On Dec. 5, President Scott L. Wyatt announced the hiring of SUU’s first Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Schvalla Rivera. Rivera has been Dean of Student Services at Western Nebraska Community College, and worked as Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Intercultural Life at Cornell University, according to her LinkedIn profile.
“Most higher institutions do have a Chief Diversity Officer,” Maria Martinez, Director for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion at SUU, said. “We are one of the last schools in Utah to do it, and so in that sense, I think we are meeting the standards of what the rest of the state and the country are doing. It’s incredibly important for our students and our campus, being an institution where our underrepresented populations are not the majority.”
In an email to SUU students, Wyatt wrote that this change comes after the university has repeatedly heard reports from students who have experienced “racism, prejudice, and marginalization on campus.” Wyatt also addressed a lack of diversity in faculty members while “students of color have grown to more than 10 percent of our student body as a whole.”
SUU offers resources such as CAST, ALLIES, CAPS or the Center of Diversity and Inclusion for students to turn to when they face problems on campus. Wyatt stated that SUU hopes to combine efforts between these organizations with that of Rivera to help SUU become a more diverse and welcoming campus.
“We can have one-on-one meetings, we can facilitate one-on-one impact with students, but I think that more of the policy running and discrimination policy, faculty-staff diversity, those things have to be done at a higher level,” Christopher Mendoza, coordinator for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion, said. “We don’t have the resources to do that because our center is primarily for student support.”
Rivera will begin working at SUU in January and will report to Wyatt as a member of the President’s Council.