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Success requires diversity, candidate for UI office says

BY ADAM B SULLIVAN | APRIL 13, 2010 7:30 AM

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Instead of a broad, buzzword ideal, diversity in higher education should be a very real goal, said Georgina Dodge, a candidate to become the University of Iowa chief diversity officer.

Dodge, who heads the Ohio State University Office of Minority Affairs, is one of five candidates interviewing for the position this month. On Monday, she spoke to approximately 50 people in a forum at the Pappajohn Business Building.

“If diversity remains too huge — and don’t get me wrong, I’m a visionary; I want to see world peace, and free love, and all those things — it can become discouraging if we keep focusing on that huge, huge picture that at times seems so impossible,” she said. “So we really do need to focus on the incremental steps.”

She has a pragmatic administrative style, said Rebecca Nelson, an Ohio State administrator who has collaborated with Dodge on various diversity initiatives.

“She’s someone who is very, ‘What is our outcome?’ ” Nelson said. “It’s not just about doing programs; they have to be very intentional.”

The UI’s chief diversity officer has wide-ranging responsibilities, monitoring equity efforts among students and staff and faculty members. The chief diversity officer also oversees offices that implement programming for underrepresented populations and mediate discrimination and harassment complaints.

Dodge rattled off a slew of statistics about impending work-force shortages — baby boomers’ retirements will mean millions of skilled workers leaving jobs. She predicts filling those positions will involve educating and employing many more women and minorities.

Women make up almost half of the U.S. work force, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and that number is expected to rise.

“Success is not going to be possible without diversity,” Dodge said. “Looking at the data and crunching the numbers tells us that.”

But even before entering the job market, diverse populations are vital, said UI Professor Keri Hornbuckle, who co-chairs the chief diversity officer search committee.

“The richness of ideas that are brought from having diverse people makes us a stronger institution,” Hornbuckle said. “The more diverse the ideas that come to the table and the more options we have, the better we can respond to new challenges and become a better university and provide better opportunities for our students.”

Dodge admitted that pursuing diversity here will be difficult; 95 percent of Iowans are white, as well as about 85 percent of UI undergrads. She said universities should balance diversity recruiting and in-state recruiting.

“Recruitment of international students and the recruitment of students from urban areas is a great idea because it does bring a lot of diversity to the campus which ultimately benefits everyone,” Dodge said. “But I also think it’s important for all universities to be held responsible to their states as well.”



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