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Barchi appoints dean for diversity, inclusion

University President Robert L. Barchi officially announced yesterday his choice for appointment to the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. School of Communication and Information Dean Jorge Schement will become vice president of the office as of July 1.

Delia Pitts, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, will become associate vice president in the new office, reporting directly to Schement.

At least three cultural centers, the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, the Asian American Cultural Center and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, as well as the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities will be transferred to the banner of the new office, Pitts said.

Pitts, who supervises the three cultural centers, said their programs bring experts to campus to enrich campus community and will continue to do so under a different umbrella.

The new office will encourage dialogue about inclusion and diversity at a national level and promote research into the field as well, she said.

“Finally, with this office, we are creating vice chancellors for diversity and inclusion on all campuses — Camden, Newark, New Brunswick and Health Sciences — in order to further diversity and inclusion initiatives at the campus level,” Barchi said in an email released yesterday to the University community.

Schement said the University is still exploring what the office can be and does not have one specific focus.

The University has a long history of caring about diversity and promoting it on campus, he said, and the new office plans to bring together student and faculty groups to explore what diversity means at the University.

“It’s been done in thousands of individual ways,” Schement said. “It’s part of our strength. It’s part of our spirit.”

The office will become a staple on campus, allowing the University to take on bigger projects within the realm of diversity and inclusion issues, he said.

“At this point, we’re thinking we’re in it for the long haul,” he said. “People here really deeply care about diversity and inclusion.”

Schement said he has plans to focus on how the University recruits a diverse faculty base and exploring the basic practices for developing sound recruiting policies. The office will be charged with developing diverse programs for students, so they feel at home on campus.

“The University is big and it’s full of lots and lots of different people,” he said.

It is one of the great universities for services to veterans, Schement said, but it only became so in the last few years because the University saw it as a need.

“[Diversity] doesn’t just happen,” he said. “People have to think about it, and they have to care, and then they have to be committed.”

Pitts said faculty and staff members have been talking about starting an office since she joined the University 10 years ago.

Though the University already does a good job supporting diversity among its faculty, students and staff, Pitts said the new office goes a long way by focusing attention and resources.

The University has diversity activities and research projects, but Pitts said many of the events are not well communicated among departments.

“A lot of us don’t know what the other parts of our University are doing,” she said.

Schement worked with Senior Associate Dean Hartmut Mokros to hire quality faculty members across departmental boundaries, said Karen Novick, associate dean at the School of Communication and Information.

Schement spearheaded the initiative to design a new building for the school that would enhance the campus environment and add student benefits such as study lounges, she said.

Claire McInerney will step in as acting dean of the School of Communication and Information as of July 1, while the University searches for a permanent replacement, she said.

“I think the school has been in a good trajectory,” Novick said. “[McInerney] will do a good job helping us build on our strengths.”

McInerney, the associate dean of the School of Communication and Information, said she has spent the past few years working on curriculum development. She oversaw academic expansion projects that added specialties in strategic communications in public relations as well as video games.

She also began developing a minor in social media open to multiple disciplines within the school, McInerney said.

McInerney plans to take on full responsibilities of the dean and does not intend to defer any decisions during her two-year term, she said. She will begin developing the school’s strategic plan as a part of the University’s overall plan.

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