In partnership with search firm Isaacson, Miller, the University has assembled a search committee to fill the position of Vice President of Equity and Inclusion. Alison Williams, who previously held the position, left the University in October 2022. The new employee will also serve as the University’s Title IX officer, as Williams did prior to her departure.
“We are looking for a strategic leader with the skills and experience to formalize and foster an on-going culture of diversity, equity and inclusion, accessibility, and belonging within the campus community,”Assistant Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator Debbie Colucci wrote in an email to The Argus. “[We are also looking for] someone who will inspire and lead the Wesleyan community toward a shared vision of an institution that is welcoming, inclusive, and respectful and which celebrates inclusivity as a foundation for institutional excellence.”
Colucci and Dean for Academic Equity, Inclusion and Success April Ruiz will serve as Interim Vice Presidents of Equity and Inclusion until the search committee has chosen a candidate to fill the role.
The search committee includes Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Nicole Stanton, who is serving as committee chair, in addition to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Engagement Initiatives Intern Dia Fortenberry, Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences Martha Gilmore, Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Planning Anne Laskowski, Director of Talent Acquisition and Employment Anjali Tamhankar, and Vice President for Communications Renell Wynn. Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley and various representatives from the Office of Equity and Inclusion will also assist with the search.
Manager of Media and Public Relations Steven Scarpa also emphasized the inclusion of student voices.
“There will be two student representatives on the search committee,” Scarpa wrote in an email to the Argus. “Provost Stanton is working with the Wesleyan Student Assembly to identify those people.”
To date, Isaacson, Miller has held several “scoping meetings” attended by various campus constituents. The University is hoping to hire a candidate who demonstrates passion to promote initiatives that foster a more inclusive and equitable environment on campus and can continue Wesleyan’s celebration of diversity. The new hire should strive to make institutional changes to benefit staff, faculty, and students. In the past, the Vice President of Equity and Inclusion has been involved in the First Things First program, the Diversity Summit, and overall activism on campus and in the general Middletown area.
As part of the search process, the committee also hosted forums open to the entire University community to encourage all stakeholders to participate. In a campus-wide email, Stanton invited all staff and students to a visioning meeting held on Zoom on Feb. 1, 2023. Stanton encouraged those who could not join the meeting live to email her directly. The email also included questions about topics the search firm planned to discuss during the meeting, including the opportunities and challenges facing the next Vice President of Equity and Inclusion, experiences and characteristics of an ideal candidate, and ways to measure the new employee’s success.
Scarpa reiterated the committee’s dedication to making student voices heard throughout the process.
“Provost Stanton would like to engage as many students as possible in the process,” Scarpa wrote. “She hopes that students will reach out to her via email with any questions and to see how they might get involved.”
Scarpa also elaborated on the proposed timeline of the search.
“Since the position has not yet been posted, we don’t have any candidates yet,” Scarpa wrote. “Ideally a new person would be in place on July 1[, 2023], but the University will keep the position open for as long as it takes to find the right candidate.”
On Feb. 13, the search committee held a “kick-off” meeting with Isaacson, Miller to further specify their search criteria. Whaley estimates that the team will begin reviewing promising candidates in mid- to late March. The list will remain confidential until candidates are invited to campus later this spring for in-person interviews.
Whaley expressed his optimism about finding the ideal candidate.
“As you know, this is a critical position and the expectations are varied,” Whaley wrote. “I’m enthusiastic about the process and am confident that the dedicated team working on the search will find some amazing candidates who will further our collective work in making Wes a more equitable institution.”
Carolyn Neugarten can be reached at email@example.com.