March 24, 2011

Diversity gets a new home

by Paula Van Brocklin

Efforts to enhance diversity initiatives at ISU have resulted in a push to create a more centralized leadership function in the office of the executive vice president and provost.

Dawn Bratsch-Prince, who recently was appointed associate provost for academic personnel, also accepted the role of Iowa State's chief diversity officer. The university has not had a chief diversity officer before, signaling a move toward a more centralized plan for diversity at Iowa State.

"Since this office has the responsibility for the academic enterprise on campus, it seemed to be the right place to centralize and coordinate diversity efforts and provide some leadership," Bratsch-Prince said.

In her role as chief diversity officer, Bratsch-Prince chairs the University Committee on Diversity (formerly the Advisory Committee on Diversity Programming and Coordination), an advisory committee on diversity programming and issues at Iowa State. She envisions opportunities to get faculty more involved in existing diversity initiatives, such as the annual Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE). She intends to lend support to the campus-wide efforts to attract a diverse pool of applicants for faculty and staff positions, and to make permanent some of the ISU ADVANCE initiatives that have resulted from a five-year National Science Foundation grant.

To assist with her efforts, Bratsch-Prince is in the process of hiring an equity and diversity coordinator; she hopes to fill the position by May 1. This person will assist Bratsch-Prince in all aspects of diversity planning and administration, and will have a significant role on the university work/life committee and with the ADVANCE programs.

"I think it's important for us to be cognizant of the fact that the [2010-15 ISU strategic plan] talks about the diversity of faculty, students and staff, and respect for diversity of people and ideas," Bratsch-Prince said. "So, investment in this new equity and diversity coordinator position and in a chief diversity officer really does align with our vision for our future as an institution."

HRS to focus on compliance

With the chief diversity officer located in the executive vice president and provost's office, human resource services is shifting its focus from diversity programming to compliance. As an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, Iowa State must provide the federal government with statistical information on employees to make sure the university is complying with federal rules and regulations.

Last fall, Carla Espinoza, associate vice president of HRS, became the university's interim compliance officer. A search for a new compliance director will begin in April, and the position should be filled this summer. The department received a name change as well, from equal opportunity and diversity (EOD) to equal opportunity and compliance (EOC).

A focus on compliance is a necessary change, Espinoza said. The results of an 18-month compliance review by the U.S. Department of Labor concluded that ISU must conform to several new compliance requirements.

"As they asked questions, it became clear to us that on top of everything else we were doing, we were barely able to keep up with the compliance side of things," Espinoza said.

She said procedures the university used to follow no longer are accepted, and additional documentation and tracking are necessary.

"We have to provide lots of data that we have but can't necessarily access easily because [the federal government] wants it in a different format," she said.

The new compliance director will help ease the compliance workload by completing compliance reporting, educating the campus community on compliance issues and leading investigation complaints.

"I think the provost's commitment to focus on the diversity program is great for Iowa State," Espinoza said. "Our role is very much compliance-oriented now."