Utah State University will begin a search in October to fill the inaugural position of vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.
USU President Noelle E. Cockett recently approved creation of the new vice president position and two additional positions to support USU’s inclusion goals across the institution. These positions will include education, programming, communications and outreach. The new vice president will join the USU executive team in 2022.
“Over the years, there has been an effort to recruit student, staff and faculty populations that mirror the state’s growing diversity,” said President Cockett. “But it is not enough to say we want diversity on our campuses. We must create an inclusive environment that reflects and supports that intention.”
President Cockett said the new cabinet-level position will guide USU’s outreach, oversight and education in this area “to ensure Utah State is a place where all people feel they belong and can thrive.”
This announcement follows the release last month of results from USU’s diversity and inclusion survey in 2019. The survey found that students with an underrepresented identity status reported a lower sense of belonging on campus. In addition, students with a disability, LGBTQIA+ students, students of color and international students reported feeling significantly less safe in the classroom and found USU to be less welcoming. Survey results are at www.diversity.usu.edu.
“Our mission as a land-grant institution under the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act is to expand postsecondary opportunities to individuals typically excluded from higher education,” said President Cockett.
USU has a strong track record in successfully meeting this mission. Washington Monthly ranked Utah State University at No. 10 nationally in 2020 for contributions to the public good. Out of all national four-year universities, Utah State ranked No. 4 in recruiting and graduating first-generation and low-income students (social mobility).
Utah’s population is also becoming increasingly diverse. By 2065, Utah’s college-age population is projected to be 40% Hispanic. President Cockett said USU takes seriously its obligation to prepare all students to be successful in a diverse workforce and to be effective leaders in local and global corporations and organizations.
Creating a cabinet-level position to guide diversity, equity and inclusion efforts was a top recommendation from the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force created by President Cockett in spring 2019. Final recommendations from the task force will be released in the coming month and provide a framework for the new vice president.
Since becoming president in January 2017, Cockett has prioritized diversity and inclusion and led USU in efforts to create the Latinx Cultural Center; develop the annual Inclusive Excellence Symposium; expand staffing, funds and gathering space for the USU Inclusion Center; create the Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research; provide additional space and resources to the Veterans Resource Center; double the staffing of the Office of Equity, facilitate a new community-campus partnership in the annual Community Diversity Dinner; and expand the impact of the Aggies Think Care Act Initiative.
In 2020, the Utah Women & Leadership Project moved to USU, and Susan Madsen was hired as the inaugural Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, with a segment of her role designated for working with Extension. The Utah Women & Leadership Project works to strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women.