Administration searches for chief diversity officer


Blake Lanser/Iowa State Daily

International and minority populations at Iowa State University have grown, decreasing the white population by 4 percent. Information obtained from Office of the President.

Dakota Carpenter

Iowa State’s enrollment of multicultural students has continued to rise, therefore bringing more diversity to the community. Since the university recently went under a diversity review, a new position for a chief diversity officer was created.

President Steven Leath said the person in the position will focus on diversity efforts within Iowa State. Once the chief diversity officer is named, Leath’s hope is that he or she will be leading training sessions, creating a welcoming environment for students, faculty and staff and helping the university to meet its diversity expectations.

“Iowa state has done a good job in becoming a more diverse and inclusive place both in terms of the student body and the work force,” Leath said. “I think we have to work harder to meet our diversity objectives maybe than some other places, we are a small college town in a rural state.”

Leath said the chief diversity officer position is important and needs to be filled quickly. It is crucial that they place the right person in the position.

A committee of approximately 15 people consisting of faculty, staff and extension personnel are working alongside Leath to make the decision of whom to hire.

“We’re not going to hurry just to get it filled but by the same token we don’t want to wait too long,” Leath said.

Leath’s hope is to have someone named for the position by the end of the spring semester and wants to make sure that everyone is happy with the job description. Leath said it has to be clear what the person in the position will be responsible for.

“I hope their presence around campus creates an excitement about this [diversity] because building diversity [and] inclusion should be and usually is an exciting [and] positive thing,” Leath said. 

All of the undergraduate colleges have individual multicultural liaison officers. Der Vang is the liaison officer for the college of liberal arts and sciences (LAS). Vang said she feels the decision to hire a chief diversity officer was a great announcement.

Vang said that in the college of LAS there are approximately 1,000 undergraduate students of color and having only one person focused on diversity efforts within the college isn’t enough.

There is a hope that this person on campus will coordinate campus-wide efforts in diversity, Vang said.

“We can always improve on increasing the diversity on campus,” Vang said. “Hopefully, with the hiring of the chief diversity officer, we can increase the enrollment of students on campus as well.”

Leath has two main goals for the chief diversity officer position. He wants the community to feel good about diversity inclusion and wants to be looking at the number of minorities on campus.

Leath said the university has done a good job of diversifying staff but the a larger number of diversified staff in the future. The increase in those numbers, he hopes, would represent the diversity.

“For the institution to be as good as it can be, we need to be more diverse,” Leath said.

Elli Rigolle, sophomore in political science and French, said a diverse campus is important and that it enhances the educational experience.

“In a diverse campus we are able to learn from people of all backgrounds,” Rigolle said. “There is more to be done in order to diversify Iowa State, but the growth that has occurred over the past decade is impressive.”

Leath said that the more diverse we make Iowa State the better that the university will be able to serve its students.

“The more diverse our community is the more they [students] get exposed to thoughts, processes and ways of doing things that makes them better able to succeed as citizens when they leave here,” Leath said.