by Dr. Denise O'Neil Green | January 29, 2013 10:00 AM
In 2012, I was named the inaugural Assistant Vice President/Vice Provost of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for Ryerson University, which is located in Toronto, Ontario. As such, my mandate is to provide leadership, advocacy, and coordination for the institution such that all members of our Ryerson community have the opportunity to learn, work, and live in an inclusive environment that enables them to strive for excellence and reach their potential.
When one thinks about a Chief Academic Officer or Chief Financial Officer it is easy to imagine the scope of these positions. One oversees and provides leadership to address an institution’s academic policies and practices, while the other is responsible for the organization’s financial integrity and fiscal policies. Similarly, the Chief Diversity Officer or CDO is there to apply an equity, diversity, and inclusive framework to the organization’s policies, procedures, practices, and programs. This EDI framework is what I call “The 4Ps”, and here are three of the top characteristics of a Chief Diversity Officer:
The term “change agent” comes to mind. The expectation is that the CDO will exercise inclusive leadership to challenge and change the culture of the organization through developing key relationships, educating, and building consensus. Furthermore, by shaping the core EDI vision and mission, along with strategic/action plans, the CDO sets a course that allows other to freely see how they can be a part of that same enterprise and infuse EDI into their respective committee, department, division, faculty, and the list goes on.
While there is much more that can be said about what a Chief Diversity Officer is…the role can be constructed and carried out in numerous ways. Its placement within an organization can dictate its failure or success. Although this type of position is relatively new to postsecondary education and is fraught with many challenges, if done well, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion can be the spark to set a transformational course.
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