Witt/Kieffer Seeks Diversity Leaders for Central Michigan and Ohio Universities

March 28, 2018 – The role of chief diversity officer is expanding at universities across the country. It has, in fact, become one of the most important positions for shaping the vision, culture and very face of institutions of higher learning from coast to coast.

It is also increasingly becoming a cabinet-level job, with a broad range of responsibilities beyond that of most administrators.

So it is that executive search firms have become valuable partners to colleges in finding the right talent for the role.

Executive recruitment firm Witt/Kieffer, for one, is conducting searches for diversity leaders for both Central Michigan University and Ohio University.

Central Michigan University, located in Mount Pleasant, is looking for a vice president and chief diversity officer, a newly created role. Witt/ Kieffer consultants Oliver B. Tomlin and Jennifer G. Bauer are leading the search.

Creating Opportunities

The chief diversity officer will be charged with leading Central Michigan’s efforts to create opportunities and implement strategies to define, promote and evaluate institutional diversity, inclusion and cultural competency, said the search firm. The CDO will report to the school’s president and will be a member of the executive cabinet. The individual will serve as the senior administrator responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive strategic plan for furthering diversity across the campus and leading efforts to create a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners.

“This is an exciting and challenging opportunity for a dynamic leader to coordinate Central Michigan University’s school-based and campus-wide diversity, inclusion and cultural competency initiatives through strategic planning, training, education and research, community relations, policy development and communications,” said Witt/ Kieffer.

The CDO will collaborate with institutional leadership, academic deans, department heads and the many individuals and groups who are already involved with diversity and inclusion issues and programs on campus, to facilitate an integrated vision and shared accountability for diversity and cultural competency across the university, the search firm said.

A Culture of Equity

Central Michigan seeks candidates whose education, perspectives and experience enable them to: promote a culture of equity and inclusion at CMU; develop and implement policies in support of equal opportunity and full participation; and support the university’s programs to diversify the faculty, staff and students, said Witt/ Kieffer.

The ideal candidate will be a nationally-recognized diversity and inclusion leader with substantial administrative and program-building experience, said the search firm.  Requirements include demonstrated prior leadership in developing diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs within a complex organization; proven success in building external relations, communications and grant writing; and a distinguished record of thought leadership in the area of diversity and inclusion.

With more than 27,000 students, Central Michigan is the fourth-largest university in the state. Founded in 1892, the school today offers a global campus with more than 30 remote locations and an expanding selection of online courses and programs offering more than 200 academic programs at the undergraduate, master’s, specialist and doctoral levels, as well as nearly 225,000 alumni worldwide. In 2013, Central Michigan launched America’s 137th medical school and graduated its first class last June. It is among the nation’s 80 largest public universities.

Creating and Collaborating

Ohio University, in Athens, is seeking a vice president for diversity and inclusion. Witt/Kieffer consultants Charlene Aguilar, Khalilah Lawson and Christine Pendleton are leading the search.

The individual who wins this role will have an opportunity to create a unique environment for manifesting a commitment to diversity and inclusion, collaborating in the development and execution of university-wide diversity initiatives, and highlighting the value of diversity throughout Ohio University as it relates to underrepresented and marginalized populations, said the search firm.


Here’s the Single Biggest Challenge Facing Diversity Leaders
Those who step into a new job as chief diversity officer tend to carry a heavy load. Theirs is an increasingly vital role. The challenges they face are complex and the demands of the position are many, with pressure coming from all sides.


“This is an exciting opportunity for an experienced diversity leader who has a documented history of developing, advancing, and measuring the impact of diversity programs that serve faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community,” said Witt/ Kieffer.

A Supportive Community

The vice president for diversity and inclusion will have responsibility and resources for enhancing the university environment by facilitating a process that will provide a welcoming and supportive community for students, faculty and staff, regardless of personal experiences and worldviews that arise from differences of perspective, race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, gender, gender identity or expression, ability or veteran status, said the search firm. Success will be measured based on the improvement of campus climate as well as the recruitment and retention of a diverse student body, faculty and staff.

The new diversity leader will also be responsible for leading and directing the units and centers that offer diversity and inclusion programs and provide equity services: Office of Multicultural Student Access and Retention; Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender (LGBT) Center; multicultural programs and center; and the Women’s Center.

The individual will also serve as a member of the president’s council that leads the institution and addresses university-wide dimension; advise and collaborate with academic deans and other campus leadership groups regarding the development, communication, and implementation of Ohio University’s diversity vision and plan; advance a campus climate that respects, values and supports the academic, social and personal development of all students, faculty and staff, among other duties.

Integrity and Honesty

The ideal candidate will have a proven track record in advancing diversity and will lead the university with integrity and honesty, said Witt/ Kieffer. Additionally, candidates should have the following professional qualifications and personal characteristics: extensive experience in the field of diversity and equity in higher education and a demonstrated ability to mobilize that expertise into highly effective practical applications and outcomes; visionary leadership with an entrepreneurial approach to program development and establishing dynamic relationships with students, faculty, university staff, corporations, government officials, foundations and community leaders; experience and understanding of the structure, history and dynamics of higher education and the complex resultant challenges; results oriented with an in-depth understanding of organizational change and transformational leadership, among others.


Key Activities to Drive Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
While diversity and inclusion initiatives have become a “must-have” for 21st century employers, successful ones are often contingent upon having a clear plan and framework that resonates with diverse talent and aligns with overall business goals.


Established by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and chartered in 1804, Ohio University is the state’s first institution of higher education and one of America’s oldest public universities. It is known for its nationally-ranked academic programs, its commitment to the liberal arts, and the quality of its faculty and their effectiveness in helping students of all backgrounds. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs on its main campus in Athens, five regional campuses and three extension campuses. Collectively, the full-time, part-time and continuing education enrollment across all of its campuses is nearly 40,000.

Finding Leaders

Witt/ Kieffer, based in Oak Brook, IL, assists hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, medical schools and physician groups; biotech, pharmaceutical, diagnostics and medical device companies; colleges and universities and not-for-profit community service and cultural organizations with senior administrative recruiting assignments. With more than 100 search professionals nationwide, its consultants recruit CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CNOs, physician executives and other leaders.

Witt/ Kieffer’s education recruitment team identifies higher education and college preparatory school leaders who understand complex issues facing both public and private institutions: resource constraints, shifting national policy and increased scrutiny by boards, faculty, students and families. The education roles it recruits include presidents, provosts, deans, and officers for business and finance, advancement and development, student affairs, enrollment, IT and more.

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

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