vice president of Academic Affairs. According to Kim, the role of Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion involves fostering relationships with students and organizing programs to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.

“The main focus of this director will be students. Student groups, student programs and supporting all our cultural groups and religious groups in partnership with our chapel. Thinking about how we provide relationships and collaborations with our city, since that is one of our main focuses as an institution as well,” said Kim.

Soto explained that candidates for the role participated in multiple rounds of interviews, as well as meetings with students, administrators and staff.

“We started with several dozen applications and we evaluated those applications using a rubric that is based on the job requirements. Some of those are educational — we require at least a Master’s degree in a field related to diversity, equity and inclusion work. It is partly based on experience, and partly based on their ability and track record to come in, hit the ground running, and be able to support students successfully. Using that rubric, we narrowed down the field to 10 semifinalists. The search committee interviewed each of the 10 semifinalists online using Zoom. From that field of 10 we narrowed it down to three finalists,” said Soto. “Just last week we concluded a series of interviews with each of those three finalists.”

Senior Jaelen Harris, who serves as president of Student Government Association and a member of the search committee, stated that he is looking for a candidate with a clear vision for Trinity’s future in terms of expanding diversity, equity and inclusion work.

“For me, it is definitely the experience in doing this work. It’s not easy and it can be sensitive. The qualities I’m looking for is definitely someone who will fight for student interests, who will empower students concerning issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. One of the main things is ensuring that they have a vision for our university and what milestones they would like to hit,” Harris said.

Student involvement played a key role in the hiring process, as all students were given the opportunity to meet with the three finalists and view their prepared presentations. Afterward, students were able to give feedback on the candidates, as well as voice any concerns they may have had about the process.

“All students were invited to the campus presentation. That way we can get a sense from the current student perspective, what are some of the concerns? What are some things we are doing well or need to improve upon?,” Kim said. “As part of the search committee, we have two student representatives: Jaelen Harris who is a senior and president of SGA, and Thomás Peña who is a junior, part of the Latinx leadership class and president of the TULA association. It is really important to us to have student voices who have been on this campus for multiple years and seen the changes over time and are part of key leadership organizations on campus.”

Harris also noted that he and fellow representative Peña took part in a meeting with students following the candidates’ presentations.

“We took more of a listening role — my main focus is knowing I’m just one of two students in that room, but I speak for many. I know that the work of the person that’s going to be in this role, they are going to be working beyond what I will see as a senior. So, I know it is important to have these younger voices to gather an accurate picture of what students want to see,” Harris said.

The focus on student involvement led the committee to modify the title of the role from ‘Director of Diversity and Inclusion’ to the ‘Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion.’ Kim noted that this change is one of many over the past few years.

“Previously this role was a courtier-level in our Office of Student Involvement,” Kim said. “Due to some significant changes within the institution, this position developed into the Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and developed a new physical space at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.”

According to Soto, the search committee will present a report to Sheryl Tynes, vice president for Student Life, who will make the final hiring decision.

“Our report is not going to say ‘You should hire candidate A, B or C. Rather we are going to provide a report that says ‘these are the qualifications of A, B and C, these are the strengths and opportunities all three candidates would bring to campus, these are the concerns we would have about any one of these candidates performing certain aspects of the job.’ And with this information, Dr. Tynes will make her decision,” said Soto.

Soto went on to state that the search committee hopes the new director will begin as soon as possible, perhaps as early as next month.

“We told each of the finalists that we hope to get this person in our Diversity and Inclusion Office as quickly as possible, ” Soto said. “I would love to see someone in the Diversity and Inclusion Office as early as next month.”

Harris stated that he, like many students, is concerned about the funding and resources allocated for diversity and inclusion work on campus.

“Looking at a director position, I do believe that they should be supported with a full staff around them to be able to function and do their jobs well. I am on the side of those students who say there should be more support behind this role.”

Soto explained that these changes may take place in the near future as Danny Anderson, president of Trinity University, continues to review the recommendations laid out by the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, which were sent to his office last week.

“I think a major change lies partly outside of this role but will overlap directly with the work that is performed by the new director. And that involves the recommendations delivered to President Anderson last week by the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. Now Dr. Anderson’s endorsement of those recommendations will directly impact the work that the new director performs,” Soto said.