Russell Reynolds Associates Helps Fairfield University Recruit First VP of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging

February 2, 2023 – Following a national search, Russell Reynolds Associates has assisted in the recruitment of  Don C. Sawyer as the first vice president of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Fairfield University. He will also be joining the faculty as an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology. Consultant Joi Hayes-Scott led the assignment. “Dr. Don Sawyer brings deep academic and leadership experience, and a commitment to the transformative power of education to this new role leading Fairfield’s institutional and cultural growth through diversity and inclusive excellence,” said Mark R. Nemec, president. “We look forward to his contributions as we continue to advance the university’s Jesuit Catholic commitment to creating and supporting radical hospitality and inclusive excellence in our teaching, learning, scholarship, and service.”

Dr. Sawyer is a visionary academic leader with more than 20 years of higher education experience leading university-community partnerships and diversity and inclusion programs. Most recently, he served as vice president for equity, inclusion, and leadership development at Quinnipiac University in the department of cultural & global engagement, coordinating and implementing the university’s strategic plan for diversity and inclusion; leading educational and assessment initiatives that ensure inclusive excellence; and working to infuse diversity concepts in the general curriculum to prepare students for success in a diverse and global workplace.

Dr. Sawyer also served as an associate professor in Quinnipiac’s College of Arts and Sciences in the department of sociology, criminal justice, and anthropology, engaging in research and teaching on race, education, and popular culture. Prior to that he was with Syracuse University, where he earned his PhD in sociology, an MA in sociology, and an MS in cultural foundations of education. Dr. Sawyer held a variety of administrative positions. In his last role, he served as an adjunct instructor and director of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) in the university’s Center for Graduate Preparation & Achievement.

In addition to extensive community engagement work with national organizations, Dr. Sawyer is widely published in academic journals and books, and has presented and delivered keynote addresses at conferences and universities nationally. His research and teaching interests include: sociology of race, race in higher education, sociology of hip-hop culture, urban sociology/international sociology, and criminal justice and reentry.

Related: Russell Reynolds Associates Called in by Penn State to Find Provost

In his new position with Fairfield University, Dr. Sawyer will serve as chair of the president’s working group on diversity and inclusive excellence, and will be an advocate, mentor, and resource, developing and implementing diversity initiatives that support a learning and working environment where all community members have the opportunity to thrive and succeed, and where students are prepared to enter the global workforce. Dr. Sawyer will build upon Fairfield’s ongoing work to advance racial justice and belonging, and will collaborate with executive leadership on learning and development needs related to cultural humility, gender identity, race and ethnicity, ability/accessibility, and other critical areas to increase awareness, develop policies, and foster institutional inclusion and belonging.

Russell Reynolds Associates Places First Non-Jesuit President at Fairfield University
Fairfield University named Mark R. Nemec as its ninth president, the first non-Jesuit to lead the school. Assisting with the search was Russell Reynolds Associates. Meredith Rosenberg and Jett Pihakis led the assignment for the New York-based recruitment and assessment firm. “Russell Reynolds Associates’ experience in leading searches for university presidents, combined with the firm’s deep understanding of the changing landscape of higher education, makes this the perfect fit given the transformative period of growth and evolution that Fairfield is experiencing today,” said Andrew McMahon, Fairfield University trustee and chair of the presidential search committee.

“Fairfield was fortunate to have had an extremely strong slate of interested candidates during our national search,” said Mr. McMahon. “Along with the search committee, I am confident that Dr. Nemec is the ideal leader for Fairfield. His passion for higher education, commitment to Jesuit values and experiences in academia and business, bring a distinctive set of skills and experiences to this critical role as we begin this new chapter in our history.”

Fairfield University was founded by the Society of Jesus as an all-boys school. Today it is a co-educational institution. Its stated objectives are to develop the creative intellectual potential of its students and to foster in them ethical and religious values and a sense of social responsibility. Jesuit education, which began in 1547, today remains committed to the service of faith, justice and truth.

Experienced Recruiters

Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory and search firm. Its 520-plus consultants in 47 offices work with public, private, and non-profit organizations across all industries and regions. The firm also conducts in-depth organizational culture assessment and measures the cultural fit of key leadership and candidates in the following areas: arts and culture, global development, higher education, non-profit health and human services, public sector, social justice and advocacy, as well as trade and professional associations.

Russell Reynolds provides executive search services across all areas of the global media, entertainment, technology, and athletics markets. The firm’s consultants bring the experience and ability to assess competencies and cultural fit of board members, CEOs, senior functional leadership, and players, with expertise in professional sports teams and leagues (CEOs, general managers, coaches, and players); digital, media, and entertainment; and technology-based start-ups.

Ms. Hayes-Scott specializes in conducting leadership searches for higher education institutions. Based in Washington D.C., she has a track record of effective change management and fostering performance enhancement within leadership teams across the social impact sector at Russell Reynolds. Ms. Hayes-Scott works with clients to recruit top executive and non-executive talent, working with organizations of all sizes and geographies.

Related: Why Universities Have Stepped Up Efforts to Involve Search Firms

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments