Over the summer, Colgate appointed Dr. Keenan Grenell as the University’s first Vice President and Dean of Diversity.
Grenell is a graduate of Tougaloo College, a political science professor and has served as Associate Provost for Diversity at Marquette University, an Interim Assistant Provost for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Auburn University and Global Fellow at the Institute of Innovation, Creativity and Capital at the University of Texas. He is also an active participant in many diversity groups across America.
Grenell was selected from a competitive international search for the perfect candidate to be the Vice President and Dean of Diversity. When he was contacted, he immediately was reminded of the inspiring article President Rebecca Chopp wrote about her vision of what she was looking for in terms of a leader for this particular position. Since Grenell’s first day on September 1, he and Chopp have worked together as a perfect team.
“Outside a provost and president position, I have a comprehensive view of what’s going on, whether it’s related to students, athletes or alumni. [President Chopp] has the ultimate expertise in everything. I need to support her totally and comprehensively. She is the most respected president in America,” Grenell said.
There are distinguishable qualities that differentiate Colgate’s level of diversity from Grenell’s experience at previous colleges.
“When I compare Colgate to Auburn and Marquette, clearly it is the readiness levels of Colgate’s leadership. Students here have a level of awareness that is at another level. What I bring to the table is my experience, to bring into some sort of centralized format, more accountability, and more expectation.”
To better prepare students for the global world outside of the “Colgate bubble,” his initiatives are to make sure that diversity naturally plays into our everyday life.
“I want to make sure that diversity is part of the fabric, tone and core of everything we do at Colgate. It is a part of its operating values, systems, procedures, and decisions. People need to behave in diverse scenarios without even noticing it.”
What many students may be unaware of is that diversity is not just race and religion. Colgate tends to have a reputation for lack of diversity, but Grenell defies this misunderstanding with his explanation of the true definition of diversity.
“Diversity is a tolerance for lesbian, gay, transgender, religion, disability, economic situations, race and gender. There is a strong influence of diversity in faculty, not from a racial point of view, but from a gender perspective as well.”
In 2006, several students commented in “College Prowler’s Colgate University: Off the Records.” On an A to F scale, they gave Colgate a D for its level of diversity. “It is noticeably upper class…Campus is not diverse at all. It seems as everyone from Colgate is rich and white…I never felt poor until I went to Colgate…Largely homogenized group of wealthy Caucasian students. Many of the minority students who do choose Colgate are often attending specifically for sports programs,” one of the comments said.
When these remarks were brought to the attention of Grenell, he explained that his job started on September 1, 2008, and that is all he is concerned with; the past is in the past.
Those comments may have been valid two years ago, but under the leadership of Grenell, improvements seem to be well on their way. He explained that diversity improvements will not magically arise. There are lessons on diversity that are instilled here, but the students themselves have to take the initiative step towards diversity awareness. In order to lessen these complaints, the students need to seek opportunity on their own.
Colgate is progressively becoming more diverse. African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans shape almost 24 percent of the first-year class. There are people from thirty-five countries. Organizations such as the Rainbow Club, African American Student Alliance, Colgate International Community and others specialize in increasing the awareness and exposure to certain cultures.
“My goal is to move the institution so future comments will be better. I would like to see different reflections when people comment on their experience this year and in years to come. The Dean of College here has worked on an inclusive college community. As the institution begins to increase more opportunities for exposure and connectedness, the job of each individual is to seek opportunities out in terms of resources and individuals,” Grenell said.