Members of the search committee for this university’s next chief diversity officer met in Stamp Student Union Wednesday night to discuss ideal qualities in a candidate.
The listening session attracted three students, including two representatives of the Graduate Student Government.
Interim Chief Diversity Officer Cynthia Edmunds attended the listening session, as well as the search committee’s co-chairs — Warren Kelley, assistant vice president for student affairs, and Roger Worthington, a professor and chair of the counseling, higher education and special education department.
Committee members Bill Cohen, associate provost and dean for undergraduate studies and Stephen Thomas, professor in the health services administration department and director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity, also attended the public session.
Edmunds said she was disappointed in the low attendance, but added that she liked being able to hear their opinions.
“We’ve not done searches this way before, and it’s evidence of the institution’s commitment to this position,” Edmunds said. “It’s evidence of how important this position is to the entire campus.”
During the session, students took turns discussing matters they thought would be important for the chief diversity officer. Among the topics discussed were increased awareness of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and addressing the needs of international students and students with disabilities. The new officer should make more efforts to tell students about the diversity office, said Rianna Murray, vice president of student affairs for the Graduate Student Government.
GSG President Stephanie Cork said she hopes the Office of Diversity and Inclusion can make international students feel more included at this university. Students with disabilities need more recognition, she added.
“There’s a huge issue with our international student population right now and how they feel excluded from their community,” Cork said. “There doesn’t seem to be a coherent effort to integrate them more.”
The chief diversity officer’s role is to head this university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and support efforts to achieve goals as outlined in this university’s diversity strategic plan, as well as create initiatives to promote inclusiveness on the campus, among other responsibilities.
The former chief diversity officer, Kumea Shorter-Gooden, resigned in January.
Murray said students felt comfortable with Shorter-Gooden, and it’s important for an officer to “meet students at their level.”
“Last year, when we had a series of police shootings, Dr. Kumea organized very quickly this event where we could all come together and express how we feel,” said Murray, a toxicology and environmental health doctoral student. “She was very open during that session.”
Dana Rodriguez, a junior finance and government and politics major, called the listening session “unprecedented” and commended the search committee for its outreach to students.
Rodriguez, the Residence Hall Association’s student groups and organization liaison, said the chief diversity officer should be able connect students to resources and organizations on the campus to help make them feel included.
“They should be willing to work with people,” Rodriguez said. “Just as much as their position is about diversity, they should be willing to work with people from all types of backgrounds and people from all types [of] organizations.”
Murray said she appreciated the opportunity for students to voice their input on the position.
“It’s great that they’re reaching out to students to get our perspective, because this is such an important position,” Murray said.
The search committee will hold another listening session in Stamp’s Grand Ballroom on Thursday at noon. Interviews are scheduled for the position on May 1 and May 2, Kelley said.