Joelle Murchison has been hired as UConn’s first Chief Diversity Officer (CDO).
President Susan Herbst began the search for CDO earlier this year after UConn’s diversity task force included the position in its recommendations.
Murchison, currently chief diversity officer at Travelers’, beat out two highly qualified candidates, Dr. Frank Tuitt and Lisa McBride. All three CDO contenders made public presentations of their careers and plans for UConn in order to garner student and faculty feedback beginning in February.
In an email sent to the university community, Herbst addressed the hiring.
“I was pleased by the pool of highly qualified applicants and am very excited about the candidate we have selected, following a national search,” the email read. “Reporting directly to me, Joelle [Murchison] will serve as the university’s main strategist responsible for guiding efforts to define, assess and promote diversity, inclusion and educational and employment opportunity at UConn.”
The email from Herbst’s office said that Murchison will develop programs and oversee existing ones to aid diversity and inclusion at the university. The message then gets into Murchison’s long, accomplished career, including degrees from Brown University, Syracuse University and Harvard University and work in the non-profit sector.
Murchison also began her career in higher education nearby, at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, Herbst wrote.
Herbst touted the hiring as indispensable in bringing about a UConn “that people of every background can call…home.”
“We cannot rely on chance alone to bring that about,” the email reads. “It requires thoughtful, proactive efforts on our part to ensure that our student body, our faculty and our staff reflect the face of our diverse state and nation. The CDO is an essential component of that effort.”
Murchison begins work in July.
Haddiyyah Ali, a fourth-semester political science and Africana studies double major, as well as a columnist for The Daily Campus, applauded the hire.
“I thought [Murchison] was a strong candidate and I am excited to work with her as an activist and student leader on campus,” Ali said. “I’m glad the process was as public and as open to student input as it was. As of now, I look forward to more information as to what resources the university will make available to the new diversity infrastructure.”
Julian Rose, a seventh-semester biomedical engineering major and student leader/activist on campus, was more cautious in his assessment of the hiring.
“I think it’s funny that UConn went with the candidate with the most experience in corporate America in the midst of the university becoming increasingly corporatized,” Rose said.
“Also, Murchison seemed dedicated to increasing UConn’s spatial and visual dedication to marginalized groups on campus, so I hope she follows through on that commitment. In the interview, I asked if she had plans to involve alumni in her work, and although she lacked a specific plan, she did recognize that alumni who are often most familiar with the university can be a valuable resource. As always, I remain skeptical yet positive in outlook,” he said.
Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.