Colorado College has named a three-person diversity, equity, and inclusion leadership team, and CC Board of Trustees Chair Susie Burghart ’77 has donated $1 million to enhance and accelerate the work of the new DEI leadership team and further the college’s antiracism initiative.
The team will be dedicated to the college’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, lead strategic implementation, and keep antiracism efforts front and center in the college’s priorities. While most hiring at CC has been put on hold due to the ramifications of the pandemic, the diversity, equity, and inclusion positions continue to be a priority and moved ahead.
Peony Fhagen, Ph.D. is joining CC as the new senior associate dean for equity, inclusion, and faculty development, and Rosalie M. Rodriguez is joining CC as the senior associate dean of students for equity and inclusion/director of the Butler Center.
Barbara J. Wilson, currently CC’s associate vice president for administrative services, has been named to serve as the interim director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for staff. She has been at CC since August 2000 when she was hired as director of Human Resources, a role that included working with staff to resolve issues of discrimination and harassment complaints. Wilson served as the deputy Title IX coordinator for staff from 2012-18. From 2013-15 she served as chair and co-chair on the faculty and staff diversity action team that focused on recruitment and retention issues. A national search for the position will be conducted in Spring 2021.
“I wanted to underscore how important this initiative is to all of us — as educators, parents, students, staff, and alumni,” Burghart says. “These experts will guide the college in long-needed work that is now even more crucial. This is a moment when CC can lead and make a difference.”
Acting Co-President Mike Edmonds says Burghart’s gift will be transformative for the college.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are top priorities, and rather than relying on one chief diversity officer to lead CC’s antiracism initiative, CC has elevated the leadership of this work to a three-person team, in which one member of the team will focus on the academic program; a second on students; and a third on employees and college business relations.
Claire Oberon Garcia, acting provost, dean of the faculty, and chair of the search committee for the senior associate dean for equity, inclusion, and faculty development, noted that the traditional chief diversity officer model, which was recommended in the Antiracism External Review conducted at CC, has failed at other colleges and universities; is not an effective way of transforming an institution structurally and culturally; and is not consistent with CC’s decentralized, non-hierarchical culture.
“Colorado College’s commitment to become an antiracist institution compels us to make substantive changes in all areas of college life and activity,” Garcia says. “To combat racist ideas, policies, and behaviors, we must develop and implement antiracist ideas, policies, and behaviors. We can only do this on the ground level, with the guidance of people who have deep expertise in the areas of academics, human resources, and student life.”
As senior associate dean for equity, inclusion, and faculty development, Fhagen will be responsible for advancing and implementing the antiracism goals in the academic realm. She will work with faculty to diversify the faculty and curriculum, develop inclusive pedagogies, and improve the classroom experience. All academic departments and programs are already in the process of evaluating the structures of their majors and minors, their curricula, and their hiring practices through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. Fhagen also will be creating a new and meaningful program of professional development for faculty through all stages of their career from candidacy to mid-career to emeritx that recognizes CC’s commitment to be an institution that values each employee and helps them to thrive, says Garcia.
Fhagen most recently served as associate provost of diversity and faculty development at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where she co-developed and co-chaired a diversity, equity, and access leadership program. In addition, she managed Title IX and discrimination concerns and complaints involving faculty; developed and led workshops and faculty forums on teaching, learning, and diversity; and chaired the campus scholar-at-risk committee. Fhagen is an associate professor of psychology and African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, who chaired the Wheaton Psychology Department for several years, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Wellesley College and a Master of Science in clinical psychology and Ph.D. in developmental psychology, both from Pennsylvania State University.
“Dr. Fhagen brings a wealth of experience in thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues with creativity and generosity,” Garcia says. “When her previous institution decided to hire an inaugural chief diversity officer, she proposed instead a collaborative model of diversity, equity, and inclusion leadership similar to our own at CC.”
Rodriguez most recently served as director of multicultural student services at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she served as a primary source of contact for students of color, with a focus on advising, mentoring, and connecting students to resources that assisted them with their academic, social, and personal well-being. She also facilitated campus-wide diversity education, training, and professional development opportunities. Prior to that, Rodriguez served as special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. She has a Bachelor of Science in biocommunication from Juniata College, and a Master of Arts in community psychology and social change from Pennsylvania State University.
As the new senior associate dean of students/director of the Butler Center, Rodriguez will focus on antiracism, equity, and inclusion in student life. This will allow the Butler Center to focus on student support, as was its original intent, and also continue to work campus-wide via the collaborative leadership team.
“For this position we were looking for someone who can combine critical insights about existing systems with effective and actionable models for change, so that antiracism at CC can be a sustained commitment, and not just a talking point in times of crisis,” says Rushaan Kumar, assistant professor of Feminist & Gender Studies, who was on the search committee. “Rosalie Rodriguez demonstrated the vision and experience required to carry multiple constituencies on campus along with her in this work.”
“The search committee was looking for someone with demonstrated experience working across divisions as they are going to be a member of a three-person team designed to do just that,” says Manya Whitaker, associate professor of education, chair of the Education Department, interim director of the Butler Center, advisor to the Black Student Union, and search committee chair. “We also wanted someone to whom students could connect and also view as an advocate, especially during contentious moments on campus.”