June 17, 2020 – The role of chief diversity officer is expanding at universities. It has 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. In turn, executive search firms have become valuable partners to colleges in finding the right talent for the role.
Just recently, WittKieffer placed Franklin A. Tuitt as vice president and chief diversity officer of the University of Connecticut. He will officially begin his duties in July. Consultant Charlene Aguilar and associate Christine Pendleton led the assignment.
“This is an essential position for any university, but especially for a great public university seeking to ensure a welcoming and vibrant intellectual environment for all of our students, faculty and staff,” said Thomas Katsouleas, president of UConn. “Reporting directly to me, Frank will serve as the university’s main strategist for efforts to define, assess and promote diversity, inclusion and opportunity at UConn and UConn Health. The value of diversity to a university cannot be overstated, but nor can it be merely an objective often discussed but never achieved.”
Mr. Tuitt has been a faculty member at the University of Denver since 2004 and served as chief diversity officer from 2015-19. Since September, he has been a visiting scholar at the Echo Center for Diversity Policy at the Hague, Netherlands. Mr. Tuitt is the inaugural visiting scholar at the Echo Center and delivers lectures, facilitates training and conducts research in support of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the Netherlands and to post-secondary institutions in Europe.
In his role in Denver, Mr. Tuitt was responsible for addressing diversity and equity matters and oversaw the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which includes the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (In)Equality, and the DU Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship. In 2019, he received the National Association of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education Individual Leadership Award in recognition of “outstanding contributions to research, administration, practice, advocacy and/or policy, and whose work informs and advances understanding of diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education”
At UConn, Mr. Tuitt will develop programs and coordinate activities to support the recruitment and retention of faculty, students and staff from diverse backgrounds. He will also work with university units responsible for programs in support of a campus climate that is free of discrimination and harassment.
“My decision join the UConn family was made easy for me as I saw a strong alignment with the priorities of this role and my administrative and academic experiences,” said Mr. Tuitt. “UConn has committed leaders across the campus, very engaged student advocates and allies, a talented group of committed faculty and staff, and numerous centers, institutes and programs all invested in helping the school continue on its journey to being a more inclusive and affirming campus environment, where all members of the community feel a powerful sense of belonging.”
WittKieffer Recruits First Chief Diversity Officer for Emory University
WittKieffer placed Carol E. Henderson as vice provost for diversity and inclusion, chief diversity officer and advisor to the president at Emory University. Consultants Oliver B. Tomlin and Jennifer G. Bauer led the search. Ms. Henderson will join Emory from the University of Delaware, where she has served as vice provost for diversity since 2014.
Established in 1881, UConn is one of the top public research universities in the nation, with more than 30,000 students. The school offers upwards of 100 majors, eight undergraduate degrees, 17 graduate degrees and five professional degree programs.
WittKieffer, 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.
Based in South Bend, IN, Ms. Aguilar works in WittKieffer’s education practice. With over 30 years of experience, she conducts leadership searches for college and university presidents, chancellors, provosts and deans, in addition to key positions in advancement, academic and student affairs, enrollment and admissions. She also has knowledge and experience on diversity and inclusion initiatives across the spectrum of independent secondary schools along with public and non-profit enterprises.
Ms. Pendleton, who works out of WittKieffer’s Oak Brook office, joined the firm in 2014. She works to identify presidents, chancellors, provosts, vice presidents, deans and chief diversity officers on behalf of public and private universities and colleges and other senior leaders in non-profit organizations. She is a member of the firm’s diversity council and director of its community fund.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media