LAWRENCE – Five individuals at the University of Kansas are taking on enhanced roles in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, either as a promotion or an expansion of their current responsibilities:
- Steven Johnson, assistant dean of DEIB, School of Business
- Ngondi Kamaṱuka, director of Center for Educational Opportunity Programs and assistant dean for DEIB, School of Education & Human Sciences
- Mindie Paget, assistant vice chancellor for DEIB, Office of Research
- Roberta Pokphanh, assistant vice provost, International Affairs
- Kapila Silva, associate dean for DEIB, School of Architecture & Design
“I’m excited about the knowledge, experience and commitment these five will bring to their roles,” said Barbara Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor. “They will play an integral role in KU rising to the occasion and creating a more inclusive environment where more empathy is present, particularly for our underrepresented students, faculty and staff.”
In a report to the Kansas Board of Regents last year, D.A. Graham, KU’s interim vice provost of diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging, wrote that having individuals connected to the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging in each school, division and unit will help the university “better understand our constituents’ concerns in order to creatively advocate and problem-solve.”
The university and the Office of DEIB have taken a substantial step toward this goal in the last few months with these personnel moves. These five will develop and report on key performance indicators within their school or division, utilizing validated metrics, a universitywide diversity framework and the university strategic plan.
The mission of the Office of DEIB is to create a more equitable and inclusive KU by facilitating the integration of greater representation, fairness, belonging and care into institutional policies, protocols, practices and learning spaces. The expansion of the DEIB presence is a move toward that mission and building healthy and vibrant communities, a key element of the Jayhawks Rising strategic plan.
“They will continue the important work that has already begun at the university to name and acknowledge the legacies of systemic racism and other biases on and off campus,” Graham said. “These positions will also build on initiatives to increase the university’s recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff from underrepresented groups.
“These individuals will also work with a network of diversity folks, including myself, to develop frameworks that promote equitable, transparent, accountable and positive growth for the larger KU community,” Graham said.
Steven Johnson serves as the assistant dean of DEIB in the School of Business. He is responsible for leading diversity-related recruitment and retention programming, outreach, community engagement, proposal, development, fundraising and evaluation efforts across the school for students, faculty and staff. Johnson acts as the school’s leader in strategies, policies and administration for matters of DEIB.
The School of Business has prioritized DEIB work in multiple ways, including the development of internal and external workgroups, expansion of existing DEIB programs and the introduction of new programs. Appointments with the Pan African Network of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and in the Upper Midwest Region – Association of College and University Housing Officers (UMR-ACUHO) have given Johnson the opportunities to facilitate targeted social justice educational programs and initiatives.
Ngondi Kamaṱuka takes over as assistant dean of DEIB for the School of Education & Human Sciences (SOEHS). He will lead, direct and coordinate all DEIB activities for the school and work with leadership in developing a diversity-centered recruitment and retention strategy for students, faculty and staff. Kamaṱuka will oversee the DEIB component of the hiring process for all SOEHS faculty and staff and help plan DEIB professional development activities.
The longtime Jayhawk is the recipient of several awards, including the KU Unclassified Employee of the Year in 2004. Kamaṱuka has served as the director in the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs, Achievement & Assessment Institute since 1987 and has taught in the school for 15 years.
Mindie Paget assumes the role of assistant vice chancellor for DEIB in the Office of Research, an expansion of her responsibilities as the unit’s director of external affairs. She leads communications, marketing and outreach efforts as well as DEIB strategies, policies and administration for a unit that is committed to creating a research culture that values and fosters diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging – minimizing the effects of bias and recognizing and addressing systemic inequities.
Paget is chair of the KU Research Staff Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Committee and served on the KU School of Law Faculty & Staff Diversity Committee. She earned the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Workplace certificate from the University of South Florida in May 2021.
Roberta Pokphanh serves as assistant vice provost in International Affairs. She will coordinate efforts within International Affairs units around DEIB and academic affairs. She will serve as a liaison to units across campus working on DEIB objectives to ensure inclusion of the perspectives and needs of international students, staff and faculty. She has established a working group that will coordinate DEIB efforts within the division.
Pokphanh is a lifetime member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and she currently serves on the board of directors. She is a longtime member of the Native Faculty and Staff Council, and she previously served on Staff Senate.
Kapila Silva, professor of architecture, serves as the associate dean for DEIB in the School of Architecture & Design. He is involved with the Multicultural Architecture Scholars Program (MASP), a key DEIB initiative at the school, first as a volunteer faculty adviser and then for the last nine years as a director. Silva will collaborate with the dean and the school’s DEIB Committee, the departments and the student leadership team to envision, strategize and advocate for measurable action leading toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the school.
Silva has experimented with how to bring in issues of social justice in architecture by introducing studio projects through which students can address, research and be informed of DEIB themes that are close to their personal experiences and interests. He was presented with the Honor for Outstanding Progressive Educator (HOPE) Award from KU in 2020.
DEIB presence continues to expand
Even with the DEIB presence across campus growing, leaders within DEIB believe there is still much work to do to accomplish the big-picture goal of having an associate or assistant dean for DEIB in each school, Graham said. In fact, schools across campus will be hiring for similar DEIB positions in the coming months. To that end, the KU School of Journalism & Mass Communications is conducting an internal search for an equity advisor to serve as the curator for DEIB. The person in this position will develop ways in which DEIB can be interpreted – through education, presentations, events, experimental work and personal outreach. The initial candidate review date for the position begins July 21.