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CU System Hires Chief Diversity Officer

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Theodosia Cook will join the CU system in May 2020.

Added position aims to improve diversity and inclusion on CU’s campuses

At CU Denver, 44 percent of the undergraduate student body is composed of students of color, 7 percent of the university are international students and 51 percent of incoming freshmen are first-generation college students (according to data from 2016-2017). Needless to say, CU Denver is a uniquely diverse campus, with goals of furthering inclusion policies in the future. On February 13, the University of Colorado system announced the hire of a new Chief Diversity Officer to aid in diversity and inclusion practices on all four CU campuses.  

According to a statement from the university, Theodosia Cook “will help develop and implement system-wide policies and initiatives that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion” and “coordinate and collaborate with chief diversity officers, faculty and administrators on each of the campuses.” Additionally, Cook will aid in creating the annual strategic plan for the university system. Cook currently works at Dartmouth University as the director of campus climate and culture initiative.  

In May 2020, Cook will join the University of Colorado system administration team, and report directly to CU President Mark Kennedy. At CU, system administration encompasses the Board of Regents and 19 other offices that oversee the rest of the university. While diversity and outreach are the primary responsibilities for Cook, multiple other positions in the CU system administration are also focused on studying and improving diversity and inclusion practices at CU.  

According to CU Vice President for Communication Ken McConnellogue, the idea of hiring a Chief Diversity Officer was conceptualized a few years ago. Initially, the Board of Regents voted to add a Vice President of Diversity, but up until recently, that addition never came to fruition. Several months ago, after the hiring of President Kennedy, the university began conducting a nation-wide search for a Chief Diversity Officer. Three finalists were invited for interviews with people from the CU system administration, with the independent search agency and members of the Board of Regents. Ultimately, President Kennedy was the deciding party in Cook’s hire.  

Many other universities in Colorado already have similar positions. At Colorado State University, Mary Ontiveros serves as the Vice President for Diversity, also operating directly under the CSU president. Like CU’s new Chief Diversity Officer, Ontiveros’ main priorities include leading campus-wide diversity initiatives and collaborating with diverse communities outside of the campus.  

But diversity at CU is a complex and extensive idea. “When we define diversity, it is certainly in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, those types of things. But the Board is also pretty interested in diversity of thought, and like socioeconomic status, geography, so it’s a pretty broad definition of diversity. We basically want to create an environment that’s gonna allow diversity in all its forms to thrive,” said McConnellogue. “And that’s a pretty tall order, but that’s one of the things that this position is intended to address. I would say it’s one of the core values and articulated guiding principles at our university, so we need to practice what we preach.”  

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