Diversity position created

Efforts to improve diversity among Yale faculty and staff got a public face Monday with the hiring of Yale’s first-ever chief diversity officer.

Nydia Gonzalez, former director of diversity programs at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, will be the first to occupy the position as of next Monday, Yale President Richard Levin announced yesterday. The appointment marks the first major milestone in the faculty and staff diversity initiatives announced 16 months ago and signals an increasingly large commitment to diversity, University officials said. Despite praising the announcement, some questioned how long it took the University to create an administrative position focused on coordinating diversity improvements.

Gonzalez will spend her first months at Yale learning how the University works and understanding its culture, said Robert Schwartz, chief human resources officer and Gonzalez’s future supervisor. Within her first 100 days, she plans to develop a strategic plan to direct future diversity programs, Schwartz said.

“[The appointment] is an important part of our University strategy,” he said. “It will help guide our efforts.”

The new position, as well as the reshuffling of existing diversity offices to fall under Gonzalez’s supervision, is the first major step taken under the staff diversity initiative announced in October 2005, Schwartz said. Gonzalez will lead the Resource Office on Disabilities, the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs, the Worklife and Childcare Office and the Staff Diversity Office. The equal opportunity office was previously part of the Provost’s Office, and Gonzalez will work closely with Kim Bottomly, the deputy provost for science, technology and faculty development and the coordinator of Yale’s seven-year faculty diversity initiative announced in October 2005.

Bottomly said Gonzalez’s role will primarily be to unify the existing diversity programs on campus.

“The major purpose is to coordinate these efforts,” she said. “It’s not as though she’s going to come in and do extremely new things.”

Still, as an expert in the field, Gonzalez will bring new ideas to the University’s diversity initiatives, Bottomly said. She served at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and at Dell Computer Corporation as the director of global diversity and international training programs. Bottomly and Gonzalez have already spoken about the types of programs that would aid both faculty and staff diversity, and the two will work on similar issues, including how to best recruit and retain employees.

While the appointment is the first major step in the staff diversity initiative, Bottomly said she has been pleased with the progress made in the last 16 months on the faculty diversity initiative. Every department’s faculty search committee now includes a minority representative trained by the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs, she said, and the search committees have looked broadly for women and minority candidates.

Diversity efforts at the University extend to students as well, said Liza Cariaga-Lo, assistant dean for diversity at the Graduate School. Last year, the school implemented a more active diversity recruitment program, which has led to increased numbers of minority students attending Yale. That initiative, as well as others aimed at junior faculty and post-doctoral fellows, are carried out at the departmental level. Cariaga-Lo said having a chief diversity officer take another look at the University’s efforts would be a positive step.

Student activists said they were pleased with the creation of a new position focused on diversity, though they said Yale needs to improve on its efforts. The consolidation of diversity offices under a single chief diversity officer is particularly important since the University bureaucracy can become unwieldy, said Jose Rivera ’08, coordinator of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan. He said he was concerned with how long it took the University to create the post.

“Yale tends to lag behind a lot compared to other Ivy League schools, but I’m glad there’s action being done,” he said. “I’m just glad it’s on the viewscreen for the Yale administration.”

Though the search for a chief diversity officer took time, Schwartz said, it was important to find the best candidate.

“Some will say it took longer than it should have,” he said. “Good things take time.”

Yale is not the first university to appoint a diversity coordinator. The University of Virginia appointed a Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity in September 2005, a month before Yale announced its diversity initiatives. While the Virginia position is at the vice-president level, one step below the university president, Gonzalez will report to an associate vice president.

Bottomly said Yale is not behind most universities in terms of creating high-level diversity coordinators, as having an administrator overseeing diversity is a recent trend.

“I think it’s only recently that people think it’s logical to have one,” she said. “The time is right to do it.”

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