TaJuan Wilson named third candidate for associate VP for diversity, equity, and inclusion

Associate VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion candidate TaJuan Wilson visited campus Monday, calling for a paradigm shift in equity and inclusion at the UI.


Ryan Adams

TaJuan Wilson speaks during the forum for the associate vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion on March 25, 2019. He was later selected to fill the role and on Aug. 15, 2019 the UI announced his resignation from the position.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

The final candidate for University of Iowa associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion, TaJuan Wilson, visited campus on Monday, presenting his model for a “paradigm shift” in diversity programs at the university.

Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the IMU to hear Wilson present his qualifications and visions.

Wilson is the executive director of student programs and diversity and assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, and he previously served as the executive director of multicultural programs at Missouri State University.

Wilson, a first-generation college student originally from Arkansas, said he hopes to make the UI a national model for equity and inclusion.

“My vision starts with creating an environment where [diversity] work is the responsibility of every community member,” he said.

He shared his model for a two-step process “paradigm shift” in diversity, starting with committing to equity and expansion of opportunity, then inclusive excellence. If hired, he would like to eventually implement diversity training for every member of the UI community.

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“At my current institution — it is important to note there are 3,000 students but 14,000 employees. Your first day on the job, you have your eight hours of mandatory diversity training,” Wilson said. “I would like to see the same system implemented at the UI. I would probably start with our student leaders and faculty and staff across the board and additional training to supervisors across the board.”

Wilson highlighted some of his achievements, including increasing minority-student retention, creating the first LGBTQ center, and building a new cultural center at Missouri State.

Cody Howell, the violence-prevention specialist for the Women’s Resource Action Center, asked Wilson how he would prioritize student safety on campus.

“Part of moving forward any [diversity] initiative is, at its core, the safety and security of our students — whether that be from sexual violence — how do you build in safety and security for students when you do equity and inclusion work?” Howell said.

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Wilson responded by emphasizing safety and Title IX competency as part of training initiatives and noted that he is a trained Title IX investigator and coordinator.

Faculty Senate President Russell Ganim asked Wilson to elaborate on his current initiatives to incentivize faculty to participate in diversity training.

“You talked about faculty mentoring — how that is actually constructed at your institution?” Ganim said. “Your faculty now get tenure and promotion credit for diversity and inclusion.”

Wilson said staff and faculty can be motivated to participate in diversity training by measuring work in a way that correlates with success. Currently, faculty at his institution are rewarded for creating and reaching goals which focus on such initiatives on campus and in the community.

Wilson also emphasized a commitment to accountability throughout his presentation.

“I’m going to make sure that we create an environment where we not only ask the tough questions, but actually do something with the information,” Wilson said.