Mary Ann Villareal, the inaugural vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of Utah, offered some sage advice to the Cal Poly Pomona community in its search for a chief diversity officer.
Select a candidate who can help the university build community, be willing to listen and learn, and exercise patience in making sure that the intentions around equity align with the actions.
That was the essence of Villareal’s talk and Q&A with the campus community on Sept. 27 in Ursa Minor, and also via livestream. The search committee tasked with fielding candidates for the presidential associate for inclusion and chief diversity officer (CDO) invited Villareal, who also previously served in a leadership role at Cal State Fullerton, to engage the university in dialogue about what this leadership role will mean for Cal Poly Pomona.
“We are in a moment where we know the problems in our institutions. We know how the systemic inequities, how racism and bias are harmful to our individual selves and our communities,” she said. “Whomever you bring in doesn’t need to be told about the exact specifics, right? What they need to know is how ready you are to move with them in designing your practices and being in conversation to explore this work.”
Villareal also met in smaller groups with campus stakeholders, including ASI and the Academic Senate. Her visit comes as the university prepares to conduct interviews with CDO candidates on Oct. 3 and 4. The campus community is invited to hear from and provide feedback on the two finalists for the position.
The CDO position can be a lightning rod for some, so it is important that the university offers support to help ease some of the strain that comes with the job, Villareal said. Creating a framework for diversity, equity and inclusion work that is aligned with the community needs and that the various stakeholders can buy into also is key, as is understanding that all of the efforts tried won’t be successful.
“Urgency is the enemy of equity,” she said. “We know that we need to make change. We know that it’s a significant change, and we need to do it quickly. But urgency often pulls the ground up from under us. So, I think the hard part is being timely, being responsive and being aware that it important to have the opportunity to correct course.”
In May 2021, Cal Poly Pomona launched a search for the CDO position that did not result in an appointment. The search was extended into the new academic year.
“It is our hope that Dr. Villareal’s engagement with our campus community will raise awareness, prompt reflection and encourage participation in the final stages of the search process to identify the incumbent for this critical leadership position,” said President Soraya M. Coley in an email message to campus.