Breaking: Rider CDO Lawrence resigns, university discussing ‘future plans’ for role

By Jake Tiger

Barbara Lawrence, chief diversity officer (CDO) and vice president of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion (JDEI) has resigned effective June 30 after only 22 months at Rider, according to a June 27 university-wide email.

The resignation comes as Rider contemplates the future of its CDO position.

“During the next few weeks, we will be taking the time to evaluate options to ensure the critical functions of the CDO are sustained,” said Provost DonnaJean Fredeen in an email announcing Lawrence’s resignation. “We will communicate decisions to the University community as we move forward. Please join me in thanking Barbara for her many efforts during her time with us and wishing her well in her next endeavor.”

On June 26, before Rider’s announcement of Lawrence’s resignation, the University of New Haven named Lawrence as the institution’s vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion, access and belonging. She will officially join New Haven on July 1.

“Barbara is a passionate, student-centered leader who has a distinguished track record of fostering inclusive excellence,” said Sheahon Zenger, New Haven’s interim president in that university’s announcement. “We are confident in Barbara’s ability to build on the good work already taking place on campus.”

Beginning her tenure in September 2021, Lawrence was a member of Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo’s cabinet, and the university’s first-ever vice president of JDEI and CDO. Lawrence also became a Title IX coordinator in July 2022 after a department restructure.

In March 2023, Rider’s Title IX office was restructured again, and Debbie Stasolla, vice president for strategic initiatives and planning and a member of Dell’Omo’s cabinet, took over the coordinator position, Lawrence leaving her Title IX responsibilities at the university. 

In an article published by The Rider News on March 8, Stasolla said, “[The role of coordinator] was distracting from the good work Barbara Lawrence is doing in her role as chief diversity officer.”

At Rider, Lawrence spearheaded the newly-formed division of JDEI, working to incorporate JDEI into the curriculum, while also overseeing the school’s Inclusive Excellence Plan and mental health resources.

Following the active shooter threat on April 3, Lawrence was named one of two co-chairs of Rider’s Campus Safety Preparedness Committee, the other being Michael Reca, vice president for facilities and university operations.

“We appreciate [Lawrence’s] time at the university and wish her all the best as she moves on,” said Associate Vice President Kristine Brown in an email to The Rider News. “We’ll be discussing future plans for that role and will share more information with the community in the near future.”

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