Wharton School Taps Isaacson, Miller to Find Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

September 16, 2021 – Isaacson, Miller has been enlisted to find a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Keight Tucker Kennedy is leading the assignment, with Tiffany Weber and Kelly McLaughlin. “The inaugural chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer will use a data-informed approach to provide school-wide leadership and support in pursuit of Wharton’s core values of fostering a culture that is adept at supporting and leveraging differences within our community; utilizing fair and transparent practices that foster equitable decision making and outcomes; promoting dignity and respect across and among all constituents (e.g. students, staff, faculty); and fostering opportunities to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion through Wharton’s research, teaching and community engagement,” said the Boston-based search firm.

Reporting to the dean of the school, the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer will be a member of the Wharton senior leadership team. This individual will be expected to aid the dean’s office and other senior leaders in integrating diversity, equity and inclusive practices into core activities within the school and help build an overall school strategy.

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According to executive recruiters, DE&I should not just be a priority, but an integrated part of every company’s leadership goals. Some companies have even tied DE&I metrics to executive compensation. But it’s more than that.

Part of building strong, diverse hiring teams means asking yourself: “Who is my company culture going to attract – and how will it engage people who are here?” This question can be very difficult to answer if you assume everyone feels welcome already just because you do. Fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within organizations is more than just the right ethical decision. “It is one of the best business decisions a company can make,” said Keri Gavin, a partner with Hanold Associates and leader of the search firm’s Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practice. Hanold Associates is a proud sponsor of this year’s report. This report will help organizations prioritize DE&I as a business imperative that drives greater competitiveness, innovation and business results. Get it now! 

Key Duties

The incoming leader will also support the full spectrum of community members, including faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and staff to identify and track school-wide progress along key metrics, said the search firm. He or she will be charged with coordinating, collaborating and communicating regularly with human resources, communications, program offices, external affairs, executive education and other units across Wharton and with peers across the University of Pennsylvania.

Wharton wants an experienced leader who will be a guiding force as it pursues the school’s core commitments of achieving and maintaining excellence through diversity; being a community that is welcoming and respectful to all; and contributing to equity and social justice through its research, teaching and community engagement, said Isaacson, Miller. A master’s degree in a relevant field of study is preferred, along with a minimum of seven years of progressive experience advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in a university setting.

In additional, said the search firm, Wharton seeks a leader with the following attributes:

Expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion: Demonstrated leadership in and commitment to promoting and addressing issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and community engagement in a university setting. Broad understanding of diversity, knowledge of the research and scholarship in this space as well as emerging trends and practices.

Strong Leadership Skills: Experience in working at multiple levels in a complex organization and inspiring and empowering culture change. Willingness to engage in challenging discussions and manage and facilitate courageous conversations. Ability to lead with vision, purposefulness and conviction. Effectiveness in working and leading in a collective governance model.

Relationship Builder: Track record of building community and nurturing relationships among a wide range of campus populations, with empathy and sensitivity. Capacity to serve as a trusted advisor and thought partner. An effective convener of people and a skilled collaborator.

The University of Pennsylvania, the largest private employer in Philadelphia, is a world-renowned leader in education, research, and innovation. The Ivy League school consistently ranks among the top 10 universities in the annual U.S. News & World Report survey. Penn has 12 highly-regarded schools that provide opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and continuing education, all influenced by Penn’s distinctive interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and learning.

A nationally recognized search firm focused on recruiting transformational leaders for mission-driven organizations, Isaacson, Miller has conducted thousands of placements over more than three decades. More than half of the firm’s work has been in academia, involving university presidents, college chancellors and deans. The firm has filled top leadership posts at Wellesley College, Washington State University, Miami University, Howard University, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth, NYU, Virginia State University and the University of North Carolina, among others. Mr. Isaacson founded Isaacson, Miller in 1982.

Related: CarterBaldwin Executive Search Tapped by Pepperdine University to Find Chief Diversity Officer

A member of Isaacson, Miller’s team since 2014, Ms. Tucker Kennedy brings diverse experience in non-profit and higher education organizations to her practice. She has worked on several presidential searches, including those for Spelman College, Hamilton College, Converse College, Duke University, Johnson C. Smith University and Elizabeth City State University. Additionally, Ms. Tucker Kennedy has played a key role on several student affairs searches for Ohio State University, Washington University in St. Louis, Princeton, MIT and Cornell. As a search consultant, she has worked with historically black colleges and universities, women’s colleges, and K-12 education and advocacy organizations.

This summer, Isaacson, Miller assisted in the placement of Terrill L. Drake as the first chief diversity and inclusion officer at Harvard Business School (HBS). Ms. Tucker Kennedy and Ponneh Varho led the search along with senior associate Sonia Gomez. In this inaugural position, Mr. Drake will play a lead role in developing and implementing a strategy for cultivating and achieving a culture of inclusive excellence, diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the HBS community, as well as with alumni and other constituents across HBS and beyond. He will build on the work of the school’s Racial Equity Action Plan, along with equity efforts related to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status and age.

Related: WittKieffer Seeks Chief Diversity Officer for Colgate University

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

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