DEVELOPING: Help wanted: UAA’s search for a Chief Diversity Officer

UPDATE (5/21/2019):

On the afternoon of May 20, Chancellor Cathy Sandeen communicated with UAA faculty and staff that the university will be extending the search for a Chief Diversity Officer.

“After reviewing all the feedback from the committee, the campus community and external constituents, I have decided to extend the search, using a search firm to build a broader pool of candidates. I will identify the firm this summer and have them begin the process of identifying candidates right away,” Sandeen said in the communication.

A sign in the Social Sciences Building shows various Alaska Native greetings. Photo by Jason Herr.


For the University of Alaska Anchorage, the first two weeks of May were about more than just finals and graduation, as UAA took a new step toward selecting a Chief Diversity Officer.

In the past year, the UAA community has faced various challenges, ranging from the November earthquake to the loss of accreditation in the School of Education and a professor being accused of sexual misconduct. At this juncture, finding additional effective leaders for UAA is key.

“This position will need to be innovative and have that initiative to move things forward for the university,” Sara Childress, the Director of Equity and Compliance and Title IX Coordinator for UAA, said.

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Childress will be working with the newly-chosen Chief Diversity Officer to assist in overseeing the progress of UAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, or D&IAP, and says that this position will help to bring all discrimination to the forefront.

The D&IAP is a culmination of existing UAA data, 11 subcommittee reports, 22 focus groups, a Qualtrics campus climate survey, community campus visits and the Diversity Summit.

The Diversity Action Council describes the objectives of the D&IAP, which includes focusing on hiring, implementing diversity and inclusion within the curriculum and working with campus services to plan for a campus that supports diversity and inclusion.

The D&IAP states the primary responsibilities of Chief Diversity Officer as “leading the reorganized and repurposed Diversity Action Council” and through guidance and collaboration with several campus organizations to help ensure that UAA becomes a leader in diversity and inclusion within the state of Alaska.

As outlined in the D&IAP, this position will help to coordinate diversity efforts at UAA. The plan seeks a candidate “who will appreciate and have experience with the types of unique challenges present” at UAA.

Chief Diversity Officer requires seven years of “experience advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education or a similarly complex organization, including in an affirmative action and EEO compliance function,” according to the job description. Candidates are also required to have a master’s degree from a regionally accredited university in a variety of subjects, such as educational leadership, sociology or public administration.

Duties for this position will include actively engaging the campus community to further behaviors, attitudes and policies that support diversity at UAA. The Chief Diversity Officer will also be responsible for chairing the Diversity and Inclusion Action Council, as well as being responsible for the D&IAP and other internal compliance with state and federal affirmative action and EEO requirements.

According to UAA’s Diversity website, the D&IAP is meant to bring about positive impacts for both the university and the community.  

The site states that the plan “will strive to emphasize social inclusion and equity through purposeful involvement and engagement of the full range of campus and community stakeholders.”

The D&IAP will also help to improve and enhance upon the already diverse community of UAA, making sure that all are welcome and encouraged to thrive.

Comparator institutions have also invested in the position of Chief Diversity Officer, or a position similar to this one. Within these institutions, the officer works with the Chancellor and the Provost to achieve their goals and helps to ensure that plan progress is monitored and meeting the plan objectives. The UAA Chief Diversity Officer will be reporting directly to the Chancellor.

“This position will have a vast impact on the entire campus,” Childress said.  

She further explained that Anchorage possesses one of the most diverse school systems in the country and that this position will be key in promoting diversity amongst UAA’s students, staff and faculty.

On May 2 and 7, two candidates for the position of Chief Diversity Office held public forums to meet the UAA community and to present their experience, thoughts and goals for this position. Public feedback was gathered through the use of online surveys after the presentations were delivered, but the final decision will be made by UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen.

This is a developing story.