Education

University of Iowa's recently departed diversity head lands new top job

TaJuan Wilson becomes Georgia Southern's first associate vice president for inclusive excellence

TaJuan Wilson
TaJuan Wilson

IOWA CITY — Less than a week after short-lived University of Iowa diversity chief TaJuan Wilson officially ended his rocky tenure with the Iowa City campus, Georgia Southern University on Wednesday announced he has been chosen as its first associate vice president for inclusive excellence.

Wilson, 33, will start March 1, according to an announcement from the Statesboro, Ga.-based school, which has two additional campuses in Savannah and Hinesville.

Functionally, according to the university announcement, Wilson will serve as its chief diversity officer — a position “on the senior leadership team.”

The University of Iowa, after hiring Wilson in April 2019 to be its diversity head, announced organizational changes that assigned its diversity leadership to report to Provost Montserrat Fuentes — who started the same day as Wilson — rather than UI President Bruce Harreld.

Wilson — who resigned as UI vice president after just six weeks on the job but was allowed to stay on and continue earning his $224,000 salary in a “special assignment” capacity — seemed to criticize that change on his way out the door.

His official last day was Jan. 31 — although he had been working remotely for months and, per a settlement agreement, was allowed to look for another job on the clock.

In a PowerPoint presentation Wilson was assigned to create for the UI on his findings of what other campuses are doing around diversity, he asked how Iowa is doing by posing a series of introspective questions. They included: “Will the future leader be organizationally aligned as a direct report to the university president?” and, “Is diversity reflected at the senior leaders table?”

Wilson has repeatedly failed to respond to The Gazette’s requests for an interview.

But, in an email to the Georgia Southern student newspaper The George-Ann this week, Wilson said: “Georgia Southern has demonstrated a clear commitment to Inclusive Excellence through the creation of this leadership role, and I’m thrilled to be selected.

“After having the opportunity to interview on all three campuses and interacting with students, faculty, and staff, it became immediately apparent to me that Georgia Southern is primed for incredible success,” Wilson said, according to the student newspaper’s reporting.

When Wilson resigned from the UI in August, he issued a statement in which he said, “I have great respect for the university and the work being done in diversity, equity, and inclusion and believe Iowa has the potential to be on the right path.”

In Southern Georgia’s announcement of his hire this week, the campus reported Wilson “comes to us from the University of Iowa, where he has served as special assistant for external relations and associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.”

“Active at each university and in each community where he has worked, Dr. Wilson has been a diversity and inclusion consultant since 2017 and is a frequent presenter on student access, student success, and equity and inclusion,” according to the news release. “At Georgia Southern, he will continue our efforts to develop our Inclusive Excellence vision and strategy.”

His newly created position, according to Georgia Southern, fulfills one of seven recommendations the campus adopted to improve its culture and climate, according to a message from that campus’ interim vice president for student affairs and associate provost for academic affairs.

“Dr. Wilson will be a strategic partner with faculty, staff and students to initiate, define, and implement our inclusive excellence initiatives, policies and programs,” according to their message. “This work will support the center pillar of the university’s strategic plan, through which all our populations will feel valued and respected, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation or identity, education or disability.”

Although the UI didn’t immediately launch a search for Wilson’s replacement — and reported its diversity divisions would report to Fuentes — the provost recently announced UI will begin looking for Wilson’s successor in April.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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