Two Northeast Colleges Pick Witt/Kieffer to Lead Diversity Officer Searches

April 28, 2017 – Chief diversity officers are now considered part of every competitive organization’s senior management team and institutions of all types are lining up to bring these highly sought after leaders on board. Search firms, of course, are well equipped and well-networked throughout the space.

One sector that has increased its demand for top drawer diversity leadership is academia. Roger Williams University and Tufts University are two of the latest. Both have called in Witt/Kieffer to lead searches for chief diversity officers. Senior partner Oliver Tomlin and senior associate Khalilah Lawson are spearheading both search assignments for these well known Northeast private colleges.

Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University has just started to seek nominations and applications for the inaugural position of chief diversity officer to lead and promote an institutional culture and welcoming environment that supports diversity in all aspects of university life. Candidates will be expected to be steeped in the best and most current trends, approaches and strategies in diversity and inclusion and bring that knowledge to inform program and policy development work at the school.


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The ideal candidate will be a demonstrated relationship builder and cultivator of those relationships across a wide group of constituents, possess demonstrated excellent verbal and written communication skills, have an ability to initiate and lead large-scale programs and projects, review and distill data to draw sound conclusions and demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the culture of shared governance, tenure and promotion, decentralized campus politics and the unique needs of students, faculty, staff and administration with respect to diversity.

Tufts University

Much like the search taking place in Rhode Island, Tufts University in neighboring Massachusetts is looking for a creative, strategic and results-oriented leader to assume the recently vacated position of chief diversity officer. The executive will serve as a catalyst to leverage best practices and resources across Tufts’ campuses, schools and colleges to promote a culture of inclusion at the university.

The ideal candidate for this position will have a broad vision for the role of diversity in achieving institutional excellence as well as a strong track record in managing change and building and supporting initiatives that promote diversity, equity, access and inclusion. The incoming chief must have an in-depth knowledge of theory and practice with regard to organizational diversity and inclusion, human development, training and change management.

The Recruiters

Witt/Kieffer assists hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, medical schools and physician groups; biotech, pharmaceutical, diagnostics and medical device companies; colleges & universities and not-for-profit community service and cultural organizations with senior administrative recruiting assignments.

Mr. Tomlin has more than 30 years of management experience, with an executive search practice focused on recruiting senior leaders for hospitals and health systems, colleges and universities, professional associations, cultural institutions and community service and civic organizations. He focuses on recruiting for high level positions, including presidents, vice presidents, provosts and deans for colleges and universities; and CEOs, COOs, CFOs and executive directors for healthcare and other not-for-profit organizations.

Ms. Lawson has more than a decade of experience in executive search, and has a thorough understanding of the search process, a keen attention to client and candidate needs, and an appreciation for building long-lasting relationships, according to clients. Based in Philadelphia, she supports recruitments for college, university, and preparatory school presidents, provosts, deans, and various other academic leadership functions.

Chief Diversity Officer Searches

Chief diversity officers are extremely important across the spectrum,” said Edie Fraser, CEO of STEMconnector and its Million Women Mentors (MWM) Initiative. She also serves as vice chairman of Diversified Search, another recruitment leader in the field. “Their roles have shifted to insuring diverse talent as a primary role although they oversee outreach with organizations and are also often dotted lined to marketing and to supplier diversity for procurement.” Diversity officers, she added, are today “considered part of the business team.” And institutions of higher learning, in particular, are lining up to bring them on board.

Witt/Kieffer is part of a growing contingent of executive search firms that now focus on the identification, recruitment and assessment of chief diversity officer leaders. In most instances, these search firms have specialists devoted to the role and augment their search work with culture shaping assessments and leadership planning. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more prominent assignments recently undertaken:

Neumann Executive Search Partners has been retained by Ithaca College to lead a national search for a chief inclusion and diversity officer. Vice president Tom Phillips and principal Beth Schaefer are leading the assignment for the recruitment firm. The incoming diversity leader will support Ithaca’s continuing efforts toward increase diversity and inclusive excellence for the school’s community.

Carrington & Carrington recently snared Major League Baseball‘s diversity head, Wendy Lewis, to serve as vice president and global chief diversity officer for McDonald’s. She replaces Patricia Harris who is retiring at the end of the year after 40 years of service. The firm also placed C. Greer Jordan, PhD as chief diversity and inclusion officer of Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW). Dr. Jordan previously served as associate vice chancellor, diversity and inclusion, for the University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care.

Isaacson, Miller recruited Norm Jones as chief diversity and inclusion officer at Amherst College. Bud Moseley, a vice president in Isaacson, Miller’s Boston office, is led the search along with Donna Cramer, senior associate. Mr. Jones was previously associate chief diversity officer and deputy director at Harvard University.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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