It is my pleasure to announce Southern Utah University has hired its first Chief Diversity Officer; her name is Dr. Schvalla Rivera. Dr. Rivera comes to us with a wide range of experience working with students, faculty, and staff. A separate press release will be sent out introducing her to you. She will begin working with us next month and will report to me as a member of the President’s Council.
Over the past several years we have all put forth a considerable effort to help SUU become more inclusive. Nevertheless, I sadly continue to hear reports from students who face racism, prejudice, and marginalization on our campus. I’m inspired by our students and employees who push forward hoping for a brighter future, while continuing to face challenges of the past. Sometimes the disagreeable behavior is completely unintentional on our part while other times it is quite flagrant. I am confident the efforts of our new Chief Diversity Officer, along with the Diversity and Inclusion Center, CAST, ALLIES, CAPS, International Affairs, and so many of you will help as we strive to become increasingly inclusive and exhibit more charity for all.
While we have faculty and staff members from various countries of the world and from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, it is my understanding that we currently have no African American faculty members, no Native American faculty members, and only one Latino faculty members outside of those who teach languages. At the same time our students of color have grown to more than 10% of our student body as a whole.
Improving diversity and inclusion promotes social justice and enriches all our lives with increased knowledge and respect for people and cultures that might be new to us. I can say without question that my life is more fulfilled and enriched by the friendships I have made with people at this university and around the world.
In addition, there is a strong body of research that demonstrates how diverse teams are smarter and more successful than homogenous teams. I have included two of many articles that describe the positive outcomes of more diverse teams below. We simply perform better when working with people of different backgrounds and persuasions. This includes our university councils, committees, departments, and classrooms. Please join me in my effort to be more inclusive. This requires more than the commitment of a good heart. It requires an effort to learn how our words and behaviors affect others.
As you help fill vacant faculty and staff positions please work with our new Chief Diversity Officer to find ways to broaden applicant pools and seek highly qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds. Remember, the diversity we are trying to advance among our ranks and in leadership includes racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender, age, political affiliation, and more. Each of us and the university as a whole will be better as a result.
You have no doubt heard the saying, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” May I suggest inclusion is more than giving others the opportunity to dance? It is also about a better dance.