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Communication professor appointed Interim Chief Diversity Officer

Interim Chief Diversity Officer Tamara Stevenson accepts her Unsung Hero award at Westminster College’s annual Unity Luncheon on Feb. 28. Stevenson, an associate professor of communication, was appointed to her new position in March and said she will work to increase diversity, promote equity and make the college an increasingly inclusive academic community. (Photo by Emily Van Alstyne)

Associate Professor Dr. Tamara Stevenson, a current professor of communication, has been hired as Westminster College’s Interim Chief Diversity Officer. Stevenson will be the second person to ever hold the position.

After the departure of Marco Barker in February, Stevenson was nominated by her peers, interviewed by a search committee and finally offered the position of Interim Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) in March.

The Chief Diversity Officer role was created at Westminster following a student-lead protest in December 2015 protest which called for an institutional emphasis on diversity, a new diversity staff member and more need-based scholarships. Marco Barker was hired as the college’s first Chief Diversity Officer in Fall 2016.

“The Chief Diversity Officer elevates the significance of diversity, equity and inclusion practices consistent with the mission and values of Westminster,” said President Beth Dobkin, in an email response. “I look forward not only to sustained attention in these areas but also to working closely with the CDO as a valuable partner in all college-wide initiatives.”

Stevenson has been at Westminster for seven years in the communication department and has been an associate professor for the last five years. She also served on the initial search committee who hired Barker.

“From a student perspective, is that it’s kind of exciting to have this position filled by someone who knows our students so well,” said Professor Kim Zarkin, chair of the communication department at Westminster. “The great thing about Dr. Stevenson taking this position is that she’s been in the day-to-day lives of our students for seven years now, she knows this campus better than anyone from the outside and that will make her especially good at this role.”

Stevenson has also served as a faculty fellow of diversity, equity and inclusion, and helped to develop and coordinate different campus-wide diversity education opportunities like the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s Bastian Diversity Lecture Series.

“I am very honored that people would consider to nominate me for this role and that the work I’ve done on campus throughout my time here was worth consideration to enter this role,” Stevenson said.

In her new position, Stevenson said she will work to increase diversity, promote equity and make the college an increasingly inclusive academic community.

“[Westminster’s] tagline is ‘you belong here’ and diversity, equity and inclusion is definitely embedded in that,” Stevenson said.

Westminster is a ‘teaching institution,’ according to Stevenson, focusing directly on students education needs, as opposed to other research-focused institutions, which fuels her passion for the college.

Stevenson said she is looking forward to transitioning into her new position and will continue to teach select courses at the college.

Zarkin said she sees this appointment as “a natural evolution to [Stevenson’s career].”

“[Stevenson wants] to make diversity, equity and inclusion central to Westminster’s mission, not just something we add on at the end of a semester, but at its very heart,” Zarkin said. “Everything she’s done has led her to this place.”

*Staff reporter Davis Lentz is a communication major at Westminster College.

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Davis Lentz
Davis is a 22-year-old communication major at Westminster College who grew up in Rhode Island. He enjoys spending time in either the mountains or on the water and recently discovered he likes sushi.

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