Strengthening Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Organizational Structures
Grinnell College has long identified a diverse community as one of its core values. But it is not enough simply to believe a value is intrinsic; it must be lived every day. We have committed to prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as one of our five strategic principles because we know that there is transformative work to be done if the lived experiences of students, faculty, and staff are to meet our goals and truly reflect our institutional values. I write to you today to share information about new and ongoing steps we are taking to strengthen our organizational structures so that we are better prepared to support implementation of strategic DEI opportunities now and in the future.
Last year we changed the role of the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) from an appointed, three-year, faculty position to undertake a national search for a CDO whose responsibilities would be institution-wide with connections to the community. With the announcement last June that Schvalla Rivera would serve as Grinnell’s Chief Diversity Officer, Associate Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, and Senior Advisor to the President at the College, we envisioned not only an expanded leadership role but also new opportunities to raise the visibility of DEI endeavors and better coordinate that work across the institution.
We are now well positioned to centralize coordination of crucial DEI endeavors while maintaining the embedded placement of most of the 16 individuals whose professional responsibilities are primarily focused on DEI work in divisions throughout the institution. Going forward, the CDO will report directly to the president. We have established a DEI cabinet with representatives from student affairs, staff, and faculty who will report or co-report to the CDO. In addition, the CDO will continue to coordinate the work of the DEI professionals who remain in their embedded positions. The new DEI cabinet positions, and the individuals who will fill those roles, are:
- Assistant CDO for Intercultural Student Life – Vrinda Varia
- Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – Jin Feng
- Associate CDO for Staff – Marc Reed
My thanks to Schvalla for her leadership, to each of her cabinet members, and to all of our dedicated DEI staff members for the expertise, energy, and commitment they bring to this new organizational structure. I am grateful for the partnership of Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Human Resources in the changes and to the new partnerships and possibilities that this structure will foster. My thanks also to Lakesia Johnson for her past leadership as CDO and for her significant and enduring work with DEI at Grinnell College, and to all of you for your collaborations and commitment to continue to move policy and practice forward within DEI objectives and initiatives.
Ultimately, I believe structure creates legibility for the priorities of the College. Even so, we know our diversity, equity, and inclusion work cannot be relegated to one office, one person, or one constituency. It must be infused in all of our work, and that work must be continuous and sustained throughout the divisions of the College. Together we can commit to the thriving of learning and working experiences at the College, as we work for an ever more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Grinnell.
My gratitude to each of you for everything you do to elevate and strengthen our lived core values.
Anne F. Harris