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University of Utah Expands Diversity Initiatives


Sept. 04, 2008 – The University of Utah announced today that the Office for Diversity will expand its name to Equity and Diversity. Correspondingly, the university’s chief diversity officer, OctavioVillalpando, Ph.D., will assume the new title of Associate Vice President of Equity and Diversity. The expanded name will more accurately reflect the U’s efforts not only to increase its demographic diversity, but also to ensure greater equity in the educational, professional and personal experiences of all communities on campus.

The university also announced that Jennifer Williams Molock, Ed. D., has been selected as the new assistant vice president for student diversity. She will serve under the direction of Octavio Villalpando to provide leadership, education, and coordination of all student diversity support programs, initiatives and cultural events managed by the university’s Office for Equity and Diversity.

In addition to Molock, the Office for Equity and Diversity has hired Jennifer Aoyagi Bangerter, Ed. D., as the administrative director; Rachel F. Pickett, Ph.D., as research fellow; and Colleen Casto as the director of communication and community outreach.

“These changes reflect the University of Utah’s continuing commitment to support the success of historically underrepresented students, faculty, and staff,” said Michael K. Young, president of the University of Utah. “We believe we have assembled one of the best organized and knowledgeable diversity teams in higher education. We look forward to continuing our progress in achieving greater equity and diversity at the U.”

“I’m thrilled by the opportunity to serve the University of Utah in this new position,” said Molock. “I look forward to working with people on campus and in the community to support students toward their personal and academic success. This is a pivotal time at the university and in the state of Utah and I’m pleased to be here to help the U’s student diversity programs continue to grow.”

Projections indicate that in the next 5 years K – 12 public school enrollments in the state of Utah will increase by up to 125,000 students. It is anticipated these students will be more ethnically, culturally and racially diverse than in the past. The University of Utah is preparing to receive and support those high school graduates who enroll on campus and enhance the diversity of the student body. Over the past 5 years the university has seen a 26% increase in the number of ethnic/racial minority student enrollments, an average rate of 5.32 % increase each year. The 2007 ethnic minority student enrollment, the latest numbers available, include a total of 2,675 students. The hiring of new support staff and administrators, as well as restructuring and creating new programs, is a major step in laying a stronger support system for students, faculty and staff.

Jennifer Bangerter will manage all operational aspects for the Office for Equity and Diversity and will coordinate the project timelines of programs and services. She will manage the budgeting processes and coordinate faculty recruitment and appointments. Rachel Pickett, whose position is shared with the university’s Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis, will help design a diversity data analysis program that establishes university-wide benchmarks tracking the campus’s progress around diversity in the faculty, students and other institutional measures. Colleen Casto will work to facilitate communication on campus and in the community about programs and events of the Office for Equity and Diversity. She also will work on marketing and promotion for the office. Most recently she launched the U’s diversity web portal, which includes a diversity resource directory, centralizing all diversity-related information online.

In addition to the above changes, the U’s Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) begins the academic year in a newly remodeled, larger, more centralized office space in the northeast wing of the Olpin Union Building. The new space will allow CESA to enhance its student programming and advising and improve its computer lab. CESA moves into this new space with two new additional coordinators.

Betty Sawyer has joined CESA as the new African American program coordinator. Sawyer holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Utah. “She brings a wealth and breadth of experience working with African American and Black communities throughout the Wasatch Front,” said Richard Garcia, director of CESA. Sawyer has worked with the Boys and Girls Club, Project Success, Weber County Health Department and the Utah State Office of Black Affairs. Additionally, David Kinikini is the new Pacific Islander program coordinator. He holds a BS in sociology and a certificate in criminal justice from the University of Utah. Most recently he taught history at West High School and coached athletics. He was the advisor to Polynesian and African American students, served as a student advocate and was a member of the school security team. Previously he worked for the Utah State Department of Corrections. “We are excited to have David join the CESA staff. He brings a strong commitment to the support of Pacific Islander students,” said Garcia. “His open, inclusive style of working with students has been very positively received.”

Under the leadership of the Office for Equity and Diversity, the university is preparing to host the national conference of the Society of Native Americans and Chicanos in Science (SACNAS) October 8 through 12. Over 2,000 students, professors and notable members of the scientific community from around the country will attend. SACNAS encourages underrepresented students to pursue graduate education and obtain the advanced degrees necessary for science research, leadership and teaching careers at all levels. The conference is one of many events the Office for Equity and Diversity plans to sponsor to support an increasingly diverse student body.

For more information about The Office for Equity and Diversity and the university’s diversity programs visit www.diversity.utah.edu.