You’ve heard of chief diversity officers, but what about academic diversity officers? Four years into its innovative plan to put diversity officers into every academic and administrative unit, to carry out program-specific diversity plans, the University of Michigan has some thoughts.

More precisely, the campus’s National Center for Institutional Diversity just published a report on the experiences of these academic diversity officers, or ADOs. Beyond making various recommendations for academic deans and academic diversity officers, the report finds that ADOs require special skills.

While all academic diversity officers report directly to in-unit supervisors, an important element of Michigan’s embedded strategy, both they and their plans are overseen by Michigan’s chief diversity officer, Robert Sellers. He and his staff review annual unit-level reports and monitor progress. In an interview, Sellers said that, in general, “there’s a problem-focused view of DEI.” Michigan wanted something different.

“DEI provides added value to what you’re already attempting to do,” he said. “By having these plans, we’re not attempting to address a problem -- we think DEI are key strategies to academic excellence.”

He added, “We wanted to create an infrastructure that would allow us not to simply prevent or address problems that have already occurred, but to create space and opportunity to be better in everything we do. DEI is a core strategy to that … Our argument is that this is an institutional responsibility.”

Read the full article at Inside Higher Ed.