Colleen Hammond | Editor-in-chief
September 2, 2021
There’s a new seat at Duquesne’s administrative table as the search for the university’s first Chief Diversity Officer gets underway.
On July 29, President Ken Gormley announced the creation of the new position in an email addressed to the entire Duquesne community.
“The creation of this position reflects our collective commitment to bolstering our inclusive practices,” Gormley said.
This announcement came just days after the one year anniversary of Duquesne’s Black Student Union (BSU) — in conjunction with nearly a dozen other minority student organizations — issuing “a series of action plans designed to enhance and establish a more diverse and inclusive atmosphere for all students, more specifically the Black students, at Duquesne University.”
Gormley specified that this new hire will serve as a member of his cabinet and will work to further Duquesne’s efforts for a more diverse and inclusive campus.
“We acknowledge that an increasingly diverse and talented workforce and campus community are crucial to advancing our university in the years and decades ahead,” Vice President of Marketing and Communications Gabe Welsch said.
In addition to opening the application pool, Gormley also announced the selection committee, led by Senior Vice President of Civic Engagement and External Relations Bill Generett; Mary Ellen Solomon, chief of staff and associate vice president; and Welsch.
Among the 12 other members of the selection committee are Anthony Kane, director of diversity and inclusion; the Rev. Bill Christy, university chaplain; and Nicola Henry-Taylor, director of diversity at Duquesne’s Law School and Common Pleas Court hopeful.
“Duquesne intends to hire a person with the skills, knowledge and experience to bring people together in shared actions to make the university inclusive for all who choose to work or pursue their educational goals here,” Welsch said.
Both Welsch and Gormley stressed the importance of this role attracting highly qualified individuals with a strong commitment to matters of diversity. The official job posting recommends a minimum of six years of experience in higher education (or a related field) with a focus on coaching, teaching and developing diversity and inclusion initiatives and programming.
The job posting also asks that qualified applicants be “results oriented,” though it is unclear in the description what results look like in this role.
One of the major requests in BSU’s list of demands included that university administration create an anonymous system for reporting acts of racism and discrimination on campus. While this type of request would likely be overseen by the new Chief Diversity Officer, it is unclear what role student minority organizations will play in the day-to-day work of this new position.
The creation of this role is just the latest in what Gormley and Welsch call the university’s “Strategic Plan: Re-Imagining Duquesne’s Spiritan Legacy for a New Era.”
Last updated in February 2020, this plan details how Duquesne intends to become “the region’s flagship institution for community engagement.”
In the entirety of this 11-page report, the word diversity is only mentioned three times, once in reference to Duquesne’s hiring practices and twice in regard to campus culture and student recruitment.
Still, much headway on the issues of diversity and inclusion have been made across campus — beyond the creation of this new cabinet position.
During the spring 2021 semester, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion underwent a rebranding as Duquesne’s new Center for Excellence in Diversity and Student Inclusion. This change came with a fresh, fully renovated office located in room 302 of the Student Union.
“It was important for us to be in a spot where students could be with us and engage with us,” Kane told The Duke back in April. As the center continues to flourish in its new home, Welsch said the application process for the Chief Diversity Officer has already begun — with several qualified applicants submitting their names for consideration.
“We are optimistic that a highly-qualified individual will be selected for this position during the fall semester, so that we will be able to move forward expeditiously with this exciting new appointment,” Welsch said.