The third finalist for Michigan State University's vice president and chief diversity officer, or CDO, position — James Page Jr. — visited MSU this week. His visit consisted of a day of meetings with MSU, followed by an open forum held Thursday via Zoom.
Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Chris Long and Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Melissa Woo, co-chairs of the search committee, moderated the forum. They asked a series of composed questions followed by a Q&A portion from the chat.
Page currently works at Palagn Enhancement Strategies LLC, where he provides strategic and tactical support to organizations across people, inclusion and belonging strategies with a specialty in health care and academic organizations.
Previously, he worked as the vice president and chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine and assistant vice president at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
His vision for diversity and inclusion includes three essential pillars: an inclusive foundation, shared knowledge and an engaged campus.
"We should see diversity and inclusion along with equity as the secret sauce that Michigan State University has," Page said.
Page defines an inclusive foundation as making sure that everyone at an institution understands their role.
“The chief diversity officer has to hold himself, herself or theyself to a standard where they are creating the same level of expectation as every other chief leader in the organization," Page said. “Every leader within any institution has to talk about their success, failures, growth and challenges to amend metrics and quantitative approaches.”
Page emphasized the importance of knowing how to apply knowledge, as well.
“Shared knowledge challenges us to really ask this question: specifically what problem are we really trying to solve, and how do we leverage the skill and the applied knowledge of diversity and inclusion belonging in diversity to help us solve that problem that is creating institutional challenges for the institution as a whole?” Page said.
Page said he believes an engaged campus starts with a foundation of dignity and respect.
“When people walk around your campus, when people walk around Michigan State University, they should feel that they are a part of it," he said. "Both in what they see and what they feel. ... When I say you have an engaged campus this means an engaged campus where everyone has the ability to speak up, to make their voice heard and know they will provide value to the institution.”
Page continued to speak on how comfort and safety are not what will result in change.
“Safety means that you’re not being challenged, that you're able to sit in a place of comfort," he said. "And as you're sitting in that place of comfort you don't necessarily need to change. That is not what we’re here for."
Additionally, Page spoke about trust and how diversity can be a currency to building trust.
“Trust is a really delicate thing ... trust is something that is built one drop at a time,” he said.
Page came up with a three-phase plan to achieve his vision for diversity and inclusion. He said the university needs to understand what is happening at their institution and understand the norms, the goals and the values within the organization.
His plan will serve to align the information they get to their plans for the university.
"The plan and socialize phase is basically summarizing all that good information we got from those meetings, aligning our observations and our hypothesis so that they are aligned with the norms and goals across the institution," Page said. "Finally we begin to execute. We develop a plan for approaching the problem, executing and finding immediate and long term goals, modify plans based on successes and impact that we have and then we track ourselves against the baseline that we establish in the previous step.”
Candidates Nathan Ziegler and DeBrenna Agbenyiga visited earlier this week.
The fourth and final candidate will have an open forum at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 9.
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