On Oct. 15, President Michael Roth sent an all-campus email announcing the hiring of Antonio Farias to fill the position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). Farias will begin serving as the CDO on Nov. 4.
Since 2005, Farias has held the position of Chief Diversity Officer at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. He has also previously been employed at Mercy College, Hunter College, and Colgate University.
Dean of the Social Sciences, Director of Global Initiatives, and Andrews Professor of Economics Joyce Jacobsen explained the formation of the search committee.
“[Vice President for Finance and Administration] John Meerts and I were asked to co-chair the selection committee, the committee that ran the search for the CDO position,” Jacobsen said. “Since we worked mainly in the summer, we decided not to go with a large committee since it would be difficult to get people to come to campus a couple times.”
Jacobsen outlined the expectations for the new CDO and described the role that Farias will fill on campus.
“The main job of the Chief Diversity Officer is really to pay attention to diversity in every aspect of the community,” Jacobsen said. “So of course, with the admissions process and who applies and who is accepted, and again with faculty representations, and also with staff, and also thinking about if we are creating a tolerant environment on campus. He really becomes the ear to the ground on campus, seeing where the issues are on campus, trying to some degree to address them or diffuse them before they can go out of control.”
Jacobsen stressed the importance of input from students, faculty, and staff in the selection process.
“We also asked the community for input at a very early stage when we were still working up the job description,” she said. “So we had a Google Doc sheet that people could enter information into and then we looked at that. We didn’t get too many responses at that point, but certainly got a few that we looked at.”
The search committee also set up an email address in order to collect additional community input on the candidates. Christian Hosam ’15 led a student committee that met with and reviewed candidates.
“We got at least 50 comments [sent to the search committee email], in the 40 to 50 range at least, from faculty and staff,” Jacobsen said. “Christian ran a parallel student process where he basically got a much larger committee of students who were mostly able to meet with all four candidates and they would have a lunch with each candidate. He gathered them together afterwards and they had a long discussion and came up with their own rankings.”
Hosam explained his involvement with the search committee and with the student sub-committee. The students on the sub-committee were Glenn Cantave ’15, Olivia Chavez ’15, Kate Cullen ’16, Zaida Garcia ’15, Nicole Okai ’14, Alton Wang ’16, and LaNell Williams ’15.
“I was on the search committee from the summer,” Hosam said. “I was the only student on the initial search committee, so I was there from the beginning. I did get the chance to call a student subcommittee that [reviewed] the four finalists.”
On a visit to campus on Friday, Oct. 18, Farias explained how his experiences at the Coast Guard Academy will aid him to similarly transform Wesleyan’s social climate.
“I believe I was able to shape policies, procedures, [and] shape the culture and the climate at [the Academy] to make it more inclusive,” Farias said. “It’s not just because of me, because no one individual can shape the culture like that; it’s more about creating the capacity for change and making people believe that change is possible.”
Farias described his immediate goals for his new position.
“[I want to] get immersed as quickly as possible,” Farias said. “I have a good friend who used to say, ‘You have to marinate.’ You have to marinate in the culture before you can do anything. It would be arrogant for me to say that I’m coming to Wesleyan to [implement] my vision, because I don’t know what the Wesleyan vision is yet.”
Having met with each of the final four candidates, Hosam lauded Farias’ transparency and ability to address difficult issues.
“I think he brings a different approach than what we’ve seen before,” Hosam said. “I think he is very transparent, like he said, he’s going to take some time to figure out the lay of the land. I also think that he’s not going to be afraid to challenge people, which is going to be good. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays with faculty, staff, and students. He’ll…bring some discussions to the forefront that haven’t been had recently.”
Hosam discussed Farias’ past work and the attributes he is likely to bring to campus.
“He has a passion for STEM fields, so I know that he cares about particularly minorities in the sciences,” Hosam said. “He’s a previous McNair program director, so I’m excited to see if he continues this work with [things like] getting women and minorities involved in the science and technology fields.”
Farias described his excitement for his new position on campus.
“Wesleyan is like coming home,” Farias said. “Liberal arts, that was my background. My undergrad degree was [comparative literature], so the liberal arts as a mission [I believe] is really important….I’ve been entrusted with the stewardship of this office, and with being a catalyst. You’re all doing this already—diversity is here. That’s not the problem. The problem is…, ‘How do you activate and actualize inclusion?’”