Jan. 10, 2020: Letter to the community

Dear colleagues:

Paulette Granberry Russell, Senior Advisor to the President for Diversity and Director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, recently informed me of her intent to transition from her position. Paulette has functioned as MSU’s chief diversity officer and has worked tirelessly for the past 22 years to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts across campus and beyond.

Her work occurred during times of significant change in how higher education engaged in efforts to move beyond addressing compositional diversity to creating more equitable and inclusive living, learning and work environments. Paulette was instrumental as MSU adjusted to a changing legal landscape that impacted our admissions policies, academic programs and employment strategies. She was an integral part of MSU’s National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant, which led to the establishment of MSU’s Diversity Research Network. She has initiated innovative DEI education programs and participated on numerous all-university committees that support diverse constituencies and issues. She presents across the country and internationally on a range of DEI topics and is a respected advisor and mentor to many at MSU. Paulette also is a respected colleague nationally and will be the first woman president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, commencing her term in March 2020.

Because of Paulette’s work, MSU has many strengths and a long history of institutional commitment to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. She has agreed to remain in her current role while a search is conducted for her replacement and has graciously offered to remain in an advisory capacity to me during a transition period to work on special projects and initiatives.

Near the end of last semester, I launched a comprehensive planning process around diversity, equity and inclusion. A 28-member steering committee led by Luis Garcia (Director of Migrant Student Services) and Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore (Honors College Dean) will help inventory existing DEI efforts across campus, identify potential synergies, pinpoint existing gaps and establish a plan for making MSU a national leader in this area.

To ensure successful implementation and long-term success around these efforts, I will be recommending to the Board of Trustees to create the position of Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). This senior-level position will report directly to me and work collaboratively across campus to advance DEI efforts in a sustainable way that fosters change, promotes MSU’s core values and transforms the university’s culture. They will be responsible for leading the implementation of our DEI strategic plan. Unit-based DEI offices, programs and staff will maintain current reporting relationships, but the CDO will be charged with convening stakeholders including college associate deans for DEI and other unit-level leaders to share best practices, align efforts and lead a culture of accountability for results.

The individual in this role will develop, nurture and strengthen an inclusive, equitable, safe and culturally responsive and supportive environment for all students, faculty and staff. The CDO will be empowered and expected to reach and work across DEI efforts encompassing both academic and administrative areas of the university, including student admissions and success; faculty and staff recruitment, retention and advancement; and educational, research and community engagement programs. I am committed to creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion that is a foundation for all we do at MSU, and this position is essential to the critical work ahead of us. In the coming days I will be forming a committee to conduct a national search supported by executive search firm Isaacson, Miller. More details will be forthcoming.

Please join me in thanking Paulette for her leadership. I look forward to engaging the campus community on this important search.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.