University continues to seek input on chief diversity officer


Emily Matson/IowaStateDaily

Dean of Students Pamela Anthony discusses what the community is looking for in the new chief diversity officer position.

Berenice Liborio

The search for a chief diversity officer, which initially started in October of 2014, pushes on with more input from the ISU community.

President Steven Leath contracted a consulting firm to study ISU diversity programs in 2013 and one recommendation from that study included a creation for a chief diversity officer position.

The Dean of Students Office provided a Diversity Open Forum on Tuesday in the Oak Room of the Memorial Union. Pamela D. Anthony, dean of students, was there to listen to community feedback. 

“My goal is to listen more than I talk: to hear what any individuals have to say,” Anthony said.

The purpose of the town hall meetings is to see what students, faculty, staff, Ames community and the Des Moines community have to say about the role of the chief diversity officer. The university has said it wants to make sure this is a collaborative process, and wants to know what the audience thinks the role of the chief diversity officer should be. 

The audience yielded two attendees, but they still gave their opinions on characteristics the chief of diversity should have, such as being an internal and external individual.

Internal in that this person should support set polices for hiring decisions on diversity. This individual should be external, being the face for the university dealing with diversity issues on the state and regional level.

“The person will be a do-er,” Anthony said.

The chief diversity officer should make an impact on all students: students of color and students who want support. They want an individual who is a builder, enjoys working with students and has background experience working with students — background on diversity issues. They also want someone who is familiar with higher education and business, and knows the difference.

“We will choose the best person possible,” Anthony said.

Roberta Johnson, director of financial aid, showed concern about students under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, students and their eligibility with financial aid help. The Federal law currently does not allow a DACA student to qualify for financial aid because they’re still undocumented, she said.

There are conversations happening in terms of what kinds of financial aid could be available for DACA students and potentially leading the effort toward getting more unrestricted scholarship dollars to assist students or some unrestricted grant dollars, she said.

“From my perspective, which is financial aid, in order for more students to afford to come here and making the giant assumption that many undocumented students are probably going to need financial aid to come to Iowa State,” Johnson said.

What Johnson would like to see from the chief diversity officer is someone who knows how to broaden the conversation. She said she’s unfamiliar how many DACA individuals there are in the state of Iowa. That could be the first step: delegating research, she said.

“That can help us to have some conversations on this campus about what we could potentially do. Not only DACA students, but other undocumented students who have not filed for DACA but who [have] wonderful minds and don’t get to take advantage of the opportunities that college could afford them because of their status,” Johnson said. “But I think we should talk about it.”

The search for a chief diversity officer will be international and national. This is a brand new position Iowa State will have to build. Typically in a search process, there’s already a position that has been established and the role of the search committee is to create the process in finding the next candidate.

“This is a new opportunity, so there is no existing position description,” Anthony said. “So we’re starting with a blank slate, which is exciting. It just means a little bit more work.”

Anthony will attend the 2015 National Association of Diversity in Higher Education conference in Washington, D.C. She will network and promote the chief diversity officer position at Iowa State.

“Good opportunity to attract top-notch individuals,” Anthony said.

The search committee is currently developing the search description. The committee has a consultant group — the Spellman and Johnson group, which is a national consultant that deals with higher education positions. The group is compiling all the information it has received and is building a position of specification in hopes that the search will start in May.

The position will be broadcasted to the world for anyone interested in the chief diversity position. The university’s goal is to have the finalists arrive on campus in September — the arrival has been extended to give students and faculty an opportunity to meet the candidates. The chief diversity officer will either begin in the fall of 2015 or early spring of 2016.

The next town hall meeting in search for a chief diversity officer will take place at 2:45 p.m. April 7 in the Gallery of the Memorial Union.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for us,” Anthony said. “Iowa State is doing good diversity work in different areas, whether that is in student affairs, student organizations [or] academic affairs.”