After a nearly two-month search, Northwest named Justin Mallett the associate provost of diversity and inclusion.
Mallett was the second candidate considered for the position. The hiring committee held two forums in August with Ade Oredein, director of diversity and inclusion and coordinator of international student affairs at Owensboro Community and Technical College in Owensboro, Kentucky.
Forums were held for students and employees to consider Mallett for the position Sept. 23. He began operating in his new role Oct. 1, but it was not officially announced until Oct. 8.
During forums, Mallett said he aims to have a more intersectional approach to helping underrepresented students and focus on issues of pronoun and name usage in classrooms for transgender and nonbinary students.
Mallett said he hopes this change will allow students’ concerns with diversity and inclusion to more directly reach the administration and initiate change.
“I think it’s going to create more of a visible pipeline for our students as it relates to diversity and inclusion,” Mallett said. “Being the type of person that I am, I’ll make myself very visible and open to students, so if they want to have open and honest dialogue about things that they may see, my door is always going to be open.”
In a functional capacity, Mallett said the main change is being more in touch with the administrative side of the University.
“The objectives that we do have for our office, we’re able to have those conversations at a higher level,” Mallett said. “To be able to make sure that our University leaders are continuously thinking about diversity and inclusion as we move forward and progress with the University plan.”
The Board of Regents established the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as part of Student Affairs in April 2016 when it unanimously voted to create the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion position, according to a 2016 University news release. Northwest hired Juanita Simmons to fill the position later that year.
In 2017, DEI separated from Student Affairs and became its own department and Mallett was brought in as director of diversity and inclusion.
Before coming to Northwest, Mallett served as the director of the American Intercultural Center at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the director of diversity and multicultural affairs at Illinois College and an admissions counselor and coordinator of new student orientation at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
During forums as a candidate for the position, Mallett said diversity and inclusion at Northwest needs to extend beyond race.
“There are white students who go through some of the same things that a lot of the black students go through,” Mallett said at the employee forum. “There are white students who are poor; there are white students that are underprepared; there are white students that struggle in their day-to-day life.”
During his time as director of DEI, Mallett said the office’s biggest failure was centering funding and programming on the black student population, which did not have a tangible impact on graduation and retention rates of those students.
Simmons resigned from her position in February, and University Police Chief Clarence Green was named interim vice president of DEI. Soon after, the position was eliminated and Green was named vice president of culture in May.
University President John Jasinksi announced the creation of the new position in August. He said it was created in an effort to improve graduation and retention rates of underrepresented students; the University created the new position in order to bring Diversity and Inclusion under the Provost’s Office.
“What I’m looking forward to is being able to sit in the room and have conversations about ways that we can work together and collaborate to help improve the retention and graduation rates of our underrepresented students to get it at or at a higher level than what our majority students are at right now,” Mallett said.
DEI has one coordinator of diversity and inclusion, Adam Gonzales, who will continue to work under Mallett in the Provost’s office.
The Office of Human Resources posted a coordinator of diversity and inclusion opening Oct. 4, which has been vacant since Gabrielle Fields resigned in January.
Mallett said resource distribution will remain the same, but after a strategic plan for the office is developed, that may change.
Equity will fall under the Office of Student Affairs, which is in the process of hiring a new Title IX coordinator.
“The equity piece is still within the diversity and inclusion umbrella,” Mallett said. “We’ve embedded it within the inclusion piece because if we’re going to be an inclusive campus, we’re going to be an equitable campus as well.”
In a Northwest news release, Provost Jamie Hooyman said she is looking forward to seeing Mallet’s vision for the future of diversity and inclusion.
“With his background, education and experience, Dr. Mallett will add support to Northwest’s continued efforts to embrace inclusion across the campus and community,” Hooyman said.