Associate VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resigns: ‘It is not the right fit for me at this time’

TaJuan Wilson, who assumed the role of associate vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on June 28, is moving to a new role with 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.

Marissa Payne, Editor-in-Chief

Less than two months after TaJuan Wilson assumed the role of associate vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — a division the University of Iowa has renewed its focus on as it strives to improve the campus climate — the UI has announced his resignation to instead work with the External Relations Office.

The UI on Thursday announced that Wilson, who came from the Medical University of South Carolina and was selected in April to lead the UI Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, will work with Vice President for External Relations Pete Matthes “on initiatives that support the university’s work to become a more inclusive and equitable campus” for the next five-and-one-half months as he “pursues a new opportunity,” according to a statement.

He began his role June 28 with an annual salary of $224,000, the UI previously said. UI media-relations director Anne Bassett wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that Wilson’s salary will remain the same in his new role.

“Coming to Iowa was a leap of faith for me personally and professionally,” Wilson said in the statement. “I have great respect for the university and the work being done in diversity, equity, and inclusion and believe Iowa has the potential to be on the right path. This opportunity will be wonderful for the right person, but it is not the right fit for me at this time.”

RELATED: Wilson named new University of Iowa associate VP for diversity, equity, and inclusion

Wilson’s selection for the job came after his predecessor, Georgina Dodge, left for a similar position at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. The University of Maryland in March named Dodge the vice president of diversity and inclusion.

Two people assumed the role on an interim basis after Dodge’s departure in July 2017.

First filling the position was Lena Hill, who left in May 2018 to serve as dean of the College at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. Then, the UI tapped UI Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers to temporarily fill the role. She worked in both positions for more than a year after Hill’s departure.

In the search that resulted in Wilson’s hire, Bassett said the UI paid $81,999 to search firm Isaacson, Miller for search expenses and an additional $21,593.21 to reimburse travel and advertising expenses.

The UI also announced Thursday the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — which encompasses the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and Diversity Resources — will report through the Provost’s Office.

Asked whether or not there will be a search to replace Wilson after moving the division under the Provost’s Office, Bassett said the three directors of those units will lead the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. They will report directly to the provost.

The DI also asked whether Wilson plans to leave the UI after serving his stint in the External Relations Office, whether there is an official title associated with his new role, and whether the move to a new position requires state Board of Regents approval. Bassett said, “We have no other information to share other than what has already been provided.”

The UI directory still lists Wilson as an associate vice president.

Wilson’s resignation comes after the UI on April 4 released its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan, aimed to foster what officials call a paradigm shift to making the UI an institution that embraces diversity to one that achieves excellence through diversity, equity, and inclusion.

UI President Bruce Harreld said in the statement this collaboration between the provost and the new leaders is “crucial to executing the goals” of the plan.

“The alignment of these exceedingly important units with the Office of the Provost is another step in continuing to create a cohesive approach to supporting, recruiting, and retaining students, faculty, and staff,” he said.

RELATED: UI unveils Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion action plan

To improve the campus climate, the goals of the action plan are to:

• Create and sustain an inclusive and equitable institution

• Recruit, retain, and advance a diverse community of faculty, staff, and students

• Integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into UI’s core academic mission

• Enhance accountability, effectiveness, and collaboration of diversity efforts

“I am excited to build upon the work that has already happened because of the tireless commitment of our existing team and our partners across campus,” UI Provost Montse Fuentes, who also began working at the UI in June, said in the statement. “These campus leaders and their teams will help guide us as we tackle our identified issues as a campus. It is time for our campus community to start taking actions clearly outlined in the action plan to implement our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”