Mearns Creates Position of Senior Advisor to the President for Inclusive Excellence

President Mearns announced the creation of the position of Senior Advisor to the President for Inclusive Excellence to fulfill a major recommendation of NKU’s diversity plan.

The university-wide diversity plan, developed by the Campus Diversity Plan Task Force in 2011 under President Votruba, recommended that an individual be hired with the sole responsibility of supporting and maintaining the University’s diversity efforts.

Now, under President Mearns, a search committee will be formed to find potential candidates in hopes of filling the position by the end of the 2013-14 academic year.

“It will take somebody not with just the specific experience that is described in the job description, but I think it will take somebody who is a good leader, somebody who has the capacity to listen thoughtfully to different views, to foster constructive conversations about issues that sometimes make some people uncomfortable,” Mearns said. “So, it will require a special person in terms of leadership and collaboration skills.”

The senior advisor will hold several responsibilities, according to an e-mail sent to NKU faculty by Mearns regarding the new position. Duties of the new position include attending meetings of the Dean’s Council, the Student Affairs Senior Leadership Team, and the Administration and Finance Senior Leadership Team as well as chairing the President’s Campus Climate Team in guiding the further implementation of the diversity plan.

The email explains that the senior advisor also “will explore innovative opportunities to infuse diversity and inclusion efforts across campus and actively pursue external funds to support these initiatives.”

The Senior Advisor will also work closely with Human Resources and its office of Diversity and Employee Relations in selecting diverse candidates for future positions at NKU in accordance with affirmative action policy.

Sue Ott Rowlands, the new Vice President of Academic Affair and Provost, will also work with the new Senior Advisor to tackle diversity issues within recruitment, hiring and retention of faculty, staff and administrators.

In addition, the Senior Advisor will work with Dr. Peter Gitau, Vice President of Student Affairs, in supporting curricular and co-curricular activities within the Offices for African American, Latino, LGBTQ, Veterans, Disability Services and other student groups.

The Senior Advisor will also work with a broad range of other departments, including Legal Counsel, Planning, Policy and Budget, University Advancement, Faculty Senate, Staff Congress, Student Government Association, General Education, The Center for Innovation and Technology in Education, Council of Deans and Council of Chairs.

Dr. Peter Gitau said he has played a large part in developing the new position of Senior Advisor.

“I think [the position] is going to help us ensure that the issue of diversity and inclusive excellence is an institutional issue that is not localized just in those particular offices,” Gitau said. “It becomes a bigger discussion beyond, Let’s provide services for African American students or Latino students. “

“I think we will have a more enriched campus culture, which is informed by all our experiences,” Gitau said. “I think it going to help us start talking and engaging more and learning from each other, you know, better than we are doing now. I think it should help some groups come into be part of the conversation that has not happened before.”

Leo Calderon, Director of Latino Student Affairs, believes the new Senior Advisor will be a tremendous advocate for students within his office.

“I think it’s a great position. We need to look at what other ways we can overall improve. I expect the new Senior Advisor to find out what we do here, how they can collaborate with us and ensure success for all. We want our students to be able to compete in a global workforce.”

Mearns agrees that the position is needed for increasingly connected world.

“Our responsibility in education, in one respect, is to prepare students for the world that awaits them after they graduate,” Mearns said. “This is a world, not just a region, but a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected. I think in order to adequately prepare students for that world, that we have to expose them to people of different perspectives, different backgrounds and different cultures. I see it as a fundamental part of the core educational experience for students.”