Knapp creates council to expand GW’s diversity

University President Steven Knapp announced the creation of a President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion at the University’s Board of Trustees’ meeting last Friday, in an effort to expand GW’s attractiveness to potential students and employees of diverse backgrounds.

Knapp also announced the creation of a senior administrator position, the associate provost for diversity and inclusion, whose job will include leading the University on issues like access to education and employment for individuals from varied backgrounds. Knapp said the University has to reach out to people of different backgrounds to be successful in the next 50 years.

“The way demographics in the United States are developing right now, if you’re not reaching out to all parts of America then you’re really not going to have the kind of students, the kind of experiences and the kind of talents you need to be a successful institution,” Knapp said.

The associate provost will be located in the Office of Academic Affairs, Knapp said, and will work closely with the newly appointed Chief Human Resources Officer Louis Lemieux.

“While we are building the external visibility of the University, and [with] all the work we are doing to raise our stature and have a more selective recruitment of students, we have to keep working on building the community,” Knapp said.

Kyle Boyer, former executive vice president of the Student Association, said he supports the idea of a council focused on diversity.

“I think today, it’s very important that any institution displays a certain level of cultural competency,” Boyer said. “The best institutions are diverse institutions with multiple backgrounds, geographical locations and different mindsets.”

According to data from the University’s Office of Institutional Research, of the 25,061 students enrolled at GW, only about 6,000 reported being a race other than caucasian for the 2009-2010 year. In 2006, that number was about 5,000.

“We have an increasingly diverse student body, and that is terrific, but we have to match that with diversity in our faculty so the people have the sense that this is really an environment that supports the diversity of the student body,” Knapp said.

GW is not alone with its effort to reach out to more racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University have created similar positions or councils in the last decade.

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