The Institute announced the appointment of Dr. Archie Ervin as the inaugural Vice President for Institute Diversity (VPID) on Tuesday, Oct. 5. As part of his role, Ervin will be responsible for all diversity matters at Tech, including coordinating existing diversity programs and pursuing initiatives that support the Institute’s strategic plan. He has served as the associate provost for diversity and multicultural affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2005, and will begin his tenure at Tech on Jan. 1, 2011.
“[Ervin] has been a faculty member and he has taught at various times of his career and understands the importance of organization and management in his academic and other work. He has very deep understanding of the issues facing faculty and for students and for staff,” said Dr. Catherine Murray-Rust, Dean and Director of Libraries.
According to Murray-Rust, the criteria for choosing the candidate included a broad understanding of diversity and the challenges specific to research universities. Candidates were told that they would have the freedom to approach diversity issues from a broad perspective, including race and gender. Other criteria included the ability to provide leadership and support to develop the Institute’s strategy for diversity.
In an on-campus presentation in Sept., Ervin said that every person’s “lived-experience” at an institution is very different. He also said that the Institute must understand that every person’s lived experience because each person’s life is affected by it.
Tech currently has many diversity programs in place, including OMED, Women’s Resource Center and ADAPTS among others. Ervin will be responsible for shaping the Institute’s strategy for diversity and figure out how the different offices directed towards students and staff can work together to pool resources and affect change on campus.
“The candidate is supposed to come in and shape the program, figure out how all these offices directed towards students, towards staff, and some at compliance [with the law], are going to be working together to change the culture of Tech,” Murray-Rust said.
Ervin will also be in charge of addressing some of the current diversity programs’ shortcomings.
“There are some significant gaps, for example Tech doesn’t have a particularly a strong program for the disabled, and it doesn’t have a strong program for veterans,” Murray-Rust said.
The VPID will be a member of Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson’s cabinet, meaning that Ervin will have a significant presence in changing the Institute’s diversity policy to serve the strategic plan. This is unique in the fact that similar positions at peer institutions are not afforded the same level of influence. As a result, one of the concerns raised by students during the selection process was the cost of funding such a position, and whether Tech should pay for such a high level position during such economic times.
“I think that they’re focusing on the money, but I think they believe that this position is better paid than it actually is. In fact, I believe that in order to make progress this position is necessary,” Murray-Rust said.
Ervin was chosen from a nationwide pool of candidates following a nearly year-long search. According to Murray-Rust, members of the administration agreed on the creation of this post in Dec. 2009. The VPID search was initiated to parallel the provost search, with the hope that President Peterson’s complete cabinet would be formed at the start of this semester.
A search committee began the process in March to hire a candidate for the post. Atlanta based search firm Spencer-Stewart was hired by the Institute to assist with the search and interview process. While advertising the position, the firm simultaneously identified and tried to recruit candidates from other institutions.
Following preliminary screening, candidates were invited to interview for the position in Atlanta at the end of the spring 2010. The committee agreed to wait until the fall semester to announce the finalist in order to allow the candidates to visit the campus during the regular school year and meet with students and faculty. Three finalists were invited to campus in Sept. to present their ideas before the finalist was announced.
“Tech as a challenge and an opportunity to be really good at this and to prepare students for a global world, and the only way we can do that is if we have somebody in a leadership position who gets everybody else to also exert some leadership,” Murray-Rust said.