Search begins to fill new leadership position

Jacob Waring — Online Editor 

Southern has begun a search for Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and held a forum that enabled students to give their input, pose questions and become part of the process that will eventually find the person to fulfill the role.

This new senior leadership position will report to the president of the university and provide oversight for the Office of Diversity and Equity according to an email sent out to students by the office of Integrated Communications and Marketing.

Executive search consultant Kim R. Bobby, who is affiliated with AGB Search, will be aiding the university in the process. According to Bobby, AGB Search is an, “Executive search firm that focuses exclusively on higher education and helping institutions find the best leaders to lead the institutions.”

Bobby said she wanted input from students in order to create a profile of the ideal candidate that would be the best fit for the position.

She posed three questions to students: What are some of the qualifications this individual should have? What are some of the challenges this individual will face? What are some of the top priorities for this individual?

Psychology major Racheal Harea, a graduate student, said the future Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion should be someone who has respect for people of various religious beliefs.

“They should at least have a working respect for the fact that people believe in higher powers in different ways, and people want security in their own private way to not be just about their beliefs either interrogated or infringed upon,” Hera said.

Interdisciplinary Studies major Chelsey Cerrato, a senior, said one of the challenges someone could face in the vice president position is in allowing themselves to be a direct source of conflict resolution rather than navigating through different people to find a resolution.

“Just kind of going straight to the person who’s in charge is, they’re trying to, like, navigate through different people just because that’s what we’re comfortable with,” said Cerrato.

A major priority many students agreed on was the idea of social justice. As some students have said incidents in the past that have occurred such as a professor saying the “N-word” or other major incidents that have left
some feeling there was no major or clear resolution. Some students have said they hope Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion would remedy that concern.

Tracy Tyree, vice president for Student Affairs, laid out the process for the students in terms of how someone will be selected for the role. She said President Joe Bertolino is spearheading the search and that they will do a national call for applications which the university will vet. The university, she said, will narrow the pool down to 10 or so candidates who will have off-site interviews.

A smaller pool from that 10 will come and be interviewed by members of the search committee.

Tyree said, once it is narrowed down to three to four individuals, then the university will bring them to the campus in March for campus interviews. The final stage of this process is allowing the Southern community a chance to speak, interact and participate in open forums to aid in the final vetting process.

“There will be open forums just like this, processes in which students, faculty, staff can come and meet the candidates and provide input as to who the next vice president will be,” Tyree said. The student representative on the search committee is sociology major Tatyana Andre, a senior, who said that this entire process is critical.

“It’s very, very valuable to have these conversations” said Andre, “because this is for us; it’s for the student body, and all of our voices do matter.”

Photo credit: Jacob Waring

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