Education

UI names new leader of diversity efforts His arrival comes as survey reveals challenges

TaJuan Wilson (Submitted photo)
TaJuan Wilson (Submitted photo)

IOWA CITY — After recently unveiling a new “action plan” guided by a campuswide survey revealing — among other things — that minority students still feel less welcome and experience more discrimination than white students, the University of Iowa announced Monday its pick to head its rebranded Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

TaJuan Wilson, 32, assistant professor and executive director of Student Programs and Diversity at the Medical University of South Carolina, will start June 28 as the UI’s associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Wilson’s hiring is the product of an extensive national search. He will succeed Georgina Dodge, who left in 2017 for a similar job at Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University. In March, the University of Maryland named Dodge vice president of diversity and inclusion.

UI Vice President of Student Life Melissa Shivers was the most recent person to head the diversity office on an interim basis. Shivers spent the last year recasting the office’s mission and identity, driving forward the campus survey and guiding creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion action plan.

Wilson will receive an annual salary of $224,000.

Before starting at the Medical University of South Carolina in 2016, Wilson served as executive director of multicultural student retention at Missouri State University — also working as interim executive director of the Multicultural Resources Center and LGBTQ Center, along with coordinator of the Brother to Brother Male Mentoring Initiative.

While at South Carolina, he oversaw student programs and student diversity, including recruitment. He helped craft cultural programming on campus, served as faculty adviser to the University Honor Council and Student Government Association and was involved with the Behavioral Support Intervention Team.

In a statement, Wilson referenced the recent UI survey that covered a wide range of issues.

“I’m excited to be joining a university that is asking the tough questions and is ready to act on what it is hearing from the community,” Wilson said. “My hope is through assessment and education, we can build and cultivate pipelines to increase diversity among our faculty, staff, and student body and create a more culturally conscious campus.”

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About 13 percent of the 18,600 UI employees — or 2,494 — identify as a minority, according to the most recent Board of Regents diversity report, made public in February. That is up from about 9 percent in 2008.

The recent UI survey revealed that a higher percentage of underrepresented minority, Asian and international students experienced discrimination at the university in the past 12 months — with 45 percent, 54 percent and 40 percent respectively — compared with 10 percent for white students.

Liz Tovar, UI associate athletics director for student-athlete academics services who helped lead the search for a new diversity director, said in a statement that Wilson arrives at a critical time.

“He will provide a continued sense of energy, transparency, and accountability within this area,” Tovar said, “and is equipped with a strong support network, both campuswide and in the community, who view diversity as part of the fabric of our institution.”

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

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