The next step toward a possibly more diverse University of Wyoming campus was taken Friday with the creation of a new diversity assistant.
A passage was added to UW Regulation 1-1 allowing the president to have “a Special Assistant for Diversity.”
According to the new regulation, the assistant “shall, at the direction of the President and in collaboration with the other principal administrative officers of the university, lead the development and implementation of the University diversity plan.”
While a position was created, it is open, UW President Dick McGinity said.
“There will be, coming along the next month or so, the formation of a search committee,” he said. “I’ll be soliciting input for members of a search committee to then begin a search for that position. At the same time, I’ll be soliciting input for members of the Diversity Strategic Planning Committee, and that will be assembled also over the next month or so.”
The end goal is creation and implementation of a diversity plan, the details of which will be hammered out once the Planning Committee is filled. Nothing will be finalized until incoming President Laurie Nichols takes office May 16.
“We’ll be getting President Appointee Laurie Nichols’ input along the way,” McGinity said.
Discussions about a diversity plan have been ongoing for a year-and-a-half, and now is the time to move forward, Vice President for Academic Affairs David Jones said.
“We are at a point where it is apparent for us to move forward with a diversity plan and to bring on this position, because it touches many layers of this university,” he said. “It requires someone who is dedicated to their time and efforts to addressing the overall culture on campus and really just changing, systemically, how we function as a university with regard to recruiting and retaining faculty, students and staff.”
Introducing students to a diverse campus is important for many reasons, including success in the workplace after graduation, McGinity said.
“I’ve met with almost every student interest group over the last several months and also a number of faculty who are interested in the subject or advising students,” he said. “But, in my mind, the way to think about the necessity and benefit of this effort is that we have a student body that is relatively homogeneous, racially and culturally.
“Many of those people are extraordinarily bright with all kinds of potential, but they have not been exposed to as much of the diversity of the world, at least those coming from Wyoming,” McGinity continued. “I don’t mean that critically — I love Wyoming — but for them to succeed in their working lives ahead, they need to be used to working with people from many, many different kinds of backgrounds.”
Trustee Dave Bostrom wanted to ensure the international programs offered at UW are included in the discussions.
“I don’t want to limit our thinking about diversity to what we’re doing on this campus,” he said. “The involvement … of international programs and bringing in international students and, more importantly to me, sending people to other countries and other cultures to gain an appreciation is part of diversity.”
McGinity agreed, saying they are both an important part of increasing diversity.
“We can’t be exclusive one way or another, but I think we can address those issues in different ways,” he said.