On March 28, President Herbst announced to the community by e-mail that Sheila R. Johnson-Wil-lis will soon become Colgate’s first Director for Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Ac-tion. Johnson-Willis will assume the position in June.
“This is a new position. It was created after the Vice President and Dean of Diversity [Keenan Grenell] left the university last winter,” Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Mari-lyn (Lyn) Rugg said. Rugg is also a co-chair of the Search Committee that selected Johnson-Willis.
The Director’s responsibilities, however, will differ somewhat from the role the Dean filled.
“[Johnson-Willis’s] primary re-sponsibilities will have to do with compliance: equal employment op-portunity, affirmative action, [the] Americans with Disabilities Act and Title IX,” Rugg said. Previously, these compliance questions were distribut-ed across different departments and individuals, including Rugg herself, who is currently Colgate’s Staff Affir-mative Action Officer and University Harassment Officer.
“During my first year at Colgate, it became clear to me that the University needed a dedicated individual to serve as a key leader on matters pertaining to af-firmative action and equal employment opportunity, and to focus on compli-ance of federal and state laws, accredita-tion standards and mandates,” President Jeffrey Herbst said.
“In Johnson-Willis, we are fortu-nate to have hired a talented person who can help us meet these needs,” Herbst said.
“These responsibilities used to be distributed across different people,” Rugg said. “We are trying to con-solidate that into one experienced person.” However, Rugg made it clear that the existing government structures will remain in place to support Johnson-Willis – she is not coming in to completely replace the current system, but to organize and unify it. Rugg co-chaired the search committee along with Director of Human Resources Lori Chlad, who was unavailable for an interview.
“It was a really strong pool of applicants. The decision to first advertise the position was made at the beginning of the Fall semes-ter,” Rugg said. Now, after over a semester of interviews and appli-cation review, Johnson-Willis is preparing to relocate to Hamilton from Indiana with her husband and two children.
Johnson-Willis holds a B.A. from Albion College and a J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She has worked as a family court specialist, an unemployment claims interviewer and a coordina-tor of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) compliance at an automotive manufacturer. Since 2008, she has worked at Indi-ana State University, first as an em-ployee relations and immigration coordinator and later as director of affirmative action compliance and Title IX coordinator.
“Sheila will be integral in devel-oping new affirmative action plans, assuring compliance and handling complaints of discrimination or harassment. She will also help us be prepared for new policy and compliance challenges with regards to veterans and people with dis-abilities,” Herbst said. In his an-nouncement e-mail, he stressed the importance of the position, as well as Johnson-Willis’s own impressive talent and background.
“I’m very excited to have her come; I think she is an amazing person,” Rugg said. “She will be a wonderful addition to the Colgate community.”
Contact Rebekah Ward at [email protected]