KU names new vice provost for diversity following plagiarism scandal

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 11:46 AM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - After the previous vice provost for diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging at the University of Kansas was fired for plagiarism, a familiar face has now been chosen to take the helm.

The University of Kansas says that after a rigorous national search, it has named Nicole Hodges Persley as its new vice provost for diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging effective immediately. She has served in the interim role since D.A. Graham was fired from the position in January.

“I’m pleased Nicole will continue leading our efforts to ensure that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are integrated into everything we do at KU. As interim vice provost, Nicole has worked with campus leaders to create a framework that will guide and facilitate improvement in every academic and administrative unit on KU Lawrence and Edwards campuses,” said Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor. “As she takes on this role, Nicole will focus on outreach and engagement with students, faculty and staff, to strengthen relationships, and working closely with campus leaders to prioritize DEIB in the strategic plans, financial plans, and in hiring and employee support.”

KU noted that it works to make diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging a priority of its Jayhawks Rising strategic plan. It said Hodges Persley has helped expand awareness that a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment is a shared campus responsibility. Her primary focus in the interim role has been to encourage and support the efforts of unit leaders to establish, measure, monitor and communicate metrics, targets, benchmarks and progress toward success.

The University indicated that Hodges Persley is also an associate professor of American studies and African & African-American studies and holds a courtesy faculty appointment in the Department of Theatre & Dance. She also previously served as an associate dean for diversity, equity & inclusion in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

“To be an exceptional learning community that lifts each member and advances society, DEIB can’t be the job of one person or one campus department,” Bichelmeyer said. “Nicole’s leadership approach is to be a collaborator, facilitator, partner and ally, and to create awareness and energy around our DEIB initiatives.”

According to KU, Hodges Persley has worked with the DEIB team to develop a new action-oriented framework to help advance equity and social justice. It said the “RISE: Realizing Intersectional Standards of Excellence” framework aims to raise awareness around systems of inequity that directly affect those who experience compounding oppressions based on overlapping social identities.

“I feel fortunate to continue this important work at KU,” Hodges Persley said. “I especially value my relationships with faculty, staff and students across campus and the opportunity to work with the talented and dedicated team within the DEIB office.”

KU noted that Hodges Persley first joined the faculty in 2009 and has received various awards and honors that recognize her teaching, mentoring and campus contributions. She was chosen from four finalists after a nationwide search which included committee interviews, meetings with faculty, staff, students, university governance representatives and unit leaders, and public presentations.

“Nicole showed throughout the search process that she has the vision, desire and ability to facilitate a lasting and profound change in how we think about, approach and achieve an inclusive and nurturing community where all Jayhawks feel they belong,” Jide Wintoki said.

KU indicated that Wintoki, associate dean of graduate programs and Capitol Federal Professor in the School of Business, co-chaired the search with Derek Kwan, executive director of the Lied Center of Kansas.

“This search attracted some outstanding leaders,” Kwan said. “Nicole’s background in social justice, her leadership strengths, her understanding of KU’s DEIB efforts and her collaborative approach to engaging students, faculty and staff make her ideal for this role.”

The search began after D.A. Graham, the school’s previous DEIB vice provost, was fired after he plagiarized a message sent to the campus community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.