Exploratory committee leads creation of Chief Diversity Officer position at Rider

By Tatyanna Carman 

An exploratory committee is leading the creation of a chief diversity officer position at Rider, which will be a cabinet position, according to co-chair of the committee and Director of Employee Relations in the Department of Human Resources Clarissa Gilliam. 

“Chief diversity officer roles in higher education take many forms, each unique to the institution’s mission, values and goals,” said Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown. “Rider’s core values include a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and this commitment serves as the foundation for this work. The charge of the committee is to develop a report that includes key considerations to reflect upon when developing a [chief diversity officer] position that will be best positioned to advance the strategic diversity, equity and inclusion goals of the university.” 

Brown explained that one of the goals of Rider’s Inclusive Excellence Plan led to the idea of the creation of this position. 

“While the concept of creating a chief diversity officer position at Rider has existed for some time, the president’s Council on Inclusion’s Inclusive Excellence Plan, which was adopted by the university, outlined a number of key initiatives for promoting inclusive excellence,” Brown said. “One such goal, to signify an institutional commitment to inclusion by enhancing structural support including enhanced leadership for this work at the university level, led us to the point.” 

Associate Professor of Communication Sheena Howard is a co-chair of the committee as well. Gilliam said that there are 15 staff, student and faculty members split into sub-committees “according to four different types of goals,” which was “a little over a month ago.” Sept. 10 was the sub-committee’s deadline to submit their recommendations to Howard and Gilliam. 

“Sheena [Howard] and I, over the next two weeks, will take all of that information and compose what the model will look like, what cabinet will need in order to have a [chief diversity officer], the job descriptions, the qualifications and even potentially resources that we can use to find that qualified candidate,” Gilliam said. “All of this has to be to [the Rider president], we promised him by Sept. 28.”

She also explained that the chief diversity officer is going to be “a person for all of Rider” and that “they are going to need to partner in touch with faculty, staff and students at some point.” 

Gilliam explained how the position will impact the Rider community. 

“So the impact in having a focus level of expertise and experience, I think will impact diversity at Rider to meet not only its goals and objectives, but its overall commitment to humanity. Meaning, you know accepting and respecting people regardless of who they are and what they bring to the table. You know, so that is part of diversity as that old saying says, diversity is inviting me to the dance. Inclusion is asking me to dance. Right. Big difference. And so, the impact is really showcased in the commitment that Rider has to diversity and inclusion as a whole.”

She also shared that Rider has a “genuine commitment to diversity.” 

“I started with Rider back in March and I have a strong background in diversity recruiting and like affinity groups and so forth,” Gilliam said. “And so, I’m happy to see and I’ve worked in a lot of organizations inside and outside of higher education, so I am happy to see a genuine commitment to diversity and not just something because of what is going on in the world, not because it’s a nice thing to do and so forth, but that because when you have a genuine commitment, you have a better possibility to have sustainability with all of the efforts behind it. So, I’m happy to see that and to be a part of that.” 

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