NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University has named Dr. Michara DeLaney-Fields, currently the university’s assistant dean for student affairs in the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, as its first chief diversity officer.
Established as an executive position housed within the Office of the President, the CDO role was created to provide collaborative, strategic and results-oriented leadership for institution-wide diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president, said the position is an important element in allowing the university to fulfill its mission statement.
“SFA’s mission is to engage students in a learner-centered environment, and in order to be learner-centered, the environment must be both diverse and inclusive,” he said. “Dr. DeLaney-Fields has a track record of developing initiatives to improve the lives of students, and I look forward to working with her to advance our efforts to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment on our campus.”
In her new role, DeLaney-Fields will work with the provost, deans, other senior leaders, external partners, internal stakeholders and constituents to advance, promote and build a welcoming environment for all students, staff, faculty, administrators and alumni.
“Being named to this position is an honor — it demonstrates the commitment President Gordon and the administration have dedicated to the importance of recognizing the endless opportunities for the university,” DeLaney-Fields said. “This position carries an immense responsibility for which I am ready to address.”
For more than 11 years, DeLaney-Fields has served in various capacities as an educator, advisor and mentor. She began her professional career as a teacher in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, teaching in the K-12 public school system for two years before transitioning to higher education.
In 2017, DeLaney-Fields and her family moved to Albany, Georgia, where she served as interim dean of students, interim vice president for student affairs, and assistant vice president for student affairs and student engagement at Albany State University.
DeLaney-Fields said the new CDO role is meant to build on initiatives and goals that currently exist in the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which houses a number of student service-based areas on campus, including Counseling Services, Disability Services, Veterans Resource Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, among others.
“By creating this role, SFA is joining the mainstream of most universities that have committed to foster a campus community that celebrates similarities and differences in which members can thrive and succeed authentically,” DeLaney-Fields said. “There will be efforts to assess all units to determine if there are impediments to any members of the university community. We also will examine the campus climate and create strategic initiatives to help ensure the campus commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is clear, evident and transparent at the highest levels across the institution.”
By fulfilling these efforts, SFA will be “on a competitive balance with our peer institutions and on a clear path in creating an avenue of producing productive global citizens,” she added.
“Equity, diversity and inclusion should not be seen as problems or addressing issues, but rather each should be viewed as a strength and opportunity,” DeLaney-Fields said. “Each one should not just be a ‘buzzword.’ It should be a fundamental commitment to transformative change calibrated through cultural competence, responsiveness and relevance, thus allowing the focus of our efforts always to be directed to student success.”
DeLaney-Fields received a bachelor’s degree in health studies and two master’s degrees, one in health education and the other in human performance and kinesiology, from Texas Southern University. She also earned a Doctor of Philosophy in educational leadership from Prairie View A&M University.