By Dr. Michara DeLaney-Fields
Chief Diversity Officer in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
While serving more than 14 years in higher education, primarily in student affairs, it has been my pleasure to watch university students mature into productive global citizens. I share this fervor for every student — traditional, nontraditional, minority, students with disabilities and all others. It is my passion to ensure the same services to achieve academic and personal success are provided to every Lumberjack.
This academic year, the SFA administration created the chief diversity officer position to join the vast majority of colleges and universities who see the need to address relevant issues in the professional and academic environment. Being named SFA's first chief diversity officer and becoming a member of the President's Cabinet are honors and privileges that carry many responsibilities. In this role, I have the opportunity to work with the provost, deans, other senior leaders, external partners, and internal stakeholders and constituents to promote a welcoming environment for all students, staff, faculty, administrators and alumni. I will be responsible for building on initiatives and goals in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through our student-based areas of Multicultural Affairs, Veterans Resource Center and Disability Services.
Our purpose is to ensure SFA is adhering to its vision and mission. We have to demonstrate to students, faculty, staff, community and alumni that SFA is a leader in diversity and a leader in the higher education community. How will that be accomplished? The answer is to examine where we are and where we want to be. The first task, which is ongoing, is to look at every aspect of the university and provide a snapshot of the organization, faculty, student body and staff. While we will look at numbers, we also will assess the opportunities, which is imperative.
The task at hand is to convince the SFA family that diversity, equity and inclusion are strengths and opportunities. It does not mean bringing in unqualified students or faculty. It means ensuring that we provide a way for all to contribute and succeed. The administration has shown through its efforts that SFA will be the beacon.
My vision for the office is a little different than other diversity efforts. I always tell people to watch the trees as a gentle wind blows. As you watch the leaves go back and forth, most ignore the fact that the moving air is the reason for the movement. It is so simple that we take it for granted and move on. That is the same philosophy I have about diversity, equity and inclusion. It should be a natural occurrence. It is not about taking away from one group and giving to another. However, it is about ensuring that opportunity exists for all.
We want all to know in this region and beyond that, after almost 100 years, SFA is still going strong, and we are determined to make it even better.