Dr. Robert Sellers, Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) at the University of Michigan, joined Dr. Edna Chun’s Introduction to Human Capital Management class on March 25 for an inspiring guest lecture on the role of the diversity and inclusion leader. He explained the multiple expectations of the CDO in higher education in relation to students, faculty, staff, and the community. Dr. Sellers shared differing visions of the CDO role that range from maintaining the status quo to being a builder, change agent, and innovator in changing campus direction. To be successful as CDO, he emphasized the necessity of having access to leadership on a regular basis, holding authority in the position, and having the resources needed to make changes. In this regard, CDOs operate within institutional contexts and must look at the long game in terms of disrupting systemic barriers to inclusion and addressing structural inequality. One of the most powerful metaphors he shared was on building diverse teams based on his own experience having earned all American Honors as a linebacker in football at Howard University.
“So one of the most important things I learned from sport is if I'm creating the team I'm not looking for a team of quarterbacks or a team of offensive linemen or team of running backs. I'm not looking for the same attributes: I’m looking for a combination of attributes that work together, that value the uniqueness of each [individual] in the roles that they play and developing harmony across those groups….”
As one student remarked. Dr. Sellers’ talk “was so very moving. He not only knows how to command a room, but his storytelling and his visualization are so approachable and he comes across in a way that is just very humble.”
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