Michigan State University has selected Jabbar Bennett as the university's inaugural vice president and chief diversity officer (CDO). He will take office Dec. 1, and his selection is up for approval at the Oct. 30 Board of Trustees meeting.
Bennett was one of four final candidates who virtually visited the university in August and September. More than 70 potential candidates were considered during the national search.
“Without question selecting the best candidate for this role was an open and thorough process,” Executive Vice President for Administration, Chief Information Officer and search committee co-Chair Melissa Woo said in a press release. “We listened to our community’s concerns and priorities for this position and reviewed candidates based on who could meet those needs.”
Bennett currently serves as the associate provost, inclusion and chief diversity officer at Northwestern University.
The CDO role will fill the duties of the previous senior advisor to the president for diversity but at the level of vice president for the first time in the university's history.
“The vice president and chief diversity officer role has never been more important,” MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in the release. “While our country may often seem divided, as Spartans we celebrate our differences and value the contributions of every member of our community. MSU’s chief diversity officer will help us discover ways to further transform equity and inclusion in our community.”
As CDO, Bennett will report directly to Stanley, collaborating with other university senior executives, deans, faculty, staff, students and alumni to develop and implement a diversity, equity and inclusion plan for the university.
The new role was crafted after several meetings with student groups and university administrators held by the university, according to the release.
“This is an incredible opportunity to help advance inclusion efforts at MSU during this critical time in the history of the institution and our nation,” Bennett said. “There is a rich legacy here founded in the ideal that higher education should be accessible to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity or expression, religion and other identities. I look forward to working with this community to address unique challenges, find common understandings and leverage collective efforts to nurture a culture of inclusive excellence at the university.”
The search committee, chaired by Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Chris Long and Woo, held additional meetings with students, faculty and staff to receive input.
In the announcement, Stanley thanked the work of the chairs and those who participated.
The search formally began in January after it was announced that former Senior Advisor to the President for Diversity Paulette Granberry Russell would shift into a new position as a special adviser to the president. However, the search was paused when MSU transitioned to online instruction due to the pandemic.
Bennett was previously Brown University's associate dean for recruiting and professional development in the Graduate School and associate dean for diversity in the Division of Biology and Medicine and clinical assistant professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School.
He has also lectured on medicine at Harvard Medical School and is an alumnus of the Harvard University Administrative Fellows Program and Massachusetts Education Policy Fellowship Program.
Bennett received a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in Spanish from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, as well as a doctorate in biomedical sciences from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
Bennett's full CV can be viewed below:
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